|The Ramones (from left to right): Dee Dee, Tommy, Joey, Johnny|
Tommy Ramone (real name Erdélyi Tamás and also known as Thomas Erdelyi)—erstwhile drummer, founding, and last surviving original member of the Ramones—died Friday at his home in Queens following a battle with bile duct cancer. He was 65.
One of the pivotal bands to emerge from the New York City punk scene in the mid-seventies, the Ramones provided a subversive antidote to much of the over-produced, over-indulgent pop and rock music of the era. Boasting such anthemic, back-to-basics barnstormers as “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Judy is a Punk,” and “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” the band—which was rounded out by vocalist Joey Ramone (Jeffrey Hyman), guitarist Johnny Ramone (Jim Cummings), and bassist Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Colvin)—riled up a fervent, loyal following at venues like CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City. Such concentrated hype never translated to mainstream commercial success, though, but the band continued to perform and record (amid various personnel changes) throughout the eighties and nineties, earning new generations of fans along the way while laying the groundwork for future bands like Green Day, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam.
“They obliterated the mystique of what it was to play in a band,” said Eddie Vedder of the Ramones during his induction of the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. “You didn’t have to know scales. With the knowledge of two bar chords, you could play along with their records. And that’s what people did ... and within weeks they were starting bands with other kids in town who were doing the same thing.”
Tommy Ramone stopped playing with the band in 1978. Still, his identity within and contributions to the Ramones’ first crucial years remains an intrinsic part of the ongoing legend of the band he helped create.