It's become a rather odd thing in the past few years that an obit for a musician should find it's way broadcast on the day by the BBC midnight news. It doesn't show up anywhere else in the news slots just the midnight news or maybe the hours after. Perhaps they think it's the time when those that might be interested in the passing of a musician might be listening to the radio. The night owl news.
So it was on Saturday night with the announcement that Tommy Ramone had died. And what a miserable thing it is to know that 3 of these lives were all ended with cancer as the cause. Dee Dee's death being from a heroine overdose in 2002.
And for those not aware of the other members deaths some years back, the sombre voiced BBC announcer informed us that Tommy was the last of the original members of the Ramones.
Damn it. There shouldn't be a time when there just isn't a Ramone anymore. It's like part of rock and roll has gone. Whether you were a long time fan of their music or not hardly anyone one could say they hadn't heard or known of the Ramones. They represented an image and sound of rock and roll that came from it's past and still perceived today. What is rock and roll without buzzing guitars, leather jackets and a snotty vocal.
It starts with a young Elvis in a biker jacket on a Harley Davison, to the Beatles in the Cavern Club and Hamburg, to the arrival of the Ramones themselves at The London Roundhouse in 1976, and where every young punk Londoner who was anyone packed the iconic venue and became immediately influenced by them and the sound and image of a new era in rock and roll. Now forward 4 decades to the Opening Ceremony of The Olympic Games in 2012 and you'll see the Arctic Monkeys play rock and roll in much the same way and dressed in leathers. You can similarly name anyone of hundreds between those decades. Sure it's different lyrics, and a different tune but the song remains the same.
The Ramones represented all of that like some cartoon characterisation of every rock and roll band you've ever wanted to see. Their songs were intelligent yet encapsulated like a graphic novel. Their sound was a wall of sound driven at relentless pace in 2 and 3 minute chunks with the only the shout of "1..2..3..4" between each number. Phil Spector wanted to produce them and they turned him down flat after a day or two in the studio with him. That's how great the Ramones were. Not even Lennon managed that one.
Tommy Ramone was a producer for them first and foremost before they realised he was also the only drummer to be able to stay the pace with them on kit. So through their classic years of 1974 until 78 Tommy held the drum stool and then went back to producing them after that. But he also always stayed a musician. In his latter years he played in a bluegrass-based folk duo called Uncle Monk of all things. Which sounds a might unexpected... from punk to blue grass? How does that work?
Maybe the resonance of the Ramone's early years playing at CBGB's (Country, Blue Grass and Blues) returned to Tommy in his later years.
"There are a lot of similarities between punk and old-time music. Both are home-brewed music as opposed to schooled, and both have an earthy energy. And anybody can pick up an instrument and start playing."
Anybody can pick it up.. and thousands did. But no one ever sounded quite like the Ramones.
So long Tommy. You made a difference.RAMONES - Live December 31st, 1977