July 12, 2014


RIP Tommy Ramone: your band captured the sound in my head (Michael Hann, 7/12/14, The Guardian)

He wasn't meant to be the drummer. He was meant to be the manager. Joey was the drummer. "What happened was, they just kept playing faster and faster, and I couldn't keep up on the drums," Joey remembered in Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain's Please Kill Me. "Tommy Ramone, who was managing us, finally had to sit down behind the drums, because nobody else wanted to," Dee Dee told McNeil and McCain. [...]

They got better. Of course they got better. They got so much better that for me (and for others, not lots of others, but enough of us) the Ramones were the best group rock'n'roll ever produced. Not the most inventive, or the most versatile, or the most skilful, or the most emotionally resonant, or the most lyrical - but the best, because every time I put on one of the Ramones' best records, I was reminded of how I felt the first time I heard it. And the first time I heard it, I felt: this is the sound I've been hearing in my head and here it is on 12 inches of black vinyl; this is what I have been waiting for since the first single I ever bought. The Ramones were the sound of juvenile excitement, expressed with such breathtaking singlemindedness that nothing could kill the excitement.

And they were never as exciting without Tommy. Partly that was because those first three albums were such perfect statements of intent that there was very little left for the Ramones to say, and so each new album became another turn around the circuit rather than a manifesto. But partly because it was Tommy, as much as Joey, Johnny or Dee Dee, who made the band truly Ramonic. Marky, his replacement, was a more skilled drummer, perhaps, but the slight increase in sophistication meant the purity of the message - and the medium was the message, in the case of the Ramones - was compromised. Marky's successor, Richie, was simply too fast: in the tragic Ramones documentary End of the Century, he boasts about shaving several minutes off the set by playing everything with such velocity. With Richie on drums, Ramones shows were a blur of noise - you'd be recognising the song, finally, as it came to an end. When what you wanted was to wallow in those glorious harmonics.

But now that's it; they're all gone. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and now Tommy. The band that unlocked the door for me.

And no one would ever take the pretensions of bands like the Beatles seriously again.

Posted by at July 12, 2014 8:29 AM

blog comments powered by Disqus