On Erdélyi Tamás
Johnny may have been the General, the guy who made the trains run on time, but in a pinch he always deferred to Tommy. That’s because Tommy was smart as hell and could visualize this thing called the Ramones before it even existed. Necessity planted him behind the drums (no one else really grok’d this sound), and how lucky for us. Tommy worked like a dog behind the scenes but that percussive attack was so even and strong that some fans insist the Ramones stopped being the Ramones once he quit.
And only in a band like the Ramones could other members actually harass Tommy for being relatively normal. Witness: the interview snippet in End Of The Century where Dee Dee admits he gave Tommy so much shit back in the day because he was jealous the guy knew how to cook. Regardless of interpersonal dynamics, to fans Tom was Teflon Ramone, the Ramone you just couldn’t dislike for any reason. He drummed on the three best albums (Ramones, Leave Home, Rocket To Russia), produced the best two he didn’t play on (Road To Ruin, Too Tough To Die), wrote the lion’s share of their undying anthem “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and remained pleasantly normal as the years rolled on.
Once the Ramones were done, Tommy seemed like the peacekeeper. He wasn’t arguing with Joey on “Howard Stern.” He wasn’t writing books full of dubious claims against his Bruddahs. Tommy just wanted to preserve the legacy and love his fellow Ramone—or at least dispel the myth that they all openly prayed for each other’s death. “Believe it or not, we really loved each other,” he told the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame during the Ramones’ induction. “Even when we weren’t acting civil…we were truly brothers.”
Tommy spoke those words with conviction, clarity, and palpable emotion. Unfortunately, that portion of the ceremony was quickly eclipsed by Johnny announcing “God bless President Bush” as he cradled his statue and Dee Dee thanking himself for being so wonderful (a cute moment, admittedly). In that sense, the induction was typical Ramones: a fat chunk of heart smothered in patriotism and self-reference.
Despite what you may have heard or read (even by my own hand), the Ramones are my favorite musicians in the history of recorded sound. Nothing else fills me with the same joy and excitement, and I mourn the loss of the last surviving original architect.
Thanks for everything, Tommy.
Q: Have You No Rant On The Black Flag Lawsuit?
A: There ain’t much to say. A legal dance was inevitable the minute these dueling reunion factions rose up. I’m sure Greg Ginn truly believes he owns the exclusive rights to the word “flag.” I’m sure Keith Morris et al purposely named their reunion thing FLAG just to drive needles into Greg Ginn. I’m sure everyone involved realizes the Black Flag of 1981 would settle all this with a fistfight in a 7-11 parking lot. I’m sure the Ramones should have taught a correspondence course before they died called “How To Be In A Band With People You Hate And Make Money And Also Hang On To That Money Because This Shit Called Illegal Downloading Is Coming And VH-1 Is Eventually Gonna Run Out Of Specials To Put You On.”
Was gonna put a BF logo parody here, but this image is more apropos.