Richie Ramone: in many ways, the black sheep of the Ramones family, the guy who jetted with no warning because he felt he wasn’t getting the proper respect from his band mates. There are two sides to every story, sure, and maybe I’m just some crazy loser, but the more I look at the covers of Richie era Ramones albums the more I understand his 23 skidoo. Each one has a clear symbol Rich was never accepted as a true Bruddah.
On Too Tough To Die, Richie is the only Ramone whose knee is bent, suggesting insecurity next to the defiant stances of Joey, Dee Dee, and Johnny. They could have used another picture where they all look like confident bad-asses, but they didn’t.
“Here, Richie, you hold the chimp, we don’t handle monkey business. That’s your department.” It should be noted Richie is a big animal advocate and later said he was happy to play with the chimp, but still…seems like the critter is only there to demean the newest hire.
Richie’s pink Cons are on fucking point, but the rest of the Ramones are wearing black shoes for the Halfway to Sanity cover. Joey’s purple socks might symbolize solidarity, they might be coincidental. Hey ho I don’t know.
I will always view Richie Ramone as a savior, a guy who stepped in when the Ramones were shaky and helped steer them through their silver age. He tore ass on those drums and had no problem writing songs that fit the band’s aesthetic. Too bad they had that disconnect.
See whatever you want to see on these covers. It’s easy for me to zero in on this kind of crap because I’m the type of person who would rub a magic lamp and waste one wish on a version of Brain Drain with Richie on drums.
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.