Monday, September 22, 2014

Show #122 August 16, 2014

Dedicated to Jennette and the great Tommy Ramone!

Jennette- Darlington Classics 2
She Was The Girl- The Wellingtons Keeping Up With The Wellingtons
Talkin' 'Bout Summer- The Britannicas High Tea
(I Feel Like A) Dictionary- The Trend Yellow Pills Prefill
No Excuse- Bracket Hold Your Applause
Going In Circles- Warm Soda Young Reckless Hearts
Vengeance- The Nips Gabrielle 7"
I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You- The Hold Steady Teeth Dreams
^I Don't Like Mondays- The Boomtown Rats The Fine Art Of Surfacing
Shook Down Softly- The Bye Bye Blackbirds We Need The Rain
Nobody Loves Me- The Letters Nobody Loves Me 7"
Where There's A Will There's A Way- The Jeremy Band All Over The World
My Street Stinks- 999 999
Come Down and Rock- Librarians The Pathetic Aesthetic
*Sunday Gurl- Silver Sun Dad's Weird Dream
*Monday Morning- The Rooks Encore Echoes
*Groovy Tuesday- The Smithereens Especially For You
*Every Wednesday Night At Eight- The Innocents One Way Love 7"
*Thursday Night- Chixdiggit! Double Diggits!
*Friday Night- The Click Five Greetings From Imrie House
*Saturday Every Day- The Soda Pop Kids Teen Bop Dream
Take a Take a Me- The Muffs Whoop Dee Doo
Still Smiling Today- The Mod Frames Hit Records Single
Dream City- Free Energy Stuck On Nothing
>Pleasant Valley Sunday- The Monkees Listen To The Band
Lonely Boys Brigade- The Dahlmanns All Dahled Up
I Can Be- The Misstakes National Pastime
In the Back- Buzzcocks The Way
Take My Chances- The Laughing Dogs Meet Their Makers
Every Day's A Holiday, Every Day's A Party- The Saints Prehistoric Sounds

^Power Pop Peak: #73 Billboard Hot 100 2/2/80

*SacroSet:  Days of the Week

>Power Pop Prototype: 1967

With my Michigan trip in July and all the earthquake hoopla
Tommy in (rare) color
in August I haven't had a chance to pay tribute to a great man we lost recently.  Tommy Ramone died of bile duct cancer on July 11, 2014.  He outlived band mates Joey (d. 4/15/01 lymphoma), Dee Dee (d. 6/5/02 heroin overdose) and Johnny (d. 9/15/04 prostrate cancer). Less than 40 years after they first got together in 1974, all four of the original Ramones are gone, three of them losing a battle with cancer.  None of them lived longer than 65 years and three didn't see 55.  This REALLY sucks!

In the early days of The Ramones Tommy was the glue that held the band together (the metaphorical glue rather than the "Now I Wanna Sniff Some..." kind).  Born Erdelyi Tamas in Budapest, Hungary, his family emigrated to the U.S. when Tommy was four.  During his high school years in Forest Hills, Queens Tommy was in a band called Tangerine Puppets with bass player John Cummings, the future Johnny Ramone.  Picking up live sound and studio work wherever he could, at the age of 21 Tommy worked as an assistant engineer on the Jimi Hendrix
Tangerine Puppets (Tommy far left, Johnny far right)
live album Band of Gypsys.  (Shaving three years off his age while in The Ramones- listing a birth year of 1952 rather than 1949- caused more than a few rock critics to wonder if Tommy really could've had the Gypsys job at 18.) 
Inspired by a New York Dolls show in the city, Tommy went back to Forest Hills to share his vision with Johnny as well as the newly recruited Jeffrey Hyman (Joey) and Douglas Colvin (Dee Dee).

As band manager, Tommy completely restructured the
Tommy's early 70's Marc Bolan phase
group because in his words singer Dee Dee was "hoarse after about three songs" and Joey "wasn't that good a drummer."  Joey took over lead vocals and though limited to bass duties, Dee Dee still got to start each song with his iconic "1-2-3-4!"  That left the drum stool open and Tommy had a very clear vision of the type of drumming The Ramones needed:

"eight-notes across, with the 'one' on the bass and the 'two' on the snare, fast and consistent."  

As is often the case with genius, this style of drumming is very simple.  Yet, after auditioning a ton of drummers who were either unwilling or unable to lay off the rolls and fills, Tommy himself ended up behind the drum kit.  He had never played drums in a band but like all his decisions regarding The Ramones, Tommy once again made the right call.

On debut album The Ramones Tommy wrote "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" and the anthem "Blitzkreig Bop," originally titled "Animal Hop" until Dee Dee got his hands on the song and, like he so often did, gave it a German spin (Dee Dee grew up in Berlin).  Here's what Craig Leon who produced that first album, had to say about Tommy in a recent interview in LA Record:

Dee Dee, Joey, Tommy, Johnny
"Tom Erdelyi
[aka Tommy Ramone] was the manager of the band and had the concept of the band which to me was very, very important, which is why I credited him as associate producer on the album because he actually came up with the concept for the band."

Rock critic Robert Christgau agrees: 

"Although Tommy may have faded from view, becoming the least vivid of the four Queens weirdos who invented punk rock, it was he who conceptualized them most clearly."

Tommy himself has said pretty much the same thing:

"It wasn't just music in The Ramones: it was an idea. It was bringing back a whole feel that was missing in rock music -- it was a whole push outwards to say something new and different." 

Tommy also won every belly-showing contest

After four years and three brilliant albums, all of which he co-produced, Tommy quit The
Johnny and Tommy
Ramones- life on the road with the domineering Johnny, OCD Joey and bi-polar Dee Dee was no longer tenable.  Far from abandoning the band, however, he trained replacement Marc Bell (soon to be Marky Ramone) and co-produced their next album, Road To Ruin, which includes the band's "hit" single "I Wanna Be Sedated."  Tommy returned in 1984, producing The Ramones' best post-70's album Too Tough To Die, and went on to produce major records for The Replacements (Tim) and Redd Kross (Neurotica).

The Ramones had an enormous impact on budding musicians all over the world.  I loved Kiss, Rush and AC/DC but in a million years I could never hope to play guitar that well. Listening to The Ramones, on the other hand, was a huge inspiration. As I've mentioned in this blog before, the first Ramones album separated Dee Dee's bass on the left and Johnny's guitar on the right (I like to think this was Tommy's idea).  When I learned to play fifths (the precursor to bar chords) I would turn down the right channel and figure out how to play the song.  Within about fifteen minutes I was playing along with Tommy, Dee Dee and Joey.  Talk about empowering- it was AWESOME!

Tommy back in the day and earlier this year
I'd argue that more than the name, the look and even the songs- the "back to basics" concept was the key in the early days of The Ramones, one of the greatest and most influential bands in rock and roll history.  We all, those of us who love punk rock and its antecedents, owe Tommy Ramone a HUGE debt of gratitude. 

Stream/download this week's show here (Right click and "Save Link As:")
Hour 1
Hour 2

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