from The LA Times

Tommy Ramone created an essential punk rock beat

The RamonesThe Ramones are shown in 1978, from left: Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy and Joey. Tommy, the last remaining original member of the seminal punk band, died on Friday. (Los Angeles Times)


If it’s true, as punk band the Slits have argued, that “in the beginning there was rhythm,” then Tommy Ramone’s drum pound marked a new day rising. The original drummer for seminal New York punk band the Ramones, Tommy, born Erdelyi Tamas, died Friday at age 65 after a long battle with cancer, but his basic, urgent contribution to popular music over the course of the band’s first three albums remains wildly alive.

Any time you hear a punk band tearing through a three-minute jam, the drummer in the back is likely echoing a no-nonsense beat that Tommy helped codify. If you’ve ever sung along to the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” you’re repeating lines that Tommy wrote. Struck by the sonic force of the Ramones? The drummer co-produced those early records and more — including Redd Kross’s “Neurotica” and the Replacements’ “Pleased to Meet Me.”

Born in an age of endless solos and weird prog-rock time signatures, the Ramones ditched the mid-’70s pretense and ego-heavy musicianly indulgence in favor of face-punch brevity in three-minute, fast-paced sprints such as “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Teenage Lobotomy,” “Beat on the Brat” and “Judy Is a Punk.”

On these tracks and more, what’s notable about Tommy’s drumming is how vital yet invisible he remains. You can’t imagine the songs without him, but he so effectively vanishes to become the rudder that few would have pegged him as essential to the Ramones’ sound.

The same could be said about Tommy’s role in the band’s early success. He wrote the Ramones’ first press release, in which he verbalized their simple but ingenious philosophy.

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