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The Last Ramone is Gone

Oh fuck. What a sad day.

Tommy Ramone, dead at 65.

Did you hear me? Oh fuck!!!

Already gone: Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee.

And now Tommy.

From Rolling Stone:

“Tom died yesterday, July 11, at 12:15 p.m. at his home in Ridgewood, Queens,” Andy Schwartz, publisher of New York Rocker magazine, said on behalf of Ramone’s family. “He was in hospice care following treatment for cancer of the bile duct.”

And how can this be? How can The Ramones be dead?

I remember it all so well.

Reading about The Ramones in the Village Voice, and the anticipation leading up to the release of their first album in 1976.

And what an album. You put it on and it was over almost before you realized it. The songs were so short. I think the whole album clocks in at 30 minutes.

And then they were coming to the Bay Area!

We’d already seen Patti Smith, and she was the greatest of course. But The Ramones were something else.

It was as if The Ramones had invented a new kind of rock ‘n’ roll. The lyrics to their songs were a kind of haiku, as my wife Leslie described it. And the songs were so short. And they mostly sounded like subtle variations on the same song. One song. One.

You wanna get an idea of how radical The Ramones music was in 1976? Go put on a Doobie Brothers album from the early ‘70s, or an album by Journey. Then follow it with The Ramones “Beat On The Brat.”

It’s like someone taking a sledgehammer to a refrigerator and smashing the thing to bits.

Yeah, get it?

I met the original band – Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy in August 1976 when they came out here. Out West. We sat next to a swimming pool at a cheap South of Market Street motel, and I attempted to interview them. I was 23, and new at interviewing bands. Their skin was an anemic white. Like they never had been out in the sun before. (There’s a photo by Jenny Lens of Joey Ramone lounging near the pool here.)

They didn’t say much.

They were so New York. So cool. They looked just like the cover of that first album. Same clothes – Black leather jackets, ripped jeans, and well-worn t-shirts.

They played in a small room at the back of North Beach bar, The Savoy, on upper Grant Avenue, just a half block or so from the Café Trieste, you know, where some of the Beats hung out.

It was hot and sweaty and packed. How did all these people know about The Ramones? All these people amounting to maybe 80 people. Maybe.

The music was loud. I’d never heard rock played at such a volume in such a small room.

But it wasn’t just the volume. It was everything. And we knew it, whose of us who were there. In 1976, this was the New Thing. The ‘60s were already long gone, but it was The Ramones who ushered in what came next.

Their music, and all of punk, is now old hat too. That’s what happens.

Tommy Ramone. Sixty-five years old. Much too young to die.

Imagining Tommy Ramone at 65, when I want to remember Tommy and Joey and Johnny and Dee Dee just as they were in 1976, that’s a hard pill.

The Ramones, 1974:

The Ramones, Arturo’s loft, 1975:

The Ramones, Max’s Kansas City, 1976:

The Ramones in England, 1977:

“I Wanna Be Sedated” and “The KKK Took My Baby Away”:

The Ramones:

— A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blog post —