Tommy Ramone, the last original Ramone, dies aged 62

By Updated at 2014-07-12 16:35:06 +0000


Tommy Ramone, the last remaining original member of the New York punk band Ramones, has died of cancer at the age of 62 at his home in the city.

The manager-turned-drummer, and then producer of the band, was a Hungarian immigrant, born Erdélyi Tamás in Budapest, who came to the US in 1957.

Heavily influenced by 60s girl groups and the New York Dolls, Ramones formed in 1974, and were the first band from the underground punk scene in New York to make an album. Ramones, legend has it, was recorded in six days and cost $6,400 to make. It saw the first outing of their signature "1-2-3-4" introduction yelled out at the start of each song.

Their first album sold poorly in the US – although it was finally certified gold last month, 38 years after its release – but became underground gold for the UK's nascent punk scene. Their gigs in London at the Roundhouse and Dingwalls in July 1976 were credited by Joe Strummer of the Clash, John Lydon of the Sex Pistols and Captain Sensible of the Damned as pivotal – proving that their fledgling bands, too, might get out of the garage and on to a bigger stage.

Unpretentious and leather-clad, with holes in the knees of their skintight jeans, the band played their guitars badly and their drums maniacally, bridging the gap between rock and punk. Their extraordinary gigs featured barely a breath between songs, and they toured relentlessly until disbanding in 1996. They had gone through five record labels. Of the other founders, Joey Ramone died of lymphoma in 2001; Dee Dee was killed by a heroin overdose in 2002; and Johnny died from prostate cancer in 2004.

Tommy Ramone played on the band's first three albums, co-producing two of them, before leaving in 1978, ostensibly because he was exhausted by the constant touring but later admitting that he had quit in reaction to being "physically threatened by Johnny, treated with contempt by Dee Dee, and all but ignored by Joey".

He was replaced by Marky, who was fired for alcoholism in 1983, to be replaced by Richie – both men are still alive.

Tommy kept his links with the Ramones, co-producing further albums, before starting an acoustic band called Uncle Monk with his partner Claudia Tienan, playing bluegrass music. It left him "baffled", he said, that the original Ramones all fell out in later years. "We were like brothers," he said.

The presidential-seal-style band emblem, designed by the late Arturo Vega, became one of the most recognisable band T-shirts ever and, for much of the band's career, a key source of income. It is perhaps even more well-known today than their songs, which include Sheena is a Punk Rocker, Blitzkrieg Bop, Pinhead and Rockaway Beach.

As tributes yesterday poured in for the "last Ramone", music journalist Tony Parsons tweeted: "RIP Tommy Ramone. No need for too many tears – that was one wild ride and making it to 62 is pretty good going for a Ramone."