Tommy Ramone Playlist: Ramones, Replacements, Redd Kross and More!

Tommy Ramone, third from left.
I wasn't even out of bed yet when I thought I heard the word "Ramone" on the TV news and had a sad suspicion I knew what the rest of the sentence might have been, so I buried my head in my pillow and went back to sleep for another couple of hours.  In my ensuing dream, the headlines in Heaven screamed "Punk Hits The Pearly Gates!" as the four perennial punk pioneers were now fully assembled in the Eternal Afterlife.

Meanwhile, here on Earth, we are left to mourn their untimely, unfair, and unfathomable demise, the last being that of drummer Tommy Ramone, who succumbed to cancer's evil grip.



What do I think when the name Tommy Ramone is mentioned?

I think of a modest drummer who happened to be in the right place at the right time.  But I also think of the unified vision shared by four guys stuck in Forest Hills at a time when the economy was shit and New York was a hodge-podge of hope-dashed boroughs.  I doubt he'd have fit in any other band, for long at least, but that his tenure in the Ramones gave those first three iconic albums The Ramones, Leave Home, and Rocket To Russia the percussive propulsion they needed to jump out of the speakers and grab the listener by the ears.

His production on Leave Home and Rocket To Russia brought a succinct focus to the band's sonic attack that even co-producer Tony Bongiovi couldn't ruin.  If you're of the mind that I am unimpressed with Bongiovi's production work, you would be right.  Erdelyi, on the other hand, would go on to sprinkle his magic on the Replacements' major label debut, Tim, and Redd Kross's seminal Neurotica, among others.

Just as important as what he accomplished in the Ramones was his complete lack of ego and ability to know when to step aside, which he did prior to the Road To Ruin sessions in '78.  His production was greatly enhanced by the work of engineer Ed Stasium, who helped create the first Ramones album that was polished enough to compete in the mainstream.

Sadly, it would take another 20+ to finally reach the mainstream, but, hey, better late than never.  

Below are some of my favorite notable tracks from Tommy Ramone's career as drummer, producer, and RAMONE!



The Squares - No Fear

This was cut in 1980 at Air Studios in London.  The band's last single for Sire has all the sonic punch of that first Ramones album, but yet neither the single nor the band would reach a mass audience.



Continentals - Fizz Pop (Modern Rock)

For those who were paying attention for the five minutes the CBS Nu-Disk series was in existence, the Continentals' lone EP may be somewhat familiar, but very few probably know that Tommy Ramone was its producer.  Of the EP's four songs, only this and "Walking Tall" are worth checking out and the band itself would never be heard from again.



Redd Kross - Peach Kelli Pop

After being dragged back into the producer's chair for the Ramones' Too Tough To Die and the Replacements' Tim in 1985, Erdelyi's production skills had been honed to a weapon-like sharpness, which suited the '70's pop-culture obsessed Redd Kross to a tee.  His work on their magnificent Neurotica album should have resulted in both the band and producer enjoying commercial success, but, as always seems to happen, the label went broke before either had a chance to happen.  Arguably the blueprint for the entire grunge movement, Sub Pop would later finance a remix/remaster oif the album (completely unnecessary, if you ask me) that never saw the light of day.



The Replacements - Kiss Me On The Bus

As someone whose first taste of the 'Mats had been via their lo-fi Twin/Tone masterpiece Let It Be, I couldn't imagine what the major label version of the band was gonna sound like.  Seeing Erdelyi's name in the credits was reassuring, but still, I couldn't quite see what the Replacements had to gain from the union besides street cred, which they already had in spades.  I mean, they were punk in spirit, but Westerberg's best songs have always been more Dylan  than Ramone.

While I loved every second of "Hold My Life" and "I'll Buy", it wasn't until I heard the first strains of "Kiss Me On The Bus" that Erdelyi's respectful touch was pushing the band into the big leagues.  Yeah, the song was never a hit, but those who heard it went out into the world, playing it for boyfriends, girlfriends, party crowds, college radio audiences, and the like.

The first time I saw the band on that tour, the room actually elevated during their ramshackle version of the song and, at one point, Westerberg stopped singing because he couldn't be heard over the crowd anyway. The smile on his face said it all.



The Paley Brothers and The Ramones - Come On Let's Go

Recorded in 1977 while the band was stuck in the Tropicana Hotel due to Joey being hospitalized, this is the last song Tommy would record with the Ramones before his departure.  It would later appear in the film "Rock & Roll High School".  Sire was even crafty enough to release it as a jointly-credited single, but, by and large, the kids ignored it because neither band was recognizable enough to them, one can only presume.

In hindsight, the kids got it wrong.  I mean, for the time, this song has it all - great chorus, ace production, and Tommy's juggernaut drums tearing like a runaway bus through a nitroglycerin factory.



The Ramones - Chasing The Night

For being THE dangerous punk band to end all dangerous punk bands, you can never accuse the Ramones of not playing ball with their label, who, like every other label, wanted a hit.  Never mind that the band had already given Sire a BUNCH of should-be hits ("I Wanna Be Sedated" shoulda been a "My Sharona"-like smash) and worked with the likes of Phil Spector, Graham Gouldman (10cc) and Richie Cordell (Tommy James, Joan Jett) in hopes of finally breaking through, Sire was still asking the band to give them something they could promote to Top 40 radio.

The first half of 1984's Too Tough To Die is a defiant "fuck you" to label execs, radio programmers, and rock critics.  As each barrel house rocker on Side One charges out of the speakers, you can actually see the suits begin to sigh and rub their foreheads, but then along comes "Chasing The Night" and - yo, is that a synth line?  Yep, it sure is.  Doesn't matter, though, because Johnny's guitar is there, too, ferocious and deadly.

Joey, who was again battling health issues that kept him from participating much in the writing process for the album, turns in a barn-buster of a vocal and gives the band the best chance at commercial success to ever come down the pike.  Of course, Sire chose to not even release the song as a single, choosing to go with the decidedly un-Ramonesian drum machine-and-synth ditty "Howling At The Moon" instead.



The Ramones - Carbona Not Glue

Home of the brave, land of the free and, "Oh, let's yank this here song off the album so the kids don't get any ideas."  Such was the fate for "Carbona Not Glue" from Leave Home, which was a tongue-in-cheek follow-up to "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue", which, oddly enough, had not been yanked off of the first album.

Of course, Carbona was an actual product name and, thus, Sire feared a lawsuit, so the song was stripped from the second pressing of Leave Home, making the original pressing a bit of a collector's item.



The Ramones - I Wanna Be Sedated

Being that he was no longer in the band, the Ramones showed a great deal of respect to Tommy by keeping him as their producer for Road To Ruin.  Of course, engineer Ed Stasium's big-league sound took the band's sound, and Tommy's production, to the next level.

Upon hearing this song for the first time in '78, I fully expected the rest of the world to be jumping on the Ramones' bandwagon very shortly.  After all, this song had all the ingredients of a radio smash.  The only problem was that radio programmers were still reluctant to go anywhere near a Ramones song, much to my eternal chagrin.



The Ramones - Sheena Is A Punk Rocker

Released as a single, the tune went to #22 in the UK, but stalled at #81 in the band's homeland, thereby confirming early on that the band was not wanted in their own country.  In hindsight, that a song this catchy, well-played, and funny wouldn't somehow find its way into the Top 40 shows just how firmly the cards were stacked against the band from the very beginning.

While that resistance would quickly eat away at the band, causing tensions that would ultimately lead Tommy to quit the band, these two minutes and 48 seconds are perhaps the most effortlessly joyous and inspired of their entire career.



The Ramones - Rockaway Beach

"Chewing out a rhythm on my bubble gum/The sun is out and I want some."

Has there ever been a cooler sentiment to sum up a beautiful summer's day at the beach?  I've never been to the beach in question, but, after hearing the Ramones blast through "Rockaway Beach", I could literally smell the Coppertone and sea salt.

Of course, the massive sing-along chorus complete with 50's-inspired backing vocals was seen by many punk purists as some sort of sacrilege, but the truth of the matter was that if the band hoped to keep making records, they were going to need to, you know, sell a few copies.  The single reached #66 and still stands as the band's highest charting U.S. hit.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

2 comments:

  1. Neurotica by Redd Kross was reissued in 2002 by Five Foot Two Records / Oglio actually.

    http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/6730-neurotica/

    ReplyDelete
  2. actually the version of Peach Kelli Pop posted here is the remastered version ;-)

    ReplyDelete

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