Saturday, July 12, 2014

All Revved up and Ready to Go

Tommy Ramone, original drummer of the transformative punk band the Ramones, passed away Friday. Under his real name, Thomas Erdelyi, he started out managing the band before moving to the drum kit, and produced the band's 1984 album Too Tough to Die.

Tommy had given up drumming for the band by then, replaced in 1978 by Marky Ramone (Marc Steven Bell), who remains the only living "classic" Ramone. Tommy wrote "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" and co-wrote "Blitzkrieg Bop," from which the post title was taken. These were the singles from the band's 1976 debut album, Ramones.

Although for many reasons punk rock is often more identified with scowling and howling English yobs like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones played a large role in connecting the new style to its old roots. Remove some of the volume fuzz and reduce the tempo from its near speed-of-light beat and you have stuff that shows its roots in 1960s Top 40 pop, beach music and the traditional three chords and the truth mindset. "Rock 'N' Roll High School" could have been sung by the Beach Boys.

"I Wanna Be Sedated," on the other hand, probably wouldn't have been, and that's where the punk elements come in. With songs like that, "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue," "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement," "53rd and 3rd," "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment" and "The KKK Took My Baby Away," the band presented a kind of Mad-Magazine-meets-Hammer-Films-via-pulp-fiction vibe that made their music as much fun as it was groundberaking and thought-provoking.

So if you'd care to chant "Hey! Ho! Let's go!" a couple of times in memory of one of the fastest "Onetwothreefour" counts of the last 40 years, it would not be amiss.

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