They were – among other things – our symbolic eternal teenagers.
It's shocking that all four original Ramones are now dead – but it's also shocking that only one member of this archetypal rock band suffered rock's archetypal death by excess. Dee Dee OD'd, but it was cancer that took singer Joey and guitarist Johnny, now joined by drummer Tommy on July 11th, 2014. In Tommy's case, the cause was bile duct cancer, which first surfaced in March, 2013, when he had to cancel his Acoustic Anarchy tour with former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock.
Officially, Tommy was a Ramone for four years and three classic albums, from 1974 to 1978. He was the band's first manager. But he was also the mysterious one, because the three years shaved off his age – born Erdélyi Tamás in Budapest on January 29, 1949, he long claimed 1952 – made his biography harder to synch up. Could he really have helped engineer Jimi Hendrix's “Band of Gypsys” when he was only 18?
Probably he couldn't have. But at 21 he did, and then stuck with the music business -- when the Ramones cut their first demo, he was out doing sound for folkie Buzzy Linhart. Soon, however, he focused all his attentions on the band. He was the old hand. Only Tommy would have explained how the Ramones "used block chording as a melodic device." What guitar "solos" there were on those first three albums, Tommy shared with his co-producer, Craig Leon – Johnny was a peerless rhythm player, but, as Tommy observed, "speed was his virtuosity." Although Tommy may have faded from view, becoming the least vivid of the four Queens weirdos who invented punk rock, it was he who conceptualized them most clearly.