How did the Ramones become the Ramones? It's hard to draw precise lines in histories of explosive punk rock and seemingly lawless art, but in many senses, the answer seems indeed to be Tommy: the band's primary drummer, an influencer of their aesthetic, a creative force behind some of their greatest songs.
After emigrating from Hungary at the age of four, Tommy (born Thomas Erdelyi) quickly fell in love with music. He would eventually perform alongside future Ramone, John Lummings (Johnny Ramone) as part of the Tangerine Puppets, a mid-sixties high-school garage band.
Tommy always seemed to be more drawn to the backstage aspect of music though: in the early years, he was originally the Ramones' manager and publicist. Eventually, when it was clear that their original drummer Joey couldn't keep up, Tommy stepped up. Regardless of what DeeDee might've had you believe, the moment Tommy took over the drums was the moment the Ramones were truly born.
Tommy, a smart business man, made the original suggestion that the band of "brothers" adopt their now signature disheveled but undeniably cool Ramones "look." This changed the way rock and roll was presented; pretty boys in pretty suits weren't the norm after this. Today, from power-pop hero Matthew Melton of Warm Soda to the legendary NOBUNNY, the Schott "Perfecto" biker jacket remains a staple of garage pop's aesthetic.
Tommy Ramone was responsible for "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" as well as the legendary battle cry, "Hey Ho, Let's go!"
A talented producer, Tommy shares producing credits for the Ramones' first three albums (Ramones, Leave Home, Rocket to Russia) as well as their live album, It's Alive. He later returned in 1984 (years after having quit the band) to produce the Ramones' eight studio album, Too Tough to Die. Tommy also produced for the likes of the Replacements and Redd Kross, even serving as an assistant engineer for Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys.
Personally, I don't know what I would be without the Ramones. And I don't know what the Ramones would be without Tommy.
"This is art," he wrote in the liner notes of one Ramones compilation album. "Sometimes it doesn't sell at first. Sometimes it takes a while for the world to catch on." I'm convinced that when the world catches on, they will see that the "quiet Ramone," as he was so often dubbed, has, on the contrary, the loudest legacy.