Saturday, July 12, 2014

Words for Tommy Ramone

I was still in grade school when my drum teacher – a high school kid from the neighborhood – gave me a mix tape labelled “Punk” and encouraged me to check it out. Riding home on my bike, I had no idea what “Punk” was, let alone what it would sound like. Sitting on my bed later that day, I put on my headphones and hit “Play” on my Walkman.

Out came “Blitzkrieg Bop.”

In that instant, I learned that music wasn't just about entertainment – music could also be an indescribable, powerful force that could dramatically affect and influence the course of a person's life. My existence changed forever because of that one song.

Every band I've played in, every book and article I've written, every project I've ever undertaken has been the direct result of those 132 seconds.

The Ramones not only changed lives; they also saved them. Many of us know this to be true. There is no need for me to elaborate.

If you're a true Ramones fan, I know how it's been for you today. We've lost more than just the last original Ramone; we've lost something within ourselves.

All Ramones album are amazing, but Leave Home will forever be my favorite. The band's Pop sensibilities were never sharper; there was a bounce to the music on Leave Home that was never fully duplicated on future releases. There isn't a single note on that album that isn't utterly perfect. The greatest Punk album ever made. Nearly three decades (and thousands of records added to my collection) since I first heard it, Leave Home remains the album I've listened to the most in life. The album's co-producer? Tommy Ramone.

Fast-forward to my high school years, and Leave Home was joined by another irreplaceable album in my life, The Replacements' Tim. That band was never better. The album's producer? Tommy Ramone.

The evening before Tommy's passing, and with no prior knowledge of his illness and impending exit, I sat my 12-year-old stepson down and played him The Ramones for the first time. After all, it's my duty as a parent to steer him in the right direction in life. I explained to him how important this band was, and how they were responsible for so much of the music and culture around today. I told him that when he finds himself feeling down during life's many trials, The Ramones will save his ass every time.

I also gave him the best advice I'll ever offer as his stepfather: “Never trust anyone who doesn't like The Ramones.”

Tommy is gone, but now the next generation of my family knows his work. I was finally able to pay Tommy – and Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny – back.

Goodbye, Tommy. Thank you for giving us a better world.  

- Joel Gausten
July 12, 2014


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