THOUGHTS ON TOMMY RAMONE

R.I.P. Tommy Ramone. I think one day, if I ever have kids I will tell them that I encountered all four original Ramones the way some must recount meeting each of the Marx Brothers in their day. They’ve passed into legend now and that legend will grow and grow but once they were real people. I would see Joey at Squeezebox all the time. Dee Dee in the Chelsea Hotel when I was just a tadpole and he was clearly strung out. Years later, as a Spin writer, I interviewed Tommy for a piece… I forget what it was about. Some punk issue package, the kind of thing the magazine would do if there were no exciting releases. And then there was Johnny who gave me one of his very last interviews. I knew his reputation and I was afraid he was going to be mean to me (especially since I took him to task about Joey) but he had integrity and humor. That was a hard one, not like interviewing some boy band for my column. Danny Fields would tell me stories when we were trying to do a book together shortly after Joey died… about how the road beat them up and kept them sick, the constant touring and touring to earn the rent because they could not buy a hit in their lifetime, but Tommy seemed so strong. But then he got off the road early, out of the grind, replaced by Marky and gone behind the scenes. Danny took me to the Ramones loft where Arturo Vega lived. He died recently as well and I thought of that day where he pointed at the floor and said “Dee Dee used to sleep here.”

I was utterly shocked to see Tommy trending today. I was in the middle of an interview I am doing for a Times story and I didn’t want to click on his name because I thought, “What if?” There’s a line in the last play I did, Revenge and Guilt, which went up in the Fall, where a gone to seed guitar teacher explains away his hearing loss by saying, “Too many Ramones shows… back when there were Ramones.” The line got a chuckle,but I always felt guilty because I knew that Tommy was still alive and very much an original Ramone. Now the line feels very different. It was nice to see him on the evening news and I suppose tomorrow I will have to get those first records out. It’s actually been a while. I will think of the original four and how I once won tickets to see them from W-LIR just like Riff Randall and how they made me proud to be born in Queens and proud to be an outsider…

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