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Feature [Issue #14]
The Ramones: Exclusive Interview With Tommy Ramone
By Dean Truitt

Thomas Erdelyi may not be a recognizable inductee name to those familiar with the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, but his more familiar alias of Tommy Ramone gives the former drummer and successful producer a rare distinction, the only Hungarian to ever enter the hallowed Hall.

Thomas Erdelyi may not be a recognizable inductee name to those familiar with the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, but his more familiar alias of Tommy Ramone gives the former drummer and successful producer a rare distinction, the only Hungarian to ever enter the hallowed Hall.

Erdelyi was recently in Los Angeles as the keynote speaker for a DVD convention and to promote the Ramones recent DVD documentary, release, End of the Century. The film features extensive interview footage from each of the many Ramones throughout the years, but deals primarily with the group’s original lineup: Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy.

While the biography traces the undeniable historical impact of punk rock’s creators and proudly includes amazing live footage and praiseworthy testimonials from countless artists and fans, End of the Century also unflinchingly chronicles aspects that only the Ramones would have the candor and honesty to reveal: dysfunction, drug addiction, infighting, disappointment, and much more. With a laugh, Erdelyi freely admits, “The group was such a multi-layered conglomeration of four very different individuals who brought unique things into the band. When you get four talented people who are high strung and volatile and stuff like that, you get a lot of fireworks, a lot of drama, and it’s in the film. So, it captures a certain aspect of the band.”

The story maintains many important elements and covers such a broad topic with facility because it portrays the sheer character of individuals within the band, but also expresses the group’s enormous musical, cultural, and social influence. While many of New York’s underground bands such as Blondie or Talking Heads had more impressive record sales, few could deny that the Ramones will most likely be the most significant act to ever graduate from CBGB’s legendary stage.

One fascinating piece of information revealed in the movie is the fact that the concept of the band and early leadership were actually Erdelyi’s ideas. He initially planned on managing the band, but moved to drums when it became apparent that Joey was more suited to singing than sitting behind the kit. From that point, the articulate drummer was generally the spokesman for the group because he felt it would help give them credibility.

After the Erdelyi left his drum stool behind, he continued to maintain an active role in the band’s career. He went on to produce the Ramones albums Road to Ruin and Too Tough to Die. Unfortunately, the schism between Joey and Johnny seemed to grow infinitely wider after the amiable drummer’s calming presence vanished. In an interview shortly before his death, Johnny Ramone notes that he felt Tommy was a great producer for the band and much better than production legend, Phil Spector, who worked with the band on the End of the Century LP.

The bittersweet story concludes with the premature deaths of Joey, Dee Dee, and Johnny, who died of lymphatic cancer, a heroin overdose, and prostate cancer respectively within three years of one another. However, they can be posthumously proud that their iconic image and sound will live on for countless generations.

Exclusive Interview With Tommy Ramone The Ramones

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