Tommy Erdelyi, better known to legions of fans as Tommy Ramone, has died of bile duct cancer at 65.
Tommy was the backbeat of seminal punk band the Ramones, having played on and co-produced the band’s first three records, Ramones, Leave Home and Rocket to Russia. He remained the Ramones’ primary producer and business manager for duration of the band’s existence.
Personally, I’ve always had a soft spot for Tommy. If the four members represented a complete entity, Joey would be the band’s emotional core; Johnny, its brute instinct; and Dee Dee, its libido. But Tommy was always the Ramones’ tactical nerve center. He appeared to be more pulled-together than the others. He also had the ability to better articulate what made the band so unique, which is evident as he discusses songwriting in this interview later in his career:
Tommy is primarily responsible for the Ramones’ megahit “Blitzkreig Bop” and one of the purest, most direct love songs to come from the band’s catalog: “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.” I think this song is the best way to remember him today.
All four original members of the Ramones are gone. A sad day for music.
(Photo of Johnny and Tommy Ramone during the early days of the band via Jenny Lens / Disclosure / Publisher Leya.)