Tommy Ramone--Thomas Erdelyi, really--passed away last night, as old men do. Surviving to the age of 65, he was the last original member of The Ramones to leave us.
I first discovered the Ramones in 1991, a few months after filling my ears with The Pogues for the first time. I wrote about how the Pogues changed my life not too long ago for The Loop Magazine, so I won't be repeating myself at length here. But I'll say this: punk music took me to a place in my heart where I could finally say 'fuck it' to all of the negatives in my life: an emotionally abusive father who never took the time to teach me anything or understand me? The kids at school who wanted nothing to do with me despite my desperate attempts to fit in? In so many ways, punk music was the fix.
Bands like The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Pogues made me strong. They helped me understand that music, and indeed writing could be something more than pleasing pap for the masses. It could mean something. Their music gave me balls and set me on a path I'm still trying to walk today.
The Ramones, however, filled me with joy.
Fast, charmingly soulful and full of heart, their tunes gave me safe passage through the crap pop and dance music that filled the halls of my high school, the local mall and backyards of my youth. When I fucked up my life through fear or inexperience, their music was there to cheer me. And while other bands were teaching me about the dark side of life with songs like You Can't Wrap Your Arms Around a Memory, Suspect Device and Know Your Rights, Tommy, Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny took me to Rockaway Beach. Blitzkrieg Bop, Sheena is a Punk Rocker, and California Sun still fill my head with sunshine on a daily basis all these years later.
I owe The Ramones so much. It's a shame that I'll never have the chance to say thank you.