Tommy Erdelyi, aka Tommy Ramone, the original drummer and last surviving original member of the seminal punk-rock quartet the Ramones, died on Friday at the age of 65 in Queens, New York. He had been undergoing treatment for cancer of the bile duct.
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Erdelyi played on the Ramones’ first three albums, “Ramones,” “Leave Home” and “Rocket to Russia,” and co-produced the last two. All three were hugely influential blasts of short, aggressive, cartoonishly fast songs that sent a shock through the bloated mid-1970s rock scene and helped invent punk rock.
Songs like “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “Beat on the Brat” were instant classics almost completely unlike anything else being recorded at the time. Rolling Stone reviewer Paul Nelson said the Ramones’ debut album was “constructed almost entirely of rhythm tracks of an exhilarating intensity rock ‘n’ roll has not experiences since its earliest days.”
Although rock radio for the most part ignored the Ramones, they were hugely influential on musicians who would go on to form bands like the Sex Pistols and the Clash. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
After he left the Ramones in 1977, Erdelyi worked as a producer on such notable albums as the Replacements’ “Tim” and Red Kross’ “Neurotica.” In recent years, he and longtime partner Claudia Tienan performed as an acoustic duo under the name Uncle Monk.
Erdelyi was born Erdélyi Tamás in Budapest, Hungary, in 1949. He came to the United States with his family in 1957. He joined a band in high school, and also worked as a recording engineer before joining John Cummings, Douglas Colvin and Jeffrey Hyman in a band. The four all took “Ramone” as a last name: Cummings became Johnny Ramone, Colvin became Dee Dee Ramone, Hyman became Joey Ramone and Erdelyi became Tommy Ramone.
The other three original Ramones all died between 2001 and 2004. In recent months Erdelyi had been receiving hospice care for his cancer. He is survived by Tienan, his partner of 40 years.