Sunday, July 13, 2014
Track of the Week: The Ramones, "Rockaway Beach"
This week brought the sad news of the death of Tommy Erdelyi, the original drummer of the Ramones who had been the last surviving member of the group's first lineup. (He also happened to be a producer, and helmed one of my favorite albums, The Replacements' Tim.) Watching the The Ramones documentary The End of the Century, I was struck at how grounded, unaffected, and just plain normal Erdelyi seemed in contrast to the other members of the group. I'm sad to see him go.
Despite their denim and leather wardrobe, arguments on stage, and aggressive approach, The Ramones were one the most fun bands around, mixing goofy humor with the buoyancy of sixties pop music, even if it was filtered through distorted riffs. For a group of urban punks, they had a great appreciation of 1960s surf music (see their covers of "Surfin' Bird"and "California Sun.") They made their own great addition to the surf canon with "Rockaway Beach," a perfect song for fun in the sun. It also happens to be about a beach in Queens that you can take the subway to, so not exactly the kind of place where you'd expect Jan and Dean to be hanging out. The incongruousness of the beach music theme with the urban setting and punky music exemplifies the cultivated silliness that made The Ramones great. RIP Tommy Ramone.