I don't have to like it

Tommy Ramone died this week. He was the original drummer of The Ramones, the seminal Punk Rock group that blasted the complacency and boredom out of rock and roll in the seventies.

The band was composed of Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy Ramone. The fact that none of them were actually named Ramone, in the real world, made it all the better.

Very few of their songs were three minutes long, most coming in at about two and half. They didn't use many chords and sometimes the lyrics bordered on bizarre, but boy could they rock.

Music had gotten too serious, tediously self-important and over produced. The whole Southern Rock thing was dominating the airwaves and I found myself in misery when pondering the state of our musical union. More astounding was the fact that no one else seemed to notice.

Then came Disco. What can I say about Disco that isn't already known? Lots of people loved it, but I didn't. That whole era is a blur of bad music, questionable decisions and massive life changes.

I could have used some good, gut-wrenching music to gnaw on my angst.

One day I walked into the record shop right off campus. Jimmy, the long-haired manager, bowed to me, as he always did, and grinned.

"Listen to this," he said.

With that, he put the needle on a record and The Blitzkrieg Bop blared through the store's giant speakers. A browsing customer thumbing through the "Country Rock" section hollered something rude and Jimmy ran over to him, screaming expletives, and kicked him out.

"!@$%er doesn't know good music!"

My friend, Liz, who worked there was bouncing to the music while she put albums away. To my surprise, I was bouncing, too.

Being a student, I was broke and even though Jimmy offered to buy me a copy of the album, I opted instead to come into the store and listen to it there. It was a great time and he was a great guy. Liz was pretty cool, as well.

I didn't buy my first Ramones album for a few years. I'd gotten involved in listening to Heavy Metal and came to understand the finer points of head banging. ZRock on the radio saved the airwaves from the humdrum music of the times, flailing away at the mundane with metal and edgy power rock. No glam rock allowed, ever. One day, they played The Ramones epic song, I Want to be Sedated.

I immediately drove to a local record store and bought a Ramones CD, stunned at my waiting so long to do so. While browsing, I discovered the L.A. Punk scene, as well as some amazing British Punk Rock, and I was musically elated. Life was never the same.

For me, it all started with The Ramones.

They're all gone now, Tommy being the last surviving founding member. Three died of cancer and one of a drug related issue. It's the way of the world and I know that as I grow older, my fellow travelers of a certain age will leave this planet. They, and countless others, did wonderful things for me.

It's how things are, but I don't have to like it.

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