Tommy Ramone (1949–2014)

BY THE TIME Tommy Ramone (née Erdelyi) died, his band, which came whipping out of the low, brick-walled canyons of Queens in 1974, had long since been canonized into oblivion, becoming the province of Urban Outfitter–clad interns (“Ramones Tee in Charcoal . . . perfect for channeling your inner rock god”) whose knowledge of the band’s oeuvre might well be limited to the appearance of “Blitzkrieg Bop” in a Coppertone ad. After his death, Erdelyi was rightly eulogized everywhere from Vogue to the New York Times. He had become a big deal. But the drummer/producer of one of the world’s most influential bands—and arguably its single most influential punk band—died as he lived: a champion of the working-class rocker and of the DIY ethic. In honor of that laudable spirit, here are songs by six of the thousands of Ramones-influenced bands heating up tiny venues around the world today.

The Live Ones (NYC), “Got What You Wanted
Led by drummer/front man/wild man “Mad” Mike Czekaj, this trio boasts a profound Ramones influence evident not only in their fast, catchy one-four-five rock-candy tunes, but in their approach to their craft: Both bands soldiered on for years with zero regard for trend. In a few more years, the Connecticut-born Czekaj will have marched farther than the band that inspired him: His high school band the Stratford Survivors opened for the Ramones in 1978.

M.O.T.O. (New Hampshire), “It Tastes Just Like a Milkshake
M.O.T.O., aka Masters of the Obvious, is the brainchild of New Orleans native Paul Caporino, who has been writing songs under the moniker since 1981. For the last handful of years, he’s traveled solo from bar to basement to backyard in a beat-up Toyota the color of his hair (silver), delivering poppy, Ramones-ish three-chord classics such as “Crystallize My Penis” and “I Hate My Fucking Job,” to hordes of kids, or just the bartender if he has to, backed by pickup bands comprised of the many musician friends he’s made over the decades.

Criminal Damage (Portland, OR), “Call of Death
This Pacific Northwest band is heavily influenced by British street punk (Cock Sparrer, Sham 69) of the same era in which the Ramones came up, and occasionally wields the feedbacky whine of mid-period Hüsker Dü, but the crunchy guitars are pure Rocket to Russia. Though the vocals are gruffer/tougher, Crim Dam (as they are affectionately known) can’t stay away from the anthem—another thing they have in common with their predecessors.

Imperial Leather (Stockholm), “We Will Never Die
This Swedish band lifted their name from a British soap punks use to spike their hair, and their front woman from a long-running NYC band named after an arachnid and what a friend of mine once delicately referred to as “a lady’s downstairs.” They released a spate of records on legendary St. Paul, MN, crust label Profane Existence in the late oughts and may or may not still be going: Regardless, their UK-style punk’n’roll is stripped down à la early Ramones, albeit nowhere near as sweet.

The Biters (Atlanta), “Indigo
The sort of band whose members might take a dump in the restroom sink at a Waffle House, never dreaming that twenty years down the road they might find themselves employed there and cleaning up after the next generation of hellions. The selected track finds them channeling Phil-Spector-wall-of-sound-era Ramones such as “Danny Says,” which may be blasphemous to mention in a Tommy Ramone tribute, but I like to think he wouldn’t have cared.

Call of the Wild (NYC), “Autobahn
The fierce new-wave guitar solos that are occasionally scrawled all over the band’s tracks, and the almost gargled-sounding vocals only add to the anarchic power of this band’s attack, which owes much in its four-on-the-floor style to its leather-and-denim clad forefathers.

Polly Watson is a musician, editor, and writer based in New York.