Monday, 14 July 2014

Three Bassists; Tommy Ramone, Charlie Haden & Billy Rath

Although they wouldn't appear to have much in common Tommy Ramone and Charlie Haden, who both died last week, both played in two highly influential underground bands who would inspire entire genres.


At this point The Ramones need no introduction; whether or not they actually invented punk (they didn't) they were certainly instrumental in popularizing it to a generation on both sides of the Atlantic. The previous punk bands of the American scene were either artsy (Television, Patti Smith, Suicide, Richard Hell, Pere Ubu, Velvet Underground) or Glam-Trash (Stooges, New York Dolls) or retro (Robert Gordon, Flaming Groovies, Mink DeVille), or Power Pop (Blondie), but the Ramones were so decidedly working class that were able connect with kids in a way none of the others did.


The Ramones would be cited as a seminal influence on bands outside the New York scene to places like London (where the Sex Pistols, Motorhead, Vibrators, Damned and Clash would be fans), to Canada (Teenage Head, Diodes, Demics, Viletones, DOA) to Australia, Japan, Latin America and The Philippines. In spite of the fact that they never had any chart action and little airplay. Tommy played drums and co-produced their first three albums from 1974 to 78; "The Ramones", "Leave Home", and "Rocket to Russia", as well as the live album "It's Alive". Exhausted by the heavy tour schedule he quit the band in 1978 to be replaced by Marky Ramone. Tommy would remain to produce their fourth album "Road To Ruin". He would later return to co-produce their eighth album "Too Tough To Die".


Besides the Ramones he also produced records in the 1980s he produced the Replacements album "Tim", as well as Redd Kross's "Neurotica". In 2006 he formed bluegrass duo Uncle Monk with former Simplistics singer Claudia Tienan who recorded one album. I had them on my radio show once in 2007 playing live and got him to sign my mandolin. He died of cancer aged 65.


As Tommy Ramone ended his career with old time country music jazz bassist Charlie Haden started there. Haden sang with his family as The Haden Family on their radio show starting when he was two years old, later taking up the bass. He discovered jazz as a teenager moving to Los Angeles eventually playing with Art Pepper and Paul Bley before ultimately joining sax player Ornette Coleman for the recording of the 1959 album "The Shape Of Jazz To Come" and the followup 1960 album "Free Jazz". These albums kicked and gave a name to the free jazz genre that had been forming around players like John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy for a few years. Free Jazz became a powerful force in underground jazz through the 1960's leading to players like Albert Ayler and Pharaoh Sanders and being particularly influential in Europe.

Haden would quit and rejoin Colman's quartet through the sixties as well as he battled drug addiction later joining Keith Jarrett's Trio and then forming another group with Don Cherry. Haden would form The Liberation Music Orchestra with Carla Bley (ex-wife of Paul) in the 1970's. The Liberation Music Orch was combined more structured with classical influences along with strong political themes based around the Spanish Civil War. Haden was once arrested in Portugal for introducing a song by dedicating it to Che Guevara. From the 1980's on Haden formed other bands and recorded albums that included string sections and folk music. He died of complications of polio he had as a child aged 76.

Billy Rath; Who was Bassist for Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers died at 66

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