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I've Never Met A Ramone

Updated: Apr 8

When I called Tommy to ask if he'd play mandolin on the next album, I figured it was a long shot. I had a couple of things in my corner though: Levon's studio was only a half hour drive from Tommy's place in Phoenicia, and he'd never met any of the guys from the Band.

His answer, without hesitation, was "sure, but only if you're doing that Bird song". I was flattered that he had remembered one of my tunes, considering we'd only played together twice prior to the Last Bird Home sessions. It was a perfect song for a founding member of the Ramones. Just under two minutes, with very little formal structure to the song. I wrote it with only a single "limb" to the whole piece, using it for all the verses and the intro/outtro chunks. Of course he'd remember that one (and want to play on it).

Photos by Beana Bern

I remember telling Garth the news, and he was genuinely excited. "I've never met a Ramone" he mumbled with a grin. And now we had them both on the same album project.

The Ramones' debut record dropped in 1976, the same year as the Band's Last Waltz and the same year that I was busy being born. That was America's bicentennial. Old ladies in eastern Kentucky all had the collectible glass Pepsi bottles to prove it. And that's when I was tumbling into the world. The timeline of the events wasn't lost on me, and both Garth and Tommy found it interesting as well. We spent some time talking about 1976 on the front steps and I was blown away by how much they remembered. But I guess they were the two "straight men" of their respective groups - the other Ramones had some resentment for Tommy because he didn't use enough drugs, and Garth was the "quiet" member of the Band. They could have probably told the guys from their bands plenty of stories about their own history.

It's odd now, looking back, that those boys would be the last men standing. Last birds home, so to speak. I thought about that when Robbie Robertson passed away, and the title had all new meaning. The last original Ramone and the last founding member of the Band. Rock & Roll history. And I was the lucky son of a bitch who got to write the songs that brought them together.

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