Very sorry to hear today about the death of Tommy Erderlyi -- the Ramone's original drummer.
I was a big Ramones fan "back in the day" because I thought their "dumb, fast and loud" act was an ideal antidote to the art-rock sensibilities that had made pop music sclerotic in the mid-1970s.
Plus their songs were wickedly funny and impossible to resist dancing to.
I had a chance to work with Erderlyi and Joey Ramone in 1981. My job was assistant engineer at a recording studio on 24th Street called "Secret Sound." Secret's schedule was typical of a New York studio in the 80s: jingles in the morning, and then either a rock band or an album project at night.
I'm not sure why Tommy Erderlyi chose Secret. But he and Joey needed a studio to record a band they were producing called The Rattlers.
The band came by around 6, we set up the drums, marshall amps, and vocal mics. I was assisting Scott Noll -- a very good rock engineer -- on the session. We both liked the Ramones, and relished a chance to do a non-jingle gig. The band got all the basic tracks done very quickly.Everybody was high-spirited: it was clearly a thrill to be working in a "real studio." We finished basics and overdubs by 10 PM, took a break, and then went on to the mixing.
"Headphones," Erdelyi said. "I'm mixing this on headphones."
HEADPHONES? With all the loudspeakers in front of us: the Klipshes, the UREIs, the Aurotones and Secret Sound Cubes, you're going to mix on headphones?
This was heresy in our world. But Tommy was the boss.
He mixed the four songs in complete silence. Noll and I could hear tiny inklings of what he was doing from his headphone leakage (and we were welcome to monitor the mix on our own cans), but it was basically a "secret mix" at Secret Sound.
Later, after the last edit had been made on our 2-track machine (an ATR-100), we cued the tape for playback. What would it actually sound like on the big speakers?
I cued the tape.
Erderlyi's finger depressed the STUDIO MON button on the big MCI 428 mixing console.
Noll hit PLAY on the Auto-Locator.
And then came the loudest mix in the world.