Categories for Musings

Monte Melnick, the Ramones’ legendary tour manager, writes about Tommy

Received in comments this morning. Condolences about his (and our) loss:

Tommy was my dearest and oldest friend.

We grew up together in Forest Hills Queens New York.

I went to Stephen A Halsey Jr High and Forest Hills High school with him.

He got me to pick up the bass guitar and enter into the crazy world of rock music.

We played in several bands together (Triad & Butch) here in NYC over the late 60’s and early 70’s.

We built and managed Performance Studios in NYC, a recording/rehearsal studio the Ramones started in. I worked with him when he was in the Ramones and well after he left.

He had an advanced musical foresight, well ahead of the times in forming and being part of the Ramones. He was a great musician on the guitar, then the drums, later on the mandolin, banjo, fiddle and many more instruments. His musical expanse bridged from Punk to Indie Bluegrass.

I mourn the passing of the last of the original Ramones, my friend and a true musical visionary.

Monte A. Melnick


Tommy Ramone, RIP

I woke up to the bad news, and I immediately felt like going back to sleep for good. I tell ya: if there ever was news that I am going to kick off sooner than later, it’s the news that Tommy is gone. (And his death is the top story on the CBC web site; back in 1976, when I got the first record, the best record ever, the likes of CBC couldn’t have cared less.)

Some of the news reports aren’t exactly fair or accurate: he was the original lineup drummer, but not entirely the original drummer – Marky, still alive, was, too. You can read about all of that stuff in the interview I did with Joey, or Fury’s Hour, etc.

Anyway. Here they are at the height of their powers, in London, with Tommy on skins.  In that Brit audience were bands-to-be who would recreate the Ramones’ sound or approach, and enjoy far more success than Da Brudders ever would.  Not fair, still.

Anyway. Me? I’m heading in to the office. I’ll be wearing the tee of them doing a benefit for Johnny Blitz at CBGB in May 1978, shortly after they changed my life forever.

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In Friday’s Sun: fair comment about Tony et al.

The last time I spoke with Tony Ianno – and, for all practical purposes, the first time, too – was in a downtown Toronto food court. It didn’t go well.

It was 2002. We had both been at some political event, and I had stopped at a subterranean food court for a burger on the way back to my Bay Street law firm. Ianno saw me, I invited him to join me, and it all kind of went downhill from there.

Tony, you see, was then a Liberal MP, representing Trinity-Spadina. He was big on Paul Martin, and quite eager to see Jean Chretien disappear. I, meanwhile, was a former Chretien aide, and I then (as now) clung to the possibly-naïve view that several million Canadians had given Chretien a big majority government mandate in 2000, and he was entitled to serve all four years of it.

Tony, as noted, wanted Chretien out, toute de suite, so that Martin could make good on his promise to elevate to cabinet every single one of the several dozen MPs who had pledged fealty to him. But he was irritated about something else, too: Tony apparently was of the view that I was personally responsible for the elevation of Maurizio Bevilacqua to cabinet earlier that year.

Tony considered my friend Maurizio a rival, it tuned out. He felt he should be in cabinet, and not Maurizio, even though he had been more or less openly agitating for Chretien to quit. And it was all my fault.

Now, I didn’t read out loud the dictionary definition of “disloyalty,” at that moment, but I certainly considered it. Instead, I merely pointed out the truth: I lacked any such power. Chretien, like all good Prime Ministers, receives advice from God-knows-who, and he makes his own decisions. That’s it.

Tony Ianno was angry, and he wasn’t buying it. We agreed to disagree, and parted ways. The next time I heard about him, Prime Ministerial Blip Paul Martin hadn’t made him anything more senior than “the Minister of State for Families and Caregivers,” whatever that is. He then lost his seat to the New Democrats in 2006, and he sort of disappeared.

This week, as you may have noticed, Tony Ianno was back in the headlines. He has decided to sue a Liberal Party functionary for allegedly damaging his reputation. In so doing, he was joining his wife, Christine Innes, who is suing the same functionary for defamation – as well as Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.

As someone who has practiced a bit of libel law, and who knows a little bit more about it, I think – my fair comment, if you will – Innes has a good case. She was apparently denied an opportunity to run for the Liberals in Trinity-Spadina because of the alleged sins of Ianno, not her (to wit, he was supposedly mean to some Young Liberals). She was characterized, nation-wide, in very unflattering way by he current Liberal regime.

Along with being arguably defamatory – it identified her, it caused damage, and it had a tendency to harm her reputation – it was also flagrantly sexist.

Innes, who I have never met, was being condemned for the alleged actions of her husband. Not, it should be noted, her own. That’s unfair. It’s also sexism bordering on misogyny.

So, like I say, I think Innes has a good shot at victory. Her husband? Maybe not so much.

Defamation is a legal tort, designed to repair damaged reputations. Christine Innes’ reputation was indisputably damaged.

And Tony Ianno’s reputation? It was already well-established – long, long before now.

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In Tuesday’s Sun: call in sick and win!

In the Summertime, a young politician’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of…no legislative sittings, and a concurrent growth in popularity!

Yes, yes, we know. That is a terrible, awful bastardization of the immortal words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (“In the Spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of cricket.”). But, most legislatures having risen for the Summer, it sort of fits. For governing politicians, it is sunnier time, literally and figuratively.

Few studies have been commissioned on the subject, but it is truism for most governments in the civilized world: when voters see you less, the more popular you get.

Now, denizens of the corridors of power – and particularly the Ottawa-based Press Gallery – enjoy the cut-and-thrust of Question Period. They think it matters.

This is why so many journalists have such admiration for NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. Mulcair is an outstanding performer in Question Period. He is, he is.

Every Question Period, Mulcair is ablaze with prosecutorial indignation and fury, the grand inquisitor. It is he – and not Liberal leader Justin Trudeau – who is in the House most often, making ministers squirm in their padded seats. He is very good at it.

But, as noted, it doesn’t matter. In fact, it probably hurts Mulcair more than it helps.

Question Period, while important to British Parliamentary democracy, isn’t so important to Joe and Jane Frontporch. They see QP – and, in fact, much of what is televised in Parliament – to be what is wrong with the system, and not what is right. The hollering, hectoring and the hyperbole: they don’t like it, not one bit.

To your average citizen, what goes on the legislative chambers of the nation is enough to make them vote in anger, or not vote at all.

Out in British Columbia, everyone knows this. That is why governments are so intent upon staying out of the Legislature in Victoria – and, accordingly, staying in power.

The BC Socreds, for example, held about 80 sessions a year between 1976 to 1991. The New Democrats, from 1992 to 2000, showed up to work even less, for an average of 78 sessions a year.

The BC Liberals, when they won power in 2001, didn’t even bother to have a Fall legislative sitting. They weren’t punished for it.

In power ever since, the BC Liberals have beaten all previous no-show records, with an average of 50-odd legislative sittings a year.

The media, meanwhile, keep attacking them, because of it. The people of BC, meanwhile, keep voting for them, despite it. How so?

Because voters mostly prefer that their politicians are neither heard from nor seen, that’s why. Go do your job, and don’t bother me, etc.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is keenly aware of this dynamic. He recalls what happened in 2011, right after he was found to be in contempt of Parliament. Knowing that the people hold Parliament itself in contempt, he engineered his own defeat, and thereafter won a majority government.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is aware of the anti-legislature dynamic, too. That is why he doesn’t care about having a very poor attendance record in the House. Neither Brian Mulroney nor Jean Chretien spent much time in Question Period, either, back when they were Opposition leaders. And both did rather well as a result, in 1984 and 1993.

Have pity, then, on Tom Mulcair. He is the best performer in a show that no one likes to watch.

Sometime soon, his show will almost certainly be cancelled for poor ratings.


Help needed

Hoping to do a column about the correlation between a government”s popularity and the sitting of the relevant legislature – that is, governments go up when the Leg isn’t on TV. Anyone know of any studies related to same?