TOMMY RAMONE'S AND CLAUDIA TIENAN'S BAND UNCLE
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UNCLE MONK HOMEPAGE
Photo credit: Dave Green.
1) Basic information.
2) Situation with second album.
3) Debut CD (2006).
4) Reviews of debut CD.
5) Tommy's feelings from 2007.
6) Uncle Monk
Tommy Ramone's and Claudia Tienan's duo band is called Uncle Monk,
musical style will be a bit surprising mix for some Ramones fans, and
also for many refreshing acquaintance. Uncle Monk is an alt-country
punk-bluegrass and it's also featuring Claudia Tienan (ex-The
- There are a lot of similarities between punk and old-time music. Both
are home-brewed music as opposed to schooled, and both have an
earthy energy. And anybody can pick up an instrument and start
playing. I want to make clear is that Uncle Monk is not a
traditional bluegrass act. We are an indie-acoustic duo that has been
influenced by bluegrass and old-time music as well as alternative and
Americana, explains Tommy Ramone.
Tommy Ramone wrote to me in late November, 2012, that his and Claudia
Tienan's duo band Uncle Monk are still working with their second album.
Tommy wrote: "Yes, Claudia and I are finishing up the next record.
One of my latest interviews with Tommy I did in April, 2010, (read it
here) of one tour and on it Tommy also explains of second album:
- We keep coming up with new songs so we keep recording. Our new record
have some unique songs on them mostly based on our lives and
philosophies. there will be indie songs, bluegrass songs, old-time
songs, romantic songs, and unclassifiable songs, Tommy
Higher photo: Tommy Ramone reading my new book Ramones: Soundtrack Of
Our Lives at the Joey Ramone Birthday Bash in 2009. Richie Ramone and
Lanz of The Bullys are standing.
Lower photo: Noah "Noki" Citrin and Tommy are discussing at Joey Ramone
Birthday Bash. Noki and Tommy met after decades. Joey was Noah's best
friend during their high school years. They suffered a lot but
they also had a great friendship. Tommy remembered the same things that
Noki had described to me. The first time Tommy met Joey was with Noki.
Noah's interview is in my third book.
Tommy already told of the Uncle Monk in my second book Rock In Peace:
Dee Dee And Joey Ramone, it was in 2004 before he had spoken much of
current Uncle Monk.
You can find Tommy's long Uncle Monk related interview from my Ramones:
Soundtrack Of Our Lives book. It also has opening text written by
Tommy and in all his three interviews. Ramones: Soundtrack Of Our Lives
feature Tommy Ramone interviews of the Ramones, his studio works, and
Uncle Monk. Also the book contains a long discussion between Tommy and
Seymour Stein (founder of Sire Records) about the early days of the
Uncle Monk's debut CD was released on March 16, 2006. At first it was
coming out a bit earlier, but Tommy Ramone wrote then to me that they
had to do some artwork changes.
You can purchase the Uncle Monk debut CD from CDBaby.com (price was
only 12,97 US$ on April 14, 2010) or from Amazon.com
(15,99 US$ on April 14, 2010).
CD's were first sold-out quickly, but they were happy to say that they
were back in stock again.
Also Uncle Monk record is available for digital download (to buy) from
many different Internet sites including Apple iTunes. Tommy Ramone wrote to
me that it's available to download (buy) from more than 20 different
I also confirmed with Tommy where he and Claudia recorded an album.
- We made the record at my own studio, so it was quite comfortable.
Since we were using mostly acoustic instruments, things went smooth
Tommy and Claudia both sing. Also Tommy plays
mandolin, guitar, banjo and dobro and Claudia guitar and bass.
- The CD has 14 songs, and the initial pressings will be on Airday
Uncle Monk also plays shows, see dates
1) Round The Bend
2) Emotional Needs
3) Happy Tune
4) Home Sweet Reality
5) Mean To Me
7) Need A Life
9) Name Of The Game
10) Mr. Endicott
11) Urban Renewal
12) Walking Bandit
13) Bright Fluorescent
14) Wishing At The Moon
You can listen some clips
Ford Madox Prefect wrote his comments/review of Uncle Monk's CD as a
1) "I have been a fan of Mr. Ramone's work for years, including the
he performed with the Ramones and the music he has produced for others
such as the Replacements. This album, while quite different from any of
the rock, alternative or punk music Mr. Ramone (Erdelyi) has produced
over the years, shows true feelings of enjoyment and love for the music
itself. If you are a classic bluegrass fan, you will love this. If you
are not a classic bluegrass fan, listen to the album and don't put a
label to the music. Just let it wash over you and you will see what I
mean. Incidentally, I have actually become a bluegrass fan from
listening to this CD. It's worth an order (since you will not likely
find it in a store unless you live in the Upstate New York area) and I
have already listened to it enough times that if it were a cassette, it
would already have been worn out.
The only complaint- I want Uncle Monk to come out to the West Coast and
play a few gigs. I'll go to the gigs.)"
2) Lana Cooper wrote this review to http://www.popmatters.com in
Although CBGBs, the late, great Bowery bastion and launch pad that
showcased some of the finest New York City and American punk bands,
closed its doors for the very last time in 2006, its spirit lives on.
And not exactly in the way you would think. Before CBGBs became the
revered institution among the rather irreverent punk scene, it was a
concert venue home to Country, Blue Grass, and Blues acts.
A year after CBGB's closing, a traditional bluegrass band by the name of
Uncle Monk is releasing their debut album. The kicker is, the
singer/guitarist for this outfit is none other than Tommy Ramone. Yes,
the Tommy Ramone of the Ramones. In doing so, Ramone resurrects the
ghosts of CBGB & OMFUG and brings that attitude full-circle.
Strangely enough, until you're slapped with the idea of a former member
of the original Godfathers of Punk playing bluegrass, it doesn't really
register just how similar in musical theory the styles are. Both punk
and bluegrass usually build their melodies around a singular riff and a
spartan set of chords that chug it out in the background. Lyrically,
even most of their themes are similar, espousing the philosophy of Damn
The Man! - whether he be a corporate suit or railroad bull - normally
taking center stage as a song's central conflict.
Bearing those similarities in mind, Uncle Monk bridges the gap between
traditional, old-time bluegrass and old-school punk in the most logical
way possible for modern audiences to pick up on and enjoy.
Tommy Ramone (Thomas Erdelyi) got his start leasing his building to
the fledgling Ramones for practice space, eventually becoming the
group's manager. He would occasionally fill in on drums and instruct
potential drummers in the ever-revolving line-up on how to properly play
the Ramones' songs. Realizing how well he knew their material, Erdelyi
was rechristened Tommy Ramone and made a member of the band.
He left the Ramones in 1978 after playing on four albums and writing the
classic Blitzkrieg Bop, however, he still continued to produce several
of their albums and resumed his managerial capacity with the band.
Additionally, Ramone produced albums for a number of other artists, most
notably Talking Heads and the Replacements, and now applies his
expertise at the controls to Uncle Monk, as well.
Claudia Tienan, Ramone's lesser-known partner in crime and co-front
person, is no slouch herself. Formerly of alternative band the
Simplistics, Tienan contributes guitar and bass. Additionally, she
sings on roughly half of the album's tracks and serves as a more
melancholy counterbalance to the upbeat Ramone.
Uncle Monk kicks things off with Round The Bend and sets the precedent
with a pleasant, happy sound rounded out by rambling guitar and mandolin
picking. Shockingly, there are no drums whatsoever on the disc.
Instead, both Ramone and Tienan create their own jangling beat with
traditional bluegrass instrumentation.
Similarly, Happy Tune conjures up the earnest, hopeful spirit of Joey
Ramone with Tommy on vocals translating the happy-go-lucky vibe of his
former band for a bluegrass audience. If you listen really hard, you
can almost hear the late, great Jeffry Hyman joining in with Tommy on
the good-natured, old-timey vocals of this piece.
While Ramone's vocals are more suited to the up-tempo tracks, Claudia
Tienan capably handles the gloomier material. Tienan's smoky vocals on
Emotional Needs are reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich, sounding both
deep and feminine and avoiding the usual harsh rasp that often
accompanies a darker-toned female voice. While Tienan's vocals are
somewhat monotone, her voice nevertheless conveys the proper ambience on
any given song. Ramone does get his crack at longing on Mean to Me.
The song's low-octane arpeggios and chords bring to mind Jim Croce, with
Ramone's vocals and sad lyrics ruminating on the near-impossible nature
of friendship after a failed relationship.
While things are kept rather traditional in the bluegrass vein,
lyrically, Uncle Monk's repertoire covers a gamut of topics and throws
in several elements of different musical genres to keep things from
becoming repetitive. The instrumental Airday (a nod to Uncle Monk's
record label) allows the steel dobro, banjo, and fiddle to take center
stage in a hoe-down style jam. While Home Sweet Reality stays close
to the bluegrass base, the track seems more country than the bulk of the
album's material, with its twanging guitar notes plucking out the melody
and capping things off with a gentle slide guitar solo. The duo grows
more adventurous with musical arrangements on Heaven, infused with a
calypso and Spanish flamenco influence. The uplifting track explores
the topic of Heaven and what it means to different people, whether it be
a religious concept or something that is found in the arms of a loved
Nevertheless, Ramone and Tienan's punk and alternative backgrounds creep
their way onto Uncle Monk while still staying within the country fence.
A standout track on the album, Mr. Endicott is pure punk ethos wrapped
with a bluegrass bow. Uncle Monk acknowledges that while many of us are
long past the stage of wanting to sniff some glue, there's still that
urge to rebel and stick it to the man, whether it be through taking
personal calls throughout the work day or pilfering extra rolls of
toilet paper from the company bathroom. With lyrics like, "He yells at
me on my coffee break / Look out, Mr. Endicott / I'm gonna get you.
Don't have much work to do, Mr. Endicott / Gotta fake the whole day
through, Mr. Endicott", the duo finds common ground with the common man
and woman in their ode to a tyrannical boss.
Similarly, Uncle Monk tackles feelings of discontent not just towards
one person, but to an entire subculture of shallow on Urban Renewal.
While in theory major cities are ideally populated by open-minded,
free-thinking people, urban metropolises are becoming a bastion for
shallow yuppies and mindless trend-followers. In stating "Feelin a
little bit bitter / A stranger in my town / I refuse to kiss the butt /
Of any friggin' clown", the track expresses frustration with the current
trend towards the superficial on a mass scale.
While Uncle Monk sticks to a steady diet of traditional bluegrass, the
duo kicks the genre square in the dungarees and throws in enough of a
punk flair to appease those fans of both Ramone and Tienan's former
outfits. The result is a strong, beautifully delivered debut album that
makes bluegrass palatable to an entirely new audience while still giving
veteran fans of both musical varieties some common ground to stand
Kim wrote his comments/review of Uncle Monk's CD as a fan:
3) "You know, I love this CD. I ran into it on MySpace actually. Someone
had them as a friend etc. I had no idea it was Tommy from the Ramones era.
But he and Claudia just got it on this one, imho. I'm finding so many
former punk or whatever you'd call it, artists are now into country and
bluegrass. They bring a new idea to it I find, that I like.
I'm not a
traditionalist, but I like it when they stay true to the music they
play. This CD has that. It's more accessible to a guy who grew up rock n
roll. I actually did go through that late 70's thing with
country..., J.J.Cale, Jerry Jeff etc. Still love that stuff. But I never
really got into the bluegrass. And I'm finding that Uncle Monk gets that
right here as far as I'm concerned. It's something that I can
immediately identify with. Good tunes, stripped down. Jon Langford fans,
Graham Parker fans, they did it country. Tommy and Claudia did it
bluegrass. And I like them all. It fits my sensibilities. Check it out.
TOMMY RAMONE WROTE HIS FEELINGS ON APRIL,
A whole year has gone by since our debut at the 2006 SXSW
festival, and what a year it has been. We have played a lot of shows
and met a lot of wonderful people, but mainly we got to play our
music, which has been a dream come true for us.
Speaking of dreams coming true we just finished a show with the
legendary Ralph Stanley, and that was something I could not have even
dreamt about. When I was a kid listening to Ralph Stanley sing Little
Maggie on my father's record player, there was no way I could have
ever imagined that I would meet him, let a lone share a stage with
him. It was an amazing experience.
What made it even more special was that we had just gotten back from
the 2007 SXSW festival where we did our anniversary showcase at
Momo's, a great club on Austin's famous 6th Street. We played several
private parties including the famous Guitar Town Party at Mother
Egan's, thrown by Cary Baker of Conqueroo. It was a star filled
showcase with many great acts. Joining us for most of the shows was
Louis Meyers on Banjo, it was great having him help us out, we sound
even better as a trio. We also played the Burnside party at
Threadgill's, which was a great outdoor event, and many others
including a charity show at the Caritas of Austin Community Kitchen,
which was especially rewarding for us. All in all we had a great time
this year in Austin.