The Ramones: End Of The Century US LP 
- Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio?
- I’m Affected
- Danny Says
- Chinese Rock
- The Return Of Jackie And Judy
- Let’s Go
- Baby, I Love You
- I Can’t Make It On Time
- This Ain’t Havana
- Rock’N’Roll High School
- All The Way
- High Risk Insurance
It seemed to take forever until I finally heard The Ramones! Living in Central Florida at the time, it’s not surprising; the airwaves were so conservative! If it wasn’t Zeppelin, The Nuge, or Southern Rock at that time, faggadaboudit! That I heard this album at all was probably a testament to Phil Spector’s name on the cover. I finally heard The Ramones when WORJ-FM played this album in full as their album hour at midnight [as they did every weeknight] on its late 1979 release. By this point I’d read way too much about The Ramones, but had not heard the first note. This rectified that problem and I quickly purchased a copy of my own soon afterward. Good thing too, because after that aberration, The Ramones never darkened the airwaves at WORJ-FM again!
All of this in spite of the “controversial” reputation of this album in The Ramones canon. The making of this album was shrouded in the usual Spectorian high drama as The Ramones were held captive in his fortified mansion for weeks at a time, had guns waved in their faces, etc. Dee Dee later claimed that he had no idea who actually played on the album after he and Marky “escaped” the compound and hot footed it back to NYC.
Joey Ramone reported that $700,000 was plowed into the album before Sire Prez Seymour Stein pulled the plug and stopped the endless remixing that Spector was wont to indulge in. Stein was highly enamored by The Ramones breakneck work ethic that initially saw the foursome cut 5-6 tracks a day for a few grand and then apologize to him for taking so long! When you can cut and mix a master an LP for $5000 it’s like a license for a record label to print money compared to the drama queen rockstar hijinx that Fleetwood Mac or Pink Floyd would invest making an album with, often to the high six figures. But the slow trickle of sales that The Ramones had compared to Floyd and Mac gave Spector’s offer to produce some weight. The thought was that maybe his superstar production might finally shift a few units of this well loved [by a few] band so the money flowed for this one. In the end, it realized the intention and gave The Ramones their best selling album ever, still, to this day, but your guess is as good as mine if the production ever went into the black.
Me? I don’t care about that. I love this album because its “in the red!” I wouldn’t want to be stuck in an elevator with him, but I don’t deny that Spector could get a powerful sound on a good day. He delivered The Ramones best sounding album with the usual Goldstar Studios “Wall Of Sound” barely contained on the end platter. The credits list Steve Douglas on Sax and Steve Goldberg on keyboards, but truthfully, it sounds like a few dozen musicians are doubling or tripling in the mix.
The drums in “I’m Affected” sound like Marky is being doubled by several tympani following the lead kit to tremendous effect. Of course it’s all slathered in Goldstar’s famous reverb but the end result comes close to sounding like the “drums of god” here. The only drums I’ve heard that begin approach this ideal were on the Holly + the Italians album the following year, produced by Spector disciple Richard Gottherer. Come to think of it, Gottherer co-founded Sire Records with Stein so I would have put money on his sitting in the producer’s chair for The Ramones, but when Spector comes calling, I guess that pulls a lot of weight.
The three singles here would have all sounded fantastic on the radio… in my mind, but in 1980, the sounds of “Do You Remember Rock + Roll Radio,” “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School,” and the Ronettes cover of “Baby, I Love You” were not what radio was wanting to hear. The Billboard top 100 of 1979, the year this album was recorded, is a thick morass of disco, MOR sludge, fake country music, with only the scantiest dusting of the crassest rock music [e.g. The Knack, Van Halen] possible. Spector or not, this album was definitely swimming against the tide in spite of Da Brudders giving it their best shot at compromise.
Fortunately, their idea of compromise is closer to most artists’ idiosyncratic best. The familiar Ramones roar is given a explosive boost here by Spector’s methods. The undeniable fact is it’s Spector fan Joey who got to make an album he knew he always had in him. His penchant for the sort of girl group sounds that Spector originally produced let’s him indulge in his romantic best here. The great ballad “Danny Says” manages to be a “road song” that’s not another excuse to roll the eyes back into their sockets as it begins with delicate acoustic guitars and glockenspiel [!] to pick up power with each verse until it ends with a full head of steam as Joey brings it home with his earnest, yearning performance.
That it’s followed by my personal favorite tune on the album that features the toughest sound on the album is great sequencing. “Chinese Rock” is a ferocious rocker and a rare drug song for The Ramones that Dee Dee managed to finally bring aboard, much to Johnny’s dismay. The drums have a pummeling force that’s unstoppable, and Johnny is definitely playing lead guitar on this track. It’s been my go-to track for decades off of this album. Many a mix tape [and even mix 8-track] was enlivened by this little number.
The cover of The Ronettes “Baby, I Love You” was the odd one out here, but Joey sings his heart out and it sounds great, in spite of being a Ramones cut in name only. The orchestra and Joey carry the tune and at the end of the day, it’s Joey’s first solo cut, a few years early. Spector, being the canny player he was, wasn’t going to walk off of this record without a few more points for publishing royalties, but anything that unites the pens of Spector, Jeff Barry, and Ellie Greenwich with Joey’s tonsils is a good thing.
Some Ramones fans may decry this record, but I felt for the last 34 years that it was an even match between legendary band and producer. While it’s not my go-to Ramones album, it is one that puts a smile on my face and at the end of the day, it packs a very polished punch. There are a couple of ballads here, but really, all of The Ramones albums prior to this had their share of those, too. The tough tracks here [and there are plenty] sound just immense, and the phalanx of session men who probably contributed to the sound were not paid in vain.
Artistically, at least. While this is the best-selling Ramones album, that it managed to only get to the mid 40s on the Billboard album chart is but another chapter in the cosmic injustice dealt to The Ramones. To have “sold out” this successfully and to have only reached #44 on the album charts is sad-making. I still maintain that one could give Ed Stasium the master tapes to The Ramones and have him [slightly] remix “Bitzkreig Bop” and one day, it could scale the charts to attain its rightful place in the top of the charts. Sigh.
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