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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

A New Appreciation for The Ramones Part 2

It would be a further two years before a new studio project arrived and that was 'End of the Century' produced by Phil Spector. They didn't have a great time working with the legend and stories are told of Spector pulling a gun on the band when they wanted to leave the studio after thinking they had done enough! 'End of the Century' was also the first album on which the band appeared without their trademark leather jackets and from it came a hit single that was nothing like The Ramones at all! 'Baby I Love You' had orchestration on it and not the usual power chords the band had become known for. In the UK the single reached the lofty heights of #8, their biggest selling single by a country mile ('Sheena' had been the highest placed single up to this point at #22).

What's so funny about this TV performance is the lack of guitar sound and yet the band casually mimes! They hardly ever played it live and there is a very rough version recorded in Newcastle in January of 1980.

A few insights around the time of the recording come from Trouser Press magazine where the band spoke about the recording process with Spector:
"Phil would sit in the control room and would listen through the headphones to Marky hit one note on the drum, hour after hour, after hour, after hour." (Dee Dee) and Joey noted that "Phil insisted that we play songs over and over. The entire process took only three weeks, but in Ramones time, it was interminable."

Johnny said regarding the recording of 'Baby, I Love You' that, "I wanted to do a Phil Spector song...I realized that it was a mistake, and to me it was the worst thing we've ever done in our career."

The album is embraced by some, hated by many yet I think it has some of their most enduring songs ('Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?', 'I'm Affected', 'Rock 'n' Roll High School')

The album became their biggest hit reaching #14 in the UK and #44 in the USA.

The following year The Ramones were back in the studio and the end result was 'Pleasant Dreams'. All was not pretty in the camp though as communication between Dee Dee, Joey and Johnny was not on a good level. Johnny was quite dismissive of the direction he perceived Joey was wanting to take the band. His response to Joey's album opener 'We Want the Airwaves' says it all: "At that point, I don't give a s*** whether we get play or we don't; I don't care. All I want to do is keep our fans happy and not sell out. I'm fighting that within the band. They are trying to go lighter, looking for ways to be more commercial. I'm against the band doing that." Johnny needn't have worried himself as the album failed to chart in the UK and only reached #58 in America.

It was an odd choice having Graham Gouldman (10cc) produce the record and whilst it is not their best work I'm glad that Gouldman didn't leave his fingerprints on the album otherwise I have no idea what they would have ended up with!

For me only three songs actually stand out on the album, 'We Want the Airwaves', 'She's a Sensation' and the classic 'The KKK Took My Baby Away' that Joey had written about Johnny stealing his girlfriend (apparently they rarely spoke after that and yet the band continued on another 15 years!).

To be continued
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