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Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Ramones - A New Appreciation (Revisited) Part Three 1986-87

Work began on the ninth studio album, 'Animal Boy', in December 1985. After working with Tommy on 'Too Tough to Die' and reclaiming some lost ground, in true Ramones logic they dispensed with his services and brought in Jean Beauvoir (formerly of The Plasmatics). Joey was still in a writing slump and only wrote two for the new project ('Mental Hell' and 'Hair of the Dog') and Dee Dee was proficient as ever (he wrote or co-wrote 9 of the 12 tracks, three of them collaborations with Johnny - including the title track 'Animal Boy') and even Richie got in on the act contributing 'Somebody Put Something in My Drink'

The three best songs on the album ('Something to Believe In', 'My Brain is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes To Bitburg)' and Richie's 'Somebody Put Something') make up for quite a disappointing album. Even Dee Dee's ode to Sid Vicious, 'Love Kills', couldn't really rescue the album. The album surprisingly reached #38 in the UK (the 2nd highest position for any Ramones album!) and as usual totally bombed in the USA reaching only #143.

'Bonzo Goes To Bitburg' was released as a single in the UK in June of 1985 (it didn't get a US release but was available on import). Apparently Johnny hated this as he thought Reagan had been the best President the States had had for years. Joey wrote the song in response to Reagan's visit to a German cemetery containing SS graves. As a compromise with Johnny the song title was changed for the album. Johnny even refused to play it live (though it does turn up on set lists as this video from Milan in 1992 proves!). Johnny of course thought that Reagan was the best President that the USA ever had...none of his band mates agreed!

Discussing the inspiration for the song, Ramones lead singer Joey Ramone, a Jew, explained that the president "sort of shit on everybody." Interviewed in 1986, he said:
"We had watched Reagan going to visit the SS cemetery on TV and were disgusted. We're all good Americans, but Reagan's thing was like forgive and forget. How can you forget six million people being gassed and roasted?"
'Something To Believe In' and 'Somebody Put Something In My Drink' were released as a Double A-Side in the UK. The video for 'Believe' was one of the best videos The Ramones ever did. This song, if I was getting my arm twisted up my back seeking a confession of my favourite track of The Ramones, would be the one I'd blurt out!
The Pretenders would go on to cover 'Something To Believe In' for a Tribute Album to The Ramones and was actually one of the last things that Johnny ever produced. He oversaw the whole production of 'We're A Happy Family: A Tribute to The Ramones' along with Rob Zombie. That album would be released in 2003. The album also included Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Rob Zombie, Eddie Vedder, Meallica, U2, Kiss, Marylin Manson, Garbage, Green Day, Rancid, Pete Yorn, The Offspring, Rooney, Tom Waits, and John Fruisciante.

In April 1987 the band were back in the studio to record their Tenth Studio album 'Halfway To Sanity'.

'Halfway to Sanity' was yet another disappointing album. The first three tracks ('I Wanna Live' 'Bop Til You Drop' and 'Garden of Serenity') are really good but then it all goes down hill fast. Daniel Rey was at the controls for the new album but even he couldn't work a miracle with the songs that were on offer. Personally speaking I can barely get myself to listen to the album because it's so poor apart from those first three tracks.
'Halfway to Sanity' would be Richie's final album as a Ramone. Not long after all the recording was in the bag he left. He was fed up of not getting what he felt was his due financially which was a portion of the merch sales. As the band were ready to go out on the road they needed a new drummer. Clem Burke of Blondie lasted two shows (his name became Elvis Ramone). It's not that he wasn't a great drummer, because he is, it's just that he couldn't really play Ramones style drums which are a lot different to 'normal drumming'!

The band finally got their new drummer and it was none other than Marky! Things were not good in the camp though. Marky was clean and sober, Dee Dee was taking all sorts and communication again was at a bare minimum. That said, they still went out and played over 100 shows across the globe.

It seemed to be that this was going to be the way The Ramones survived from now on. Patchwork albums with maybe two or three great songs on them but live they were as tight as ever. A Ramones show is one of the best shows to be at. It is like a case of assualt and battery. One song finishes and before you have time to draw breath another begins and you are further punched in the face by this prize fighter of a rock and roll band!

There was not a band who could touch them for sheer intensity when they were on stage. Of course there were always better musicians around but live dysfunction is something no one appeared to have apart from The Ramones!

Such live intensity more than made up for the poor studio output in my honest opinion.
 'A Real Cool Time' was the first single from the album. The B-Side in the UK was 'Life Goes On' (at times it sounds a bit like a Slade track) but the US Release had one of their best cover versions in 'Indian Giver'. It had originally been recorded during the sessions for 'Subterranean Jungle' and appears on the Extended Version of the album. But it first appeared in the 1988 collection 'Ramones Mania'. The song had been a #5 hit in 1969 for 1910 Fruitgum Company that featured Ritchie Cordell, the guy who ended up producing 'Subterranean Jungle'.

The second single, released in November 1987 was much better and a song that seemed to meet all the requirements of a classic Ramones song. Though the artwork for the UK release was pretty dire nothing could hide what an absolute jewel the song was.
A-Side: I Wanna Live.
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