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Thursday, 1 October 2015

Rewind: 1984 Too Tough To Die - Ramones

Too Tough To Die - Ramones
Beggars Banquet (UK)/Sire (US)
Produced by Tommy Ramone and Ed Stasium
Released 1st October 1984
UK Chart #63
US Chart #171

Personnel
Ramones

    Joey Ramone – Lead vocals (all but Durango 95, Warthog, and Endless Vacation)
    Johnny Ramone – Lead guitar
    Dee Dee Ramone – Bass, guitar, backing and lead (Warthog, Endless Vaction,) vocals
    Richie Ramone – Drums, backing vocals


Additional musicians
    Walter Lure – Extra guitar (on some tracks)
    Jerry Harrison – Synthesizer (Chasing the Night)
    Ben Tench – Keyboards (Daytime Dillema)



Richie's first album as a fully fledged member of the Ramones would be 1984's 'Too Tough to Die', an album that some say is their last truly great album. It was and is a vital return to form. As if in celebration at reaching their 10 year mark they brought Tommy back to produce alongside Ed Stasium. The only exception to their production was Dave Stewart at the controls for 'Howling at the Moon'.

"As we got ready to make Too Tough To Die, we were focused in the same direction, and it made a difference. We knew we needed to get back to the kind of harder material we'd become known for. The pop stuff hadn't really worked, and we knew we were much better off doing what we did best." - Johnny Ramone

They showed on The Whistle Test that they were still a force to be reckoned with. A fantastic three song set (see video at the bottom of the page) including 'Warthog', 'Chasing the Night' and 'Mama's Boy'. Having been absent from the UK for 5 years they played four nights in London at The Lyceum Ballroom to great acclaim. They were playing some of their best live performances of their lives during this period I reckon.



I have a bootlegs of the the first two nights and the final night (but not the one I posted the above link for) of the Lyceum shows (24th, 25th and 27th Feb 1985). Over those three nights alone there are 96 songs in just over three hours!!

   
Richie once said "There are three speeds with the Ramones: fast, pretty fast and very fast!" (Sounds interview 1985). 

'Too Tough To Die' did better in the UK than in the States reaching #63 (in the States it was #171!) but the band were not overly focused on the charts anymore. It was all about the music. Dee Dee had written and co-written 9 of the 13 songs (including the excellent 'I'm Not Afraid of Life').

Joey didn't contribute much writing to the album as he had been unwell prior to the recording but he did add some lyrics to 'Daytime Dilemma (The Dangers of Love)' - my favourite off the album and also the closing track 'No Go'. Johnny had continued to write with Dee Dee and came up with 'Mama's Boy', 'Warthog', 'Danger Zone' and 'Endless Vacation'. Even Richie got a credit for 'Humankind'. Actually, looking at the album again after all this time it's one of their strongest for many years lyrically and musically.

The songs I really like are the title track 'Too Tough to Die', 'Warthog' which some think is quite cartoonish and was almost left off the album but Johnny's persistence got it reinstated, 'Chasing the Night', 'Daytime Dilemma' and 'Planet Earth 1988' in which Dee Dee wrote some very prophetic words: "The solution to peace isn't clear/The terrorist threat is a modern fear/There are no jobs for the young/They turn to crime turn to drugs/Battleships crowd the sea/16 year-olds in the army/Our jails are filled to the max/Discrimination against the blacks". 

In fact it's actually hard to say for certain what the standout tracks are because the album is a cracker from start to finish.

Joey said years later that "A lot of people had started to give up on us. But 'Too Tough to Die' reinstated us and put us back on top." That was a tough place to be when you consider that bands like Black Flag and Husker Du were in their element in those days.

The Ramones were no longer considered to be the Punk kings and the music press was not overly kind to the band on release of this album but all these years on I still consider it to be one of their finest albums. They had struggled for a good few years now but it seemed like they were back on track with this one. Most bands would have hung up their guitars if they had two albums that went down like a lead balloon, but the Ramones were fighters to the end and the title of the album was really a reflection of what that purpose of heart they possessed was about.



Whistle Test Performance
Warthog/Chasing the Night/Mama's Boy
"Death to Timid Pop" - Andy Kershaw

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