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Thursday, 4 February 2016

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!: Day 35 - End of the Century? 1980 Actually!

End of the Century was the sixth album from New York City's Ramones (their fifth Studio album). Thus far they hadn't made too much of a dent on the US album charts with only Rocket To Russia from 1977 squeaking into the Top 50 (#49). It was the first Ramones album to not feature Tommy Ramone anywhere near it. He had left the band in 1978 and Marky (Bell) Ramone had taken over the drum stool but Tommy had been around to produce Road to Ruin the same year.

The Ramones didn't have the best time working with the legend that is Phil Spector. Stories are told of Spector pulling a gun on the band when they wanted to leave the studio after thinking they had done enough! Marky said in an interview that actually never happened.

'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 is a Punk Rocker' had been the highest placed single up to this point at #22). 

The performances of Baby I Love You throughout 1980 on TV are very cringe worthy because the full band is there and yet on the track itself there is actually very little guitar from Johnny on it (infact Johnny, Marky and Dee Dee didn't play on the track when it was recorded!) and it's the strings which have the prominent place! The above link though is taken from a Spanish TV show called Aplauso. They also appeared on Top of the Pops here in the UK and it was a similar set up! It's a poor video copy but worth checking out.

End of the Century was described by the band as an album written solely to gain popularity, resulting in more of a pop punk sound. Joey failed to contribute to the best of his abilities on the album, and recalled: "I think that some of the worst crap I ever wrote went on the album. That was me at my worst." Johnny also felt that the album was far from the band's prime.
"End of the Century was just watered-down Ramones. It's not real Ramones. 'Baby, I Love You'—I didn't play on that at all. What am I gonna do—play along with an orchestra? There's no point. End of the Century was trying to get a hit on each song, instead of trying to get a hit on one or two of the songs on the album and trying to make the rest as raunchy as you can. They ain't gonna play the other ten songs, anyway."
    — Johnny Ramone

The biggest shock on the album was not necessarily Baby I Love You but the inclusion of Chinese Rock, a song that Dee Dee had written in 1976 about heroin that Johnny had vetoed back then. Consequently the song was recorded by The Heartbreakers with some lyric changes and the title now Chinese Rocks and thus is credited to Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan and Richard Hell (the original line-up of The Heartbreakers) and it was released as their debut single in 1977 on Track Records. Maybe it was included because they seemed to be struggling for good material to record for the album. Even a song like I'm Affected sounds pretty rough (though I do like it myself), you can hardly hear Johnny's guitar and even Joey thought it sounded horrible.

Live though they still cut it and Baby I Love You was not played an awful lot on the tour but in the UK it was performed a few times with members of The Boys providing the keyboards and backing vocals.
Live In Paris
24th February 1980
For French TV Show Chorus

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 a few of their most enduring songs ('Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?', 'I'm Affected', 'Rock 'n' Roll High School', 'Danny Says'). The album became their biggest hit reaching #14 in the UK and #44 in the USA.

End of the Century - Ramones
Produced by Phil Spector
Released 4th February 1980
US Chart #44
UK Chart #14

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!
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