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"End of the Century" is the 5th studio album by American punk rock band, Ramones. It was released in 1980 on Sire Records and produced by Phil Spector. The line-up for the album was Joey Ramone (vocals), Johnny Ramone (guitar), Dee Dee Ramone (bass) and Marky Ramone (drums).
As the story goes, Phil Spector offered to produce the Ramones and Joey was very interested in making this happen, and by the end of the recording the rest of the band had grown tired of Spector and the ways in which he worked, even Joey at the end of it all. Spector's OCD for perfection was putting a strain on the Ramones and it's alleged by Dee Dee in his autobiography that they were being worked for 15 hours a day for a fortnight without recording a single note.
"Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?" is a song about how good music once was and how it's all become too diverse, straying from the roots of rock and roll. The Ramones are basically saying it's up to them to change this for the better by referring to artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis, T. Rex and Alan Freed. The song is a throwback to that 50s and 60s rock and roll style with an interesting saxophone sound playing over the guitar. Unfortunately, Dee Dee's bass is a little on the quiet side and, for me, it's too over-produced.
"I'm Affected" is a song that's big on Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" production trait, but again, it's just too much. You can barely hear the drums over the loudness of Joey's vocals except for the reverberating sound of a small drum roll which repeats in the song. The highlight is a Johnny Ramone solo, which was largely unheard of during the band's career. It's a song about love, with the narrator saying that he's fallen for a girl and he'll do anything for her.
Danny Fields is the man in the song on "Danny Says", who was the band's manager at the time, and is about the band having to go on tour whenever he says. The narrator (or narrators in this case) are saying that they want to surf but they're stuck in the Idaho snow to play a show, then they're whisked away to Los Angeles at Christmas time when there's no snow. They're basically saying that it's a hard life on the road and they miss their families. Musically, it's a slow number which is played with a lot of passion. Luckily, Spector got the sound just right on this song.
"Chinese Rock" is a song written by Dee Dee with Richard Hell about being addicted to heroin. This is one of my all-time favourite songs - not just the Ramones, but of any band I've ever listened to. The band, at first, refused to play it, but once Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers recorded it for their debut album, "L.A.M.F.", Dee Dee knew it had to go on a Ramones album. It's one of the heaviest songs the band ever did and the chorus is insanely catchy without being too obvious about its subject nature.
"The Return of Jackie and Judy" is, as Ramones fans would expect, a continuation of the saga of Jackie and Judy, two real life fans of the band who had followed the band from early on in their careers, and what they've been doing since the band's debut album. It sounds a little like "Judy is a Punk" in the main riff but Phil Spector's use of that 'head in a bass bin' sound on the drums didn't work earlier in the album, and doesn't work here.
War is the theme of "Let's Go" - Vietnam in particular, possibly, as the lyrics suggest the narrator really doesn't want to be there at times but it's his job and that's what he's there to fight for his country. It's a loud and aggressive number with some great Johnny Ramone riffs and enjoyable drumming from Marky, even if they're somewhat toned down. There is a great rhythm section 'solo' part-way through with Dee Dee and Marky keeping great time in the bridge which makes it an enjoyable listen.
"Baby, I Love You" was a song recorded with Dee Dee, Johnny and Marky allegedly back in New York awaiting the final mix. Only Joey was present on a track that was originally recorded by the Ronettes in 1963, and, interestingly enough, was also produced by Phil Spector back then, too. To be frank, it's not the best song I've ever heard by the band, but that's largely due to it not sounding like a Ramones song.
"I Can't Make it on Time" is a decent song but what was Spector thinking when he put that plinky-plonky keyboard sound in the chorus? More and more layers of noise are present here which makes a good song sound like it's bad, and it really isn't a bad song. Some people like the 'Wall of Sound' effect, but with the Ramones, the drums sound like Marky's hitting a tin can and it just doesn't work.
"This Ain't Havana" is a crazy ride with odd lyrics but at least the Ramones try to get it all together with some classic punk rock playing, but here we go again with Phil Spector and hit over-the-top 'Wall of Sound' which, by this time, is beginning to get annoying. This is yet another example of how to turn a good song bad, and I do get the feeling that Spector was only interested in what Joey could bring to the table, leaving the other musicians behind.
"Rock 'n' Roll High School" is up next and finally, at long last, we get some more pure punk rock, but it's in small doses as Johnny's guitars are in the background once more. In fact, so's everything else come to think of it, except for backing vocals which aren't Dee Dee's - they're possibly Joey's vocals only slowed down to sound a little unlike his voice. Anyway, the song is as you've come to expect by now with some fun rock and roll guitar licks but nothing out of the ordinary goes on here.
"All the Way" begins with the guitar tuned down a little before launching into a full-on punk song but with those annoying backing vocalists which aren't Dee Dee or Joey. This is a song about playing live with the amps turned up full and how there's nothing quite like listening to that. I like the guitar sound on this song but not for the first time, Spector has ruined it with his production.
"High Risk Insurance" ends the album with one of the best songs as far as punk goes here. The guitars finally sound as they should have done all the way through and Joey's vocals are a lot closer to home - almost as if Spector had left the song alone as far as production goes. It's a fun song with a healthy dose of classic Ramones.
In summary, we really don't have a good album here, and that's down to one man - Phil Spector. It's over produced, it sounds awful and if the end result is his compulsion with perfection then I'd hate to see his worst attempts. According to Dee Dee, Spector once held the band at gunpoint until they sat around the piano while Spector sang to them. Nobody has really verified if that is true, but given the current incarceration of the producer, I would think it's too much of a coincidence not to have a little bit of truth to it, but yeah, back to the album - avoid it at all costs if you're not a huge fan but you may want to buy it just for "Chinese Rocks". There are some good songs but they've been ruined by a madman.
1. Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?
2. I'm Affected
3. Danny Says
4. Chinese Rock
5. The Return of Jackie and Judy
6. Let's Go
7. Baby, I Love You
8. I Can't Make it on Time
9. This Ain't Havana
10. Rock 'n' Roll High School
11. All the Way
12. High Risk Insurance
My rating: 5/10
Tracklist: 1. Do You Remember Rock 'N' Roll Radio? 2. I'm Affected 3. Danny Says 4. Chinese Rock 5. The Return Of Jackie And Judy 6. Let's Go 7. Baby, I Love You 8. I Can't Make It On Time 9. This Ain't Havana 10. Rock 'N' Roll High School 11. All The Way 12. High Risk Insurance