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"Too Tough to Die" is the 8th studio album by American punk rock band, Ramones. It was released in 1984 on Sire Records and produced by Tommy Ramone & Ed Stasium. The line-up for the album was Joey Ramone (vocals), Johnny Ramone (guitar), Dee Dee Ramone (bass) and Richie Ramone (drums).
Following on from the band's touch and go 1983 album, "Subterranean Jungle", the Ramones are back with "Too Tough to Die", with the album title coming via way of a fight between Johnny Ramone and Sub Zero Construction's Seth Macklin left the former with a brain injury of which he nearly died from. The upside of it is, Johnny survived and carried on making wonderful Ramones music.
"Mama's Boy" begins the album and you know from the opening bars that the Ramones mean business. Compared to the previous album, the production is much better with Tommy Ramone back at the controls along with Ed Stasium. Richie's drumming is clear and Johnny's guitar is a bit angrier backed by Dee Dee's audible bass, and Joey's vocals sound really good, too.
"I'm Not Afraid of Life" is a song about various aspects of the world with the narrator saying he's scared of nothing and will rise to the challenge of anything thrown in his way. It has a strange melody to it that's a little bit like something the Doors would have recorded but still manages to keep hold of that classic Ramones sound.
"Too Tough to Die" is a song about Johnny Ramone's battle to regain fitness after brain surgery from the above-mentioned incident that took place in between this album and the previous. It's a song that punches through walls in a rocking sort of way with its heaviness and is one of my favourites off the whole album.
"Durango 95" is an instrumental which still rocks even if it doesn't have Joey's voice on it and the background to it is very interesting. The album cover for "Too Tough to Die" is a sort of reimagining of the "A Clockwork Orange" film with the four band members in an alleyway dressed in white. In the film, Alex DeLarge and the gang steal a car which happens to be a Durango 95, and that's where the next song gets its name from.
"Wart Hog" is one of the best songs the Ramones ever wrote, or Dee Dee in particular. In his autobiography he states that his therapist wanted him to write a love song to find his inner self, and the aggressive "Wart Hog" is what transpired. It's sung by Dee Dee himself and is as punk as punk can get. Johnny's crashing guitar riffs are great but it's the manner in which Dee Dee applies the vocals that makes it the song that it is.
"Danger Zone" puts out that fast paced beat synonymous with the arrival of Richie on drums, and a pace that was to continue in live concerts with the band getting consistently faster. The song is about how tough it can be to walk around New York City alone at night because of the gangs that patrol the streets, given a free reign by the cops that don't want to do anything about it.
"Chasing the Night" is about a young man who is about to have a night out on the town, posing in front of the mirror then getting drunk and loaded. By the time the night's over he still wants to do more partying but he knows he's got to go home to sleep during the day before doing it all again. It's a fun rocking song but not on a par with some of the monster songs on this album. However, the chorus has a great harmony.
"Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)" is one of those Ramones songs you should hate but it will grow on you quicker than the green plant-like stuff grows on Jody Merrill in Stephen King's "Creepshow" (played by King himself, an avid Ramones fan). It's a catchy pop song more than anything that has great rhythm.
I just adore the opening (and chorus) riff in "Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love)", which is showing Johnny in a different light instead of labelling him a one-trick pony with three chords. Lyrically, it's about a young girl who was brought up on the right side of the tracks and she falls for someone on the wrong side who is completely the opposite. The band's timing is perfect on this song, probably more here than on any other off the album.
Somehow, "Planet Earth 1988" feels like it doesn't belong on the album. It's got meaningful lyrics about discrimination but musically it's not the best the band has ever done. I'd almost call it a filler song but it's too far down the track listing to be considered as such and I can only imagine the record company/producers liked the song. It's a no-no for me, though.
"Humankind" is a straight out punk rock song with interesting chord progression but I'm not sure if the vocal harmony fits the song. It's not that Joey doesn't perform it right because he does - it's just that you tend to not even realise the instruments are playing behind him. It's probably just a blip in the album and all will be fixed on the next song... right?
Absolutely right! "Endless Vacation" is the second of two songs from the album in which Dee Dee has taken lead vocals, and his style of singing is made to make you imagine he's in a mental institution to numb the pain he's going through. It's one of the fastest blasts of a song the Ramones have ever done and one of my favourites.
"No Go" completes the album with a style away from punk and one you'd never expect to associate with the Ramones - rockabilly with a twist of 1950s rock and roll. I applaud the band for trying something new but I think they should have left the album on the high of "Endless Vacation". The title of the song, "No Go", is very apt as far as I can see.
In summary, this is a really good Ramones album, packed full of fan favourite songs and tracks that were played live in a lot of shows the band did after its release and up until the final gig. Sure, there are a couple of odd parts on the album but when you have songs like "Mama's Boy", "Endless Vacation" and "Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love)" at your disposal, what's not to like? "Too Tough to Die" gets a big thumbs up from me.
1. Mama's Boy
2. I'm Not Afraid of Life
3. Too Tough to Die
4. Durango 95
5. Wart Hog
6. Danger Zone
7. Chasing the Night
8. Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)
9. Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love)
10. Planet Earth 1988
12. Endless Vacation
13. No Go
My rating: 9/10
Tracklist: 1. Mama's Boy 2. I'm Not Afraid of Life 3. Too Tough to Die 4. Durango 95 5. Wart Hog 6. Danger Zone 7. Chasing the Night 8. Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La) 9. Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love) 10. Planet Earth 1988 11. Humankind 12. Endless Vacation 13. No Go