Posts Tagged ‘Dee Dee Ramone’

Brain Drain is the eleventh studio album by the Ramones, released on March 23rd, 1989.
It is the last release to feature bassist/lyricist/vocalist Dee Dee Ramone, the first release to feature Marky Ramone since his firing after Subterranean Jungle, and the last studio album on Sire Records.

Though their glory days appeared to have concluded along with the ’70s, punk rock’s founding heroes the Ramones continued to churn out album after album with almost religious dependability throughout the ’80s. It culminated in their 11th LP, Brain Drain.

Brain Drain’s recording was not a happy time for the group, which by this time had become almost irreparably damaged by the wear and grindof touring, assorted personal demons and substance abuse, not to mention the sheer frustration of a life lived in the rock and roll trenches with little hope of improvement.

And yet, hope still sprung eternal in the Ramones’ almost child-like state of suspended animation — as evidenced by Brain Drain’s impossibly optimistic opener, “I Believe in Miracles,” its conciliatory closer “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” and the notable return of beloved drummer Marky Ramone, after a five-year absence.

Sandwiched in between were a dozen stabs of typically unpretentious punk rock in the lauded Ramones tradition like “Zero Zero UFO,” “All Screwed Up” and the almost hardcore-intense “Ignorance is Bliss” — but to say they were any more distinctive than recent efforts would be a stretch (plus, there was a new, suspiciously metallic tone to Johnny’s guitar to match a foreign hardcore bite about some of Joey’s vocals).

To be fair, some tunes were indeed a cut above the rest, including the prickly “Don’t Bust My Chops,” the anthemic “Punishment Fits the Crime” and Joey’s innocently obsessed “Can’t Get You Out of My Mind.” But Brain Drain’s singular standout was the unusually melodic “Pet Sematary.”

A song inspired by, and composed-to-order, at the bequest of bestselling horror author Stephen King (a self-professed Ramones mega-fan) for the soundtrack to his movie by the same title, “Pet Sematary” greatly benefited from this mainstream association and went on to become one of the band’s most successful radio and video hits, but it still couldn’t push Brain Drain’s sales to unusual heights.

And of course the punk rock gods giveth and taketh away: Now that Marky was back in the “happy” family, it was bassist (and chief songwriter) Dee Dee’s turn to take his leave, in order to embark on an ill-fated, much-derided (and thankfully short-lived) rap career under the name of Dee Dee King.

Luckily, Dee Dee would carry on contributing songs (usually the best ones!) to “da brudders'” next few studio albums (while letting his mini-me replacement, C.J., tour in his place), but things would never really be the same for the Ramones and, by 1996, they were history – albeit rock and roll history.

End of the Century

The Ramones always had one foot in the future and one in the past. Even as the Queens quartet was rewriting the rock rulebook with its blitzkrieg bop, the band regularly revisited such golden oldies as “Let’s Dance” and “Needles And Pins.” For the album “End Of The Century” – released twenty years ahead of the new millennium – the Ramones tapped into the legendary Phil Spector to produce, and the collection includes a cover of the ’60s hitmaker’s “Baby I Love You,” as well as the propulsive “Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio?” and a version of “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School.”

End of the Century is the fifth studio album by the American punk rock band the Ramones, released on February 4th, 1980, through Sire Records.

In contrast to punk’s typically nihilistic viewpoint (so punk rock!), this 1980 effort proceeded to boldly go where no Ramones LP had gone before it: into galaxies of pop-oriented song craft never visited by the group’s famously aggressive and austere signature sound. The Ramones had hinted at this looming evolution on their previous LP, Road to Ruin, in 1978 but it was pushed to new heights on End of the Century – something underscored by the presence of infamous producer Phil Spector.

The highest-charting album of the band’s career, End Of The Century celebrates its 40th anniversary this week and captures Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Marky in top form.

Rhino’s ongoing series of deluxe box sets celebrating the Ramones’ legacy continues on September 20 with a fifth entry: the 40th anniversary 4CD/2LP edition of the band’s 1979 live album It’s Alive.  Recorded in London on New Year’s Eve 1977 and released in April 1979, It’s Alive featured blistering takes on songs from the band’s first three studio albums.  Only the Ramones could have fit 28 songs onto less than 54 minutes of vinyl.

Limited to 8,000 units, the It’s Alive Deluxe Edition is packaged in a 12 x 12 hardcover book featuring new liner notes by Steve Albini and original album producer-engineer Ed Stasium, who also remastered the music here.  It features all four concerts that were professionally recorded during the band’s U.K. tour of December 1977, three of which are making their first release: Top Rank, Birmingham (December 28, 1977); Victoria Hall, Stoke-On-Trent (December 29, 1977); Friars, Aylesbury (December 30, 1977); and The Rainbow Theatre, London (December 31, 1977).  The latter was utilized for the original album release, which became the last album to feature all four original Ramones: Dee Dee, Joey, Johnny, and Tommy Ramone.   Highlights include all-time band favorites such as “Rockaway Beach,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” and “We’re a Happy Family” plus high-octane covers of “Do You Wanna Dance,” “Surfin’ Bird,” “California Sun,” and more.  The original album will be pressed on two 180-gram vinyl LPs for this release.

The Ramones’ first official live album, “IT’S ALIVE”, was recorded in various locations and eventually released as a double album in 1979. Taking its name from a 1974 horror film, the concert collection was the last album to feature all four original band members and delivered a blistering barrage of live takes on classic tracks from the group’s first three albums. Now available, a 4-CD/2-LP Deluxe Edition of the seminal set features remastered sound and three additional concerts from the same tour, all of them previously unreleased.

It’s Alive: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition is available for pre-order from Sire/Rhino, arriving September 20th,

Road To Ruin (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)(3CD/1LP)

On September 22nd, 1978, The Ramones unleashed their fourth album on the world: Road to Ruin.  On September 21st of this year, almost forty years to the day, Rhino Records will reissue Road as part of the label’s ongoing series of Ramones box sets.  It will arrive as a 3-CD/1-LP box set and a single-CD remaster of the original album.

For Road to Ruin, Dee Dee, Joey, and Johnny were joined for the first time by drummer Marky Ramone (who replaced founder Tommy Ramone, who’d left the ranks to focus on producing and writing for the band).  The album introduced the now-classic “I Wanna Be Sedated,” which is just one of the tracks that will be heard in never-before-released versions on the 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition.  Disc One of the box set has the remastered version of the original album mix along with a 2018 stripped-down “Road Revisited” remix crafted by original producer Ed Stasium.  This remix is also included in the set on a 180-gram vinyl LP.  CD 2 boasts period rough mixes of every album track as well as bonus material such as single versions, backing tracks, two outtakes (“I Walk Out” and “S.L.U.G.”), the 1988 “I Wanna Be Sedated” Ramones-on-45-Mega-Mix, and more.  The third CD premieres a 1979 concert recording from the band’s homebase of New York, captured at the late, lamented Palladium and first broadcast on WNEW-FM.

The limited and numbered edition of 7,500 copies worldwide is packaged in a 12×12 hardcover book-style format.  Author Roy Trakin, album cover artist John Holmstrom, and Stasium have all contributed essays to the booklet.  Photos and rare artwork are also featured, including an alternate cover for the album.

Ready to celebrate the 40th anniversary of a punk classic?  Road to Ruin: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition is currently available

RamonesRoad to Ruin: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Sire/Rhino, 2018)

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If punk can be likened to a religion, the Ramones’ debut album Ramones would be the bible. While acts like The Stooges, New York Dolls, The Velvet Underground, T. Rex, and MC5 may have laid punk’s foundation, it was the Ramones’ 1976 debut that started the revolution. With a combination of speed, hooks and stylistic stupidity, the Ramones served as the template for the first generation of punk bands. Their satirical take on pop culture and banal urban existence has resounded ever since. First released on April 23rd 1976, it’s been 40 years since the first needles dropped on the band’s self-titled debut. To celebrate the album that was, we look back at the top tracks.

All you need to do is hear the first twenty seconds of the Ramones self-titled debut album and you can’t help singing the words “Hey, ho, let’s go” four times. You are then left with no other choice but to start singing along to “Blitzkrieg Bop” one of the best opening tracks on any album.

Who knew that three chords could pack such a wallop? If I were to time travel back to 1976 and tell the Ramones that “Blitzkrieg Bop” would be played by high school bands and at many sporting events for the next 45 years, they wouldn’t believe me. I can barely believe that those four guys from Forest Hills, Queens would record one of the most influential punk records on both sides of the Atlantic.

The band, which formed in 1974, consisted of lead singer Joey Ramone, guitarist Johnny Ramone, bassist Dee Dee Ramone, and drummer Tommy Ramone. Each member took on the surname Ramone and the inspiration for the name was an alias Paul McCartney (Paul Ramon) would use when checking into hotels.

By mid-1974, the Ramones were playing gigs at various clubs throughout New York City with CBGB and Max’s Kansas City being the most prominent venues. They constantly played gigs throughout 1975 and later that year, former Stooges manager Danny Fields took on the same role with the group. His first order of business was to shop around their demo, featuring “Judy Is a Punk” and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” to different labels. Producer Craig Leon took up the cause and brought the demo to Sire Records president Seymour Stein, who eventually signed them to the label.

In February 1976, the Ramones began recording their debut album in Plaza Sound Studios where the Rockettes rehearsed, located right above Radio City Music Hall. With a budget of $6,400 and very little time in the studio, they had to get very creative.

Over the years, there was always this prevailing thought that the Ramones’ punk masterpiece was just haphazardly slapped together, but nothing could be further from the truth. The organized chaos was meticulously mapped out. They used overdubs to give a slight echo effect on Joey’s vocals, tape delay, and creative microphone placement to produce different sound effects like a bomb going off, which was used on “Havana Affair.” They also recorded guitar and bass on separate tracks to create a similar effect you would hear on early Beatles records. You can hear it on the Beatles’ “No Reply” and the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” which features Joey channelling the cadence of Ronnie Spector. I can almost hear her singing the lyrics, “Hey, little girl / I want to be your boyfriend / Sweet little girl / I want to be your boyfriend.” Of course, the times being what they were, Phil Spector would have reversed the genders.

Ramones ran opposite of everything played on the radio in that era. There were no guitar solos, overblown six-minute songs from hell, or causes to sing about. It was part Beatles, part Brill Building, mixed with ‘60s garage music played at 180 MPH. While it was not commercially successful, the Ramones debut LP received much deserved critical acclaim. Robert Christgau of the Village Voice wrote, “For me, it blows everything else off the radio: it’s clean the way the Dolls never were, sprightly the way the Velvets never were, and just plain listenable the way Black Sabbath never was. And I hear it cost $6,400 to put on plastic.”

‘Beat on The Brat’

Penned by Joey Ramone, the track takes musical cues from 60s bubble-gum rocker ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy.’ It’s exemplary of The Ramones’ philosophy of shorter, faster and louder. Minimalistic rhythms, bouncy hooks and an infectiously maniacal glee pervade the track. Despite the violence, it’s really a track about stifling futility. Casting himself as the track’s malicious protagonist, Joey details a deep-seated desire of imposing control over the impetuous youths of his relatively well-to -do neighbourhood. The candid expression of violent suburban fantasy meets three chord sonic assault showcases the dysfunctional Queens natives at their best.

‘Judy Is A Punk’

One of the Ramones earliest tracks, rapid firer ‘Judy Is A Punk’ helped break the group as a live act. Recounting the doomed narrative of two girls joining an extremist social movement, the track’s blistering guitar licks and doo-woop vocals have been reimagined by countless bands. Coursing with primitive and untamed energy, it’s Ramones to the very core.

‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’

Sixth track ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’ draws the listener into the darker underside of 1970s New York. It’s a world of drug dependency, boredom, entrapment and rebellious thrill seeking. The track strikes a vein that would define a generation of youth. All but the most brazen drug anthems of the early 70s remained coded, yet the Ramones belted out “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” unrepentantly. Garage-tinted riffs deliver some of the album’s most incisive fretwork. “We couldn’t write about love or cars, so we sang about this stuff, like glue sniffing. We thought it was funny. We thought we could get away with anything,” Johnny Ramone later reflected.

‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’

While the Ramones revelled in the bleak and morbidly banal, ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’ is the first example of the group’s softer side. Contrasting with ‘Loudmouth’s’ threats of domestic violence and the nihilistic aggression of ‘53rd and 3rd’, this track comes off sugary sweet. Despite its pure pop leanings, there’s a sense of naïve sincerity here that never truly resurfaced on any of the group’s later cuts. Replete with an uncharacteristically jangly refrain, the track stands out as one of the group’s all-time best.

‘Blitzkrieg Bop’

The opener of the album is seminal punk. Likening preparing a gig to mounting a military campaign, it’s a universal call to action. Written as a tribute to Ramones fans, there’s something below the fascist imagery that begs the listener to throw on a leather jacket and hit the streets. Power chords shred with impunity while an adrenaline inducing drum pattern clocks in at 172 beats per minute. It’s an instantaneous musical barrage. In an era of egotistical virtuosity and blandness, The Ramones managed to strip rock music to back to its primitive core. Not only does ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ embody the idea behind the Ramones’ signature sound, it’s caustic, blistering and upbeat without compare.

Media of The Ramones' Ramones

“The nifty 33 1/3 book series publishes cool little books that dive deep into individual canonical rock ‘n’ roll albums. Ramones/Ramones is undoubtedly a worthy addition to their catalog. … Rombes does a concise job of laying out a solid thesis (complete with a chart), detailing the various early waves of punk (or new wave, as the terms are proved interchangeable) and approaching these topics in a thoughtful but fun way. … This book got me thinking about this culture in ways I never had before.

As it usually goes in the music business, those at the forefront of a movement get tons of praise, but never really benefit commercially. Tommy was the only living member of the original line-up when the album was certified gold on April 14th, 2014. Sadly, he passed away three months later.

If you were to lay out a timeline of rock & roll, then Ramones would be written in bold letters as signalling the beginning of a new era in music. This album is twenty-nine of the most important and influential minutes in rock history because it defined almost everything before as “the past.”

Happy 45th Anniversary to the Ramones’ eponymous debut album “Ramones”, originally released April 23, 1976.