on December 26, 2004
This, of course, is the controversial Ramones album that was produced by Phil Spector. Some people love it and some people hate it. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. It's a good album, but it's inferior to all the Ramones' previous albums. Spector's "magic touch" certainly gave the Ramones a more "sophisticated" sound, but it's debatable whether or not the Ramones needed to sound more sophisticated. Some songs definitely benefited from Spector's production flourishes, like "Do You Remember Rock 'N' Roll Radio?" and "Danny Says". And some songs probably would have sounded better if Spector had just left them alone, like "I'm Affected" and "All the Way". (Demo versions of all those songs are on the CD, for comparison's sake.) The single most controversial song on the CD is "Baby, I Love You". This cover version of the Ronettes hit is not the least bit punk, which is why many people hate it. It feature Joey singing to the full Spector "Wall of Sound", with nary another Ramone in sight. Ironically, "Baby, I Love You" went on to become the Ramones' biggest hit in the UK. It is actually pretty good, if taken on it's own terms. Which can also be said for the whole album in general. The CD has one unlisted bonus track, which is Joey doing a radio spot for the album.
on December 5, 2006
This is my generation's Exile on Main St., totally misunderstood by idiot critics (and seemingly, the Ramones themselves. Only Joey seemed to dig it) Here, the Ramones stake their claim to the whole of American Rock 'n Roll, not just parochial NYC punk, and Phil Spector (who legitimately loved this band) justifies his own sorry existence by giving them the gift of the biggest wall of sound he ever came up with. After this album, Johnny stole Joey's girlfriend and the magic was gone, they started claiming individual song credits, they brought in ringers to play guitar solos on the albums, DeeDee started shooting up again, Joey started boozing and not caring, and the band went down the toilet. But this record just sounds better and better with each passing year. (Except "Chinese Rocks" -- interesting to hear the boys jump from household solvents to hard drugs, but Johnny Thunders friggin' OWNS this song; Joey just ain't a convincing junkie. Still, the tune's darkness adds to E of the C's stylistic diversity). Did I say my generation's Exile on Main St? It's also my generations White Album and London Calling. (wait a minute, London Calling is my generation's London Calling -- but End of the Century is a better London Calling than London Calling...)
on October 19, 2004
It's quite interesting to read about cases in which a band is matched with a producer whose ideas clash with those of the group he or she is assigned to. Rock is filled with examples. Cheap Trick was dealt former Beatles producer George Martin for their 1980 "All Shook Up" album, much to the confusion of the critics. The Byrds suffered a blow when Terry Melcher covered their 1971 record "Byrdmaniax" with an array of keyboards, strings, and backup singers after the group had recorded the basic tracks (the ironic thing being that Melcher had been the Byrds' longtime friend and producer). And just recently, Paul McCartney re-issued the Beatles' legendary "Let it Be" album, but minus the input and infamous "Wall of Sound" of producer Phil Spector, who was paired with the Ramones in 1980 for "End of the Century," perhaps the punk rock pioneers' most controversial album, and one that raises a lot of points. The Ramones had started to expand their three-chord buzzsaw approach with "Road to Ruin" and a gradual progression was inevitable. But this album was a shock to many, as it contained such surprising bits as string arrangements and other things that don't come to mind when one mentions the Ramones. But "End of the Century" is a fascinating piece of history, not only of the Ramones, but of punk in general (even though the group was being overshadowed by the countless bands who had ripped them off, i.e. "the acts they had inspired").
In all fairness, it must be said that a big part of the progression in the album comes not from Spector's producing, but in the Ramones' songwriting. There are the typical Ramones-style punk rockers like `Let's Go,' `The Return of Jackie & Judy,' `All the Way,' and `High Risk Insurance' but there are other elements that have begun to sprout. There's storytelling in the dark cocaine tale `Chinese Rock,' a song as dark as the obsession in `I'm Affected,' in which it seems the Ramones are actually in control of producing and not Spector, whose input is most obvious in the catchy ode to the 50s and 60s pop scene `Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio?', opening the album with a collage of radio sound effects, and in a dripping pop cover of `Baby I Love You' (a hit which Spector had co-written many years earlier), which became the Ramones' biggest single in the UK, while `I Can't Make it on Time' remains one of the many numbers on the album that should-have-been-a-hit. The hard rocking but catchy `This Ain't Havana' has a bit of cynicism in it, and there's even a punkier version of `Rock N' Roll High School,' the title song to the cult film the group had starred in (the more poppier single version showed up on the 1988 compilation "Ramones Mania"). Another notable point is guitarist Johnny's ability to pick and strum in the well-arranged `Danny Says,' an innocent, weary look at the rush of the music business.
For years, some of the Ramones pronounced "End of the Century" as their worst album, but it has become accepted by most bandmembers, and many fans, over time. The recently departed Johnny Ramone is quoted in this remaster's liner notes as saying he's glad the band worked with Phil Spector. It's actually hard to imagine the Ramones' catalog without the album. "End of the Century" was a necessary step, even if the public wasn't ready for it, in showing that the Ramones were growing as musicians and as individuals, even if the band was quite uncomfortable with it. Naturally, and fortunately, their next step was to stray from the wild ideas of Phil Spector and write history with their own definition of expanding, as shown on their next two albums (and two of their best), "Pleasant Dreams" and "Subterranean Jungle."
on October 29, 2014
The band's fifth album "End of the Century" has always been great for me despite the experimental nature on some of the songs and Spector's dense production. What I'm referring to above is the original issue...the remaster is another story. The sound is too loud and there's definitely some clipping and distortion on some of the vocals. Worse still, there's even a mistake/mastering error now present on "Can't Make It on Time"...at about the 0:33 mark, there's a volume drop out towards the right channel that wasn't there on the original version. It sounds like the treble setting is momentarily turn off then quickly back on. Luckily, it lasts less than a second yet it is still noticeable and that points toward carelessness during the remastering process. It is unacceptable folks but that ain't all. One of my favorite songs was "The Return of Jackie & Judy". On this remaster, the percussion has been raised too much to the point that it becomes intrusive and annoying throughout. The rhythm guitar can be barely heard during the intro...hopelessly buried underneath the percussion pattern. Too bad! Was the original like that? Of course not!
In conclusion, try to find an older pressing of this album and hear it the proper way. In my opinion, the Ramones catalog suffered a great deal with the remaster campaign with most of the albums coming out with worse sound than the originals. Oh well...maybe Bill Inglot was not exactly the best choice to do the job. Among his later projects include the remastering of the Yes albums...go figure. I can only recommend this reissue for the booklet if you can find it for a great price. In this case, it may be a good decision to just download the extra tracks. I would NOT recommend this for the remastered sound.
Thanks for taking the time to read!
on August 23, 1998
According to rock critics, the Ramones made four great albums from 1976 to 1979, followed by 17 years of drivel. End of the Century, they say, was the start of the decline. Don't believe that for a second! This fifth Ramones album is their best ever, a totally solid, brilliantly produced album packed with classic songs.
Phil Spector's production is what elevates the record. Probably the best pop producer of all time (cue the screaming George Martin devotees), Spector made brilliant music with mediocre singers and competent musicianship. In End of the Century, he gets to work with an already great band. Just listen to the first 30 seconds of "Do You Remember Rock N' Roll Radio?". The Wall of Sound meets punk rock, and it's unlike any pop music you've heard. And it sounds awesome.
The band is at their best here, too. "Danny Says", "Chinese Rock", "I Can't Make it on Time", "Rock 'N Roll High School", "This Ain't Havana", and the cover of Spector's "Baby, I Love You" rank among the best Ramones tunes ever. There's not a bad song on here, and for once the band doesn't recycle any riffs.
In my mind, this is the Ramones' best album, the best production by Phil Spector, and one of the top 15 greatest albums ever. It is 33 minutes of pop perfection, run through a blender. I love it.
on August 28, 2004
No Ramones record created more of a stir than End of the Century, which alone made me give it a half-star more than I should have. Any record this controversial, had to have something going for it! Ramones fans know the story: On the heels of their brilliant, cult movie, Rock n' Roll High School (another Ramones project that never got it's due until long after the fact) Joey wanted to realise his long-time dream of commercial success for the band. Sire records, also wanting to sell records, went out and got Phil Spector and his "Wall of Sound" to produce. It really was a project doomed to failure, since the Ramones were ALREADY a wall of sound. They didn't need the help of Spector, whom I consider one of the worst producers of all time. (See the Beatles Let it Be for confirmation). Spector managed to take the Ramones beauty of minimalist recording and add layer after layer of production. But, the fact of the matter is- you cannot kill the Ramones! These songs were good enough to survive Spector's tinkering. "Do You Remember Rock n Roll Radio?"- Just a great song. "I'm Affected" is so good, I never knew why they abandoned playing it shortly after 1981-82. I am fortunate enough to have video footage from some old TV show, of them playing it live in Ann Arbor, Michigan and it is pure punk! But, the real killer tune here is "Danny Says". A sort-of ballad, which is an autobiographical description of life on the road. A road that was becoming less and less fun for the four "Bruddas". The way the song starts as a cute little melody (Ramones cute????) and then evolves into a hard-slamming tune is great!
There's the Spector remix of "Rock n' Roll High School" which was actually the version that most of us grew up on, since the movie version was not widely available. Radio stations that actually played it, went with this version. The classic "Chinese Rock" is also here. Interestingly the name of the song was always "Chinese Rocks" but obvioulsy that title made record execs in 1980, nervous. A drug song, they tried to hide it by dropping the 's' from Rocks...funny how little things like this happened in the 80's.
Other strong tunes are "I Can't make it on Time", "High Risk Insurance" and "Let's Go". The most controversial Ramones song ever, "Baby I Love You" opened side two (again vinyl years). This is the song that started all the rumours about Spector and the Ramones relationship. Depending on which Ramone you listen to, Spector actually pulled a gun on the boys to force them to put strings on the track. There's no way of knowing who's telling the truth, and frankly it's all rock n' roll legend at this point, so who cares!!!??
The Rhino released CD version of this album is a gem! They include bonus tracks of songs from EOTC, such as "Danny Says", "I'm Affected" and "Rock n' Roll Radio" before Spector "added" his Wall of Sound. Are they better? You be the judge by buying this album!
on August 25, 2009
Funny how we re-write musical reality over time. Nowadays it's common knowledge that "The Queen Is Dead" is the best Smith's album, but at the time a lot of us fans thought it was the weakest (and still do). We also believe that the Ramones blundered with this album and attempted to "redeem" themselves with their following two. (Which, perhaps, is true, but whether they needed to--or whether they succeeded--was never a given with fans at the time.)
Here's the deal: as great as the Ramones' first few albums are, it's a formula that can only be milked for so long. They only had three options: to quit, to change, or to suck. (Of course those options weren't mutually exclusive.) They tried to change, and going with Phil Spector wasn't the worst idea. For Christ's sake, it's not the end of the world to try and fail. They got some fresh sounds and fresh songs, so all things considered I think they did OK. No, of course it wasn't a continuation of their legacy, but thank God. Nothing's sadder than bands churning out the same old crap decade after decade, and slugs salivating and waiving their lighters at the first recognition of a 40 year old song's opening chords.
Really, by "Road to Ruin" the signs of same-old-thingness were beginning to sprout, making an attempt at change laudable.
The consensus of American musical lore aside, this is actually a better album than "Pleasant Dreams." Why weren't more people belching in disgust over how "We Want the Airwaves" was just a lame rehashing of "I'm Affected"?
This album is pretty good, and you can't fault the guys for trying. Better to change for the worse than to become an imitation of yourself. End of review.
on July 17, 2000
First off...let me say that I like this album. I am a long time Ramones fan, and no it is not typical Ramones, but objectively speaking the songs are good. "Rock-n-roll Radio" is of course good. I loved "Danny Says" when I heard it for the first time. "Rock-n-Roll High School" the anthem from the movie. And as far as they go...I liked the rest too..."Lets go", "Chinese Rock", "I can't make it on time", "This aint Havanna"...all good.
Now here is the strange part...I read Dee Dee Ramones book Poison Heart: Surviving the Ramones. Dee Dee hated this album, and hated Phil Spector. The story as Dee Dee tells it says that Phil and Joey Ramone dissappeared in a separate room in Phil's mansion leaving the other guys sitting. After sitting around for some length of time they got antsy and didn't know what was going on. Dee Dee wanted to go home to NY bad. Eventually he did...the others I don't know. In the last line of one of Dee Dee's chapters goes he says that...to this day he has no idea how the songs on this album were recorded. According to Dee Dee, he was never there for the whole thing.
Who knows if that is the real truth, but it makes sense to me. The album sounds totally different from anything else the band made. Strings? Ballads? I think Joey was into experimenting with new styles...while the rest of the band wanted to remain more traditional. In my opinion this album is a Joey Ramone solo album produced by Phil Spector.
on October 28, 2005
Really if you want to hear punk tunes like "Blitzkrieg Bop", don't come here. Hit the first 4 -- those would be Ramones, Leave Home, Rocket To Russia, and Road To Ruin -- then skip to Too Tough To Die (not my fave, but many people consider it in league with the early stuff) and Subterranean Jungle (for "Psychotherapy", their best update of the early formula).
End Of The Century is Joey ascendant, with all the sentiment and oldies pop he favored. Producer Phil Spector wanted to make a Joey Ramone solo album, but the band (including Joey) thought the time was wrong for such (it wasn't), and wanted to continue promoting The Ramones as a band. So Spector buried said band in session musicians and used arrangements that punk rock fans found dull and infuriating.
And about half these tunes wouldn't be worth salvaging anyway.
For what it's worth, Johnny & Dee Dee (the "punk" writing team on early albums) weren't talking to each other at the time, so a good Ramones album just wasn't going to happen. From this point on, Joey carried about half the songwriting load (communal writing credit to "The Ramones" would end with the next album), diluting their impact considerably.
I'd sooner hear End Of The Century than Don't Worry About Me, which is another good album if you really appreciate Joey as a full-fledged aesthetic concept. Me I enjoy Joey as the goofy singer of punk anthems in front of a loud, fast band, and that's something this album doesn't feature.
on July 17, 2000
First off...let me say that I like this album. I am a long time Ramones fan, and no, it is not typical Ramones, but objectively speaking the songs are good. "Rock-n-roll Radio" is of course good, an anthem of its time. I loved "Danny Says" when I heard it for the first time, still do. "Rock-n-Roll High School" the anthem from the movie. And as far as the others go...I liked "Lets go", "Chinese Rock", "I can't make it on time", "This aint Havanna"...all good.
Now here is the strange part...I read Dee Dee Ramone's book Poison Heart: Surviving the Ramones. Dee Dee hated this album, and hated Phil Spector. The story, as Dee Dee tells it, says that Phil and Joey Ramone dissappeared in a separate room in Phil's mansion during the recording of this album, leaving the other guys sitting. After sitting around for some length of time they got antsy and didn't know what was going on with the album. Dee Dee claims that most of the time spent with Phil Spector was Phil and Joey alone. Dee Dee wanted to go home to NY bad. Eventually he did...the others I don't know. In the last line of one of the chapters in Dee Dee's book he says that...to this day he has no idea how the songs on this album were recorded. According to Dee Dee, he never played a single note on the whole album.
Who knows if that is the real truth, but it makes sense to me. The album sounds totally different from anything else the band made. Strings? Ballads? I think Joey was into experimenting with new styles...while the rest of the band wanted to remain more traditional. In my opinion this album is a Joey Ramone solo album produced by Phil Spector. Still good, but not "real" Ramones.