Ramones - ¡Adios Amigos! (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


¡Adios Amigos! (1995)


By the mid-90’s, after twenty years of being constantly on the move, the Ramones finally began to slow down. The grind of relentless action had begun to wear on the well-oiled gears of the greatest American rock n’ roll band in history, who until then had been famous for their refusal to die. Joey Ramone’s health was slowly failing him, and the personal gulf between him and Johnny Ramone had grown too wide to surpass. Though they’d been injected with a new vitality by the addition of bassist C.J. Ramone, the Ramones were a band at the tail-end of their career, and ¡Adios Amigos! would prove to be their last album. It was the finale to an amazing era that came to not only define punk rock, but redefine much of what people understood rock n’ roll itself to be. Within ten years of the release of ¡Adios Amigos!, Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee Ramone would all be dead, but what they had created together would live on forever.

With the release of ¡Adios Amigos!, the Ramones set an ultimatum -- if the album did not perform to a certain standard sales-wise, they would hang it up. Setting such expectations from the get-go surely acted as albatross in the creation of the album, but such was the way with Johnny Ramone, who ruled the band at times like a slave driver, and whom always had experienced disappointment by the Ramones’ inability to chart in the mainstream. However, perhaps because of this act of laying it all on the line, there is an energy behind ¡Adios Amigos! that had been lacking in recent years for the Ramones. Aware it was more than likely the end of the line, they wanted to go out on a high note, and succeeded.

The Ramones pulled out all the stops for their fourteenth studio album, including a cover of Tom Waits’ “I Don’t Want to Grow Up”, an unusual choice that would pay off in the end. Dee Dee Ramone, no longer an active member in the band on-stage, continued to contribute songs to the band, and had a hand in crafting a large bulk of the songs that wound up on ¡Adios Amigos!. His inability to conquer his personal demons had removed him from the band publicly, yet his contributions beyond his “departure” are undeniable, and go to show that Dee Dee was an irrevocable creative element when it came to the Ramones’ sound. He has as much to thank as Joey and Johnny did in the molding of both the Ramones and punk rock in general.

During the creation of ¡Adios Amigos!, Joey’s ailing health became a factor. His voice was no longer able to keep up with the frantic pace of the rest of the band, and had been lambasted by critics for his bizarre-sounding live performances because of it. The solution met upon during production was to therefore slow down the songs, so as to allow Joey’s voice to sound as natural as possible. It is because of this that ¡Adios Amigos! largely hangs in mid-tempo for the songs in which Joey sings. But this slow-down ultimately was worth it -- Joey’s vocals sound great, and his presence reminds listeners of why he’s one of the greatest singers in rock n’ roll history, combining swagger with the strangeness of a born outsider who’d finally found an outlet through which to express himself. Without Joey, the Ramones would have been good, but not great. He gave the band their misfit soul, and inspired generations of weirdos after him to climb on stage, fly their freak flag, and create, no matter what.

When Joey wasn’t singing, C.J. Ramone stepped up to the mic and took over vocal duties. And his voice, while not nearly as personality-heavy as Joey’s, embodies much of what would become of the next generation of pop punk that followed in the Ramones’ wake. At times, his voice reminds me of Danny Vapid (particularly on “Scattergun”). Overall, his clean vocals do well as a balancing factor with Joey’s ageless croon, while giving the band a youthful shot in the arm that is refreshing. To compare his songs to Joey’s, however, is hard to do; no one listens to the Ramones for C.J.’s songs. But in all fairness, he steps up to the plate and does a solid job in that undoubtedly bright spot light. The aforementioned “Scattergun” and “Making Monsters for My Friends” are both catchy pop punk tracks that contribute to the overall value of ¡Adios Amigos!.

For all the talk of getting old and slowing down, ¡Adios Amigos! still carries many of the indelible elements of the Ramones that made them great throughout their career. Their weird sense of humor is still evident, particularly in “The Crusher”, a song about a professional wrestler, and “Have a Nice Day”. “Life’s a Gas” is vintage Ramones, with Joey sounding still very much in his prime. Johnny’s guitar is still as heavy and relentless as ever, further proving that he was one of the most consistently kick-ass guitarists to ever crank out power chords. The final song on the album, “Born to Die In Berlin”, carries the classic Ramones sound through to the very end, and speaks to what would become of their legacy; the world-famous Ramones Museum resides in Berlin, and serves to beautifully preserve the band’s history.

With the release of the album on July 18th, 1995, “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” would go on to chart on Billboard’s modern rock list, but it would not prove to be enough to save the Ramones. They would play their final show on August 6th, 1996, at the Palace in Hollywood. The irony of the Ramones’ end is that it occurred in the midst of a grand punk rock revival, composed largely of acts aping what the Ramones had created, directly or indirectly. Bands that owed their entire existence to the Ramones thrived, as the Ramones themselves struggled to register on mainstream radars. Though their levels of stardom may have never satiated Johnny Ramone’s hunger for success, the Ramones were then, and will always be, one of the most important bands to step on a stage. It is because of the Ramones that legions of kids continue to proudly identify themselves as punk rockers. What had once been a source of shame for outsiders is now a badge of pride, and the Ramones are to thank for it. There will never be another band like them.