Ramones - End of the Century (Cover Artwork)


End of the Century (1980)


End of the Century was the first Ramones album ever that was not perfect. It was bound to happen eventually; four five-star albums in a row is a feat that few, if any, bands have ever accomplished. That's not to say that this album is bad; in fact, the songwriting is arguably on par with the first four records. What kept this album from perfection, however, was primarily out of the band's control -- unless you fault the band for aspiring to write a Top 40 record, which is what they were openly trying to do here.

Phil Spector. So many rumors have emerged in the last couple decades about what exactly happened during the recording of this record. The infamous story of Spector pulling a gun on the band, or forcing Johnny to play the first chord to "Rock 'N' Roll High School" hundreds of times. Joey was a big fan of Spector's earlier work, and he was clearly interested in making a pop record that would appeal to the mainstream. While Spector seemed fascinated by Joey's voice and potential as a pop singer, he reportedly treated the rest of the band as if they didn't matter. Over 20 years later, you could still see the resentment that Johnny had towards Phil in the End of the Century DVD. Dee Dee Ramone was even quoted as saying "I couldn't believe how awful it sounded. It was horrible...I think that some of the worst crap I ever wrote went on that album." So how bad was it, really?

Upon playing the record, you can immediately tell within the first few seconds that this album will sound vastly different than anything we've heard from them before. The very first track, "Do You Remember Rock 'N' Roll Radio?" includes a synthesizer, saxophone, and piano, ditching the traditional three-chord song structure. It is pulled off surprisingly well, however; its catchiness and `50s pop sound made it into an instant classic. One can't help but notice, however, how incredibly low the guitar is, and this becomes very noticeable by the second track, "I'm Affected" -- a well-written song with some of the worst mixing you've ever heard. Johnny's signature guitar chords are barely audible, leaving the listener nothing but a muffled sound.

This is the story of End of the Century: well-written songs with horrific production, with the key exception being the vocals, as Joey sounds better than ever on this album. Barring the cheesy "Rock 'N' Roll High School" and the cover song "Baby, I Love You" (written by none other than Phil Spector), all the songs on here are gold. Sure, the punk is turned down and the pop turned up, but there are still the simple, catchy power-chord songs reminiscent of the Ramones' earlier days such as "Chinese Rock," "This Ain't Havana" and "The Return of Jackie and Judy," a sequel to the Ramones classic.

Overall, this is still a great album. To fully enjoy it, you just need to get past the hideous production and appreciate the songs for what they are. There are plenty of memorable songs on here that every Ramones fan should cherish, regardless of whether or not you see this album as the turning point for the band.