Ramones, End of the Century (2/10)
How often does the first album you hear by a favorite artist continue to be your favorite album by that artist? With the Ramones, it’s not easy to pick a best. For some, they all sound the same. For others, the badassery never falters.
Backstory: when this record came out, I was a young man intrigued by this new music craze called “punk rock.” It was going to be the downfall of society, they said (unfortunately, it was not). It would force me to wear my hair funny and inspire me to question authority (fortunately, it did). And so on.
We were visiting my grandparents in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and visiting the local mall. One of the record stores was going out of business and everything was on sale. My mom said she would buy me one album, so I had to choose between this and, I don’t know, Van Halen II or some such. I chose this.
I brought it back to my grandparents’ house and my dad asked what kind of music it was. I said I thought it was punk rock. He said, “There will be no punk rock in my house.”
Fortunately, there was. And, in the days and years to come, there was a lot of it.
Look, I know pairing Phil Spector with the Ramones seems about as smart as pairing Brian Eno with GWAR and apparently, the sessions were far from smooth, even by Dee Dee Ramone standards. But Spector’s “wall of sound” — and all of the over-the-top touches that go with it, like strings and horns and celestas — made this record palatable enough to my young, untrained ear that it made me hungry for more.
There will always be room in my heavy rotation for “End of the Century,” and, in particular, songs like “Danny Says,” “The Return of Jackie and Judy,” “Rock n Roll High School,” and — the first song KDGE ever played way back at the end of June in 1989 — “Do You Remember Rock n Roll Radio.”
Do you remember lying in bed
With your covers pulled up over your head?
Radio playin’ so no one can see
We need change, we need it fast
Before rock’s just part of the past
‘Cause lately it all sounds the same to me