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Music

Johnny Ramone's "final wish" was to amend his least favourite Ramones album

@josephtaysom

The Ramones usually did things on their own terms in search of punk purity. Simply put, compromising was never on the agenda. On record or while delivering heart-attack live performances, the group were sharp in the steps. Rarely having regrets, they would, however, make one grave mistake that Johnny Ramone reportedly wanted to amend as his “final wish”.

The New Yorkers made plenty of brave decisions throughout their career, which to the outside seemed bizarre, but that’s exactly how they liked to keep things. Eyebrows were raised by their bemused fans when they decided to join forces with the disgraced ‘Wall of Sound’ producer, Phil Spector, who came from a different musical world. The group joined forces with the already-infamous Spector in pursuit of record sales and thicker cuts of the punk rock cash cow.

While Spector’s pedigree was never questioned as a producer, it was clear that his style would clash with their punk principles. The band expected some difficulties with the notoriously tricky customer, however, nothing could prepare them for what was in store for them during the recording process of their fifth album, End Of The Century.

The band were successful in their chase and the record was the most successful of their career from a commercial perspective. But, despite their need to fill the coffers, making cash was never the primary incentive for The Ramones and it clearly raised emotional conflict for the band’s leader. Guitarist Johnny Ramone would later admit his regret the band ever agreed to work with Spector.

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At one point, Spector pulled out a gun on Dee Dee Ramone, who wrote in his autobiography, “He levelled his gun at my heart and then motioned for me and the rest of the band to get back in the piano room. He only holstered his pistol when he felt secure that his bodyguards could take over. Then he sat down at his black concert piano and made us listen to him play and sing ‘Baby, I Love You’ until well after 4:30 in the morning.”

Not only was it a traumatic time making the album, Spector also gave the Ramones a more refined version of their sound. But the pop polish Spector provided wasn’t always glistening in hindsight. For the rest of his life, Johnny would deeply regret this album, and he planned to rework End Of The Century when his health declined before his death in 2004.

“Working with Phil was very difficult,” he commented in 1982. “Because I guess he’s a perfectionist, so he likes to spend a lot of time redoing things and re-listening and it’s very time-consuming. It’s very hard for us. Rock n roll’s got to be very spontaneous and a little faster.”

The band’s longtime producer Ed Stasium told Rolling Stone in 2016 about Johnny’s disdain for the album. He said the guitarist fostered plans to “de-Spectorize” it, which he referred to as “his final wish,” and there were plans in place to “get Phil’s stuff and make it a Ramones record.”

Unfortunately, his battle with testicular cancer worsened at a rapid rate, and it prevented Johnny from realising his wish to remake End of the Century without the lingering presence of Spector before he passed away in 2004.