Monday, October 13, 2014

Ramones - Too Tough To Die

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Too Tough To Die, the eighth studio album from the Ramones. It was the first to feature Richie Ramone (Richard Reinhardt) on drums. It spent six weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 171. It also hit number 63 in the UK and number 49 in Sweden.

Side one begins with “Mama’s Boy”, a derogatory ditty that clocks in at just over two minutes long. In typical Ramones fashion, they pack a lot into that short period of time. The guitars and drums are thundering.

“I’m Not Afraid of Life” has a very dark and heavy sound to it, as if possessed by death itself. The repeated guitar riff reminds me of another early 80’s song, but at the moment I cannot put my finger on it (I wanna say XTC’s “Making Plans for Nigel”).

The title track “Too Tough To Die” is next.

A track entitled “Durango 95” follows. It was the band’s only instrumental recording; the title references the car driven by Malcolm McDowell’s character in the film A Clockwork Orange. It also is the shortest track on the album at fifty-five seconds long.

“Wart Hog” goes right back to the band’s punk rock roots with a pedal-to-the-metal, slam-dancefest. Dee Dee Ramone takes over lead vocals from Joey Ramone on this one.

“Danger Zone” tells of an out-of-control youth, set to a rapid-fire rhythm.

“Chasing the Night” features, for me, a first for a Ramones track – one that uses ambient noise at the start to augment the music. It was enough to make the track jump out to me. The structure of the song is also more compound than the usual Ramones tune. It makes for a nice change. Jerry Harrison provides the synthesizers here.

Side two starts with “Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)”. As the lead single from the album, it peaked at number 85 in the UK. Dave Stewart of Eurythmics produced the track.

“Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love)”, the longest track on the album at over four and a half minutes, has a very strong melody.

The band goes for an apocalyptic future with “Planet Earth 1988”, a mere four years after the release of this album. So glad they were wrong.

“Humankind” was penned by Richie, and it fits right into the expected Ramones sound. The lyrics point out the annoying and bothersome traits of the human race.

Dee Dee again steps into the lead vocal spot for “Endless Vacation”, a slow-fast-slow-fast-slow tune. The fast parts remind me a lot of the heavy metal sound of Motorhead.

The original vinyl release ends with “No Go”, a song that sounds like marriage of Sweet and Elvis Presley. Again, I like to hear the Ramones changing this up a bit; some of the experiments like this one work very well.

A 2002 repackaged CD version of the record added an additional twelve tracks, featuring previously unreleased tunes (including a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man”), demos and alternate vocal versions with Dee Dee singing lead of two of the album’s tracks.

I had three of the tracks from Too Tough To Die on a Ramones greatest hits collection. I really liked a lot of the rest of the record too.

For more from the Ramones, click here.

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