Road to Ruin (Deluxe Edition)

Road to Ruin (Deluxe Edition)

In terms of music, lyrics, and overall attitude, the first three Ramones albums were barely distinguishable from one another. But on 1978’s Road to Ruin, the group’s fourth record, the differences are more obvious: There are acoustic guitars, ballads, and even a few guitar solos (which had largely been stigmatized as extraneous by punk rockers). And while the band had always kept things under three minutes, Road to Ruin has songs that go long—relatively speaking: “I Wanted Everything” clocks in at 3:18, and “Questioningly” goes on for 3:21 (or about as long as an ELP keyboard solo). Throughout Road to Ruin, the Ramones sound almost like a normal late-1970s rock band. One reason for that change was the departure of Tommy Ramone, the band’s original drummer, and a key architect of the band’s sound. He stayed on as a producer under his birth surname, T. Erdelyi, but was replaced on the kit by Marky Ramone, formerly of Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Marky was a more experienced drummer, adding more dynamics to the band’s rhythm section—including fills, and a cymbal sound he likened to broken glass—while perpetuating the band’s relentless, rapid eighth-note beat. Everything the Ramones sang about—whether it was eating chicken vindaloo, being bored, or engaging in crazy antics—was true to life, an approach that holds strong on Road to Ruin. The tenderness in Joey Ramone’s voice never undercuts the sneering negativity in some of the album’s darker songs, including “I Don’t Want You” and the rampaging “I’m Against It.” Tommy Ramone once referred to his bandmates as “dangerous people,” and the punk rock outbursts on Road to Ruin modulate reckless thoughts and impulses into perfect, short songs. Still, the band does slow down for a moment, with the teary Dee Dee Ramone ballad “Questioningly” featuring twangy guitar from album co-producer Ed Stasium. (Guitarist Johnny Ramone didn’t like the song, and likened it to the Eagles—perhaps the biggest insult at his disposal). Because the Ramones got little radio airplay, the band toured frequently, in order to remain solvent. This was tough on Joey, who endured several health issues, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (which made things tough on his bandmates, too). While he was inhaling steam to soothe a sore throat, Joey burned himself, which inspired Road to Ruin’s classic “I Wanna Be Sedated” (“Put me in a wheelchair, get me to the show/Hurry, hurry, hurry, before I go loco”). The song even includes a guitar solo—kind of—from Johnny, who plays the same note over and over. If it’s the right note, you don’t need more than one.

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