Too Tough to Die
|Too Tough to Die|
|Studio album by Ramones|
|Released||October 1, 1984|
70:11 (Expanded Edition)
|Producer||Tommy Ramone, Ed Stasium|
Too Tough to Die is the eighth studio album by the American punk rock band Ramones. It was released on October 1, 1984 and is the first Ramones' record to feature Richie Ramone. With ex-member Tommy Ramone producing, the recording process was similar to that of the band's debut album, Ramones. Likewise, the style of music on the record resembles the band shifting their sound towards that which was on their earliest albums. The photograph on the album cover, which features silhouettes of the band members, came about by mistake after photographer George DuBose's camera malfunctioned. Dubose would later cite this to be a "lucky" mistake.
The album's overall style leaned toward that of hardcore punk and heavy metal music, rather than pop music which had been a focus of several of the band's previous albums. Too Tough to Die barrows many elements used on 1983's Subterranean Jungle; this is demonstrated especitally through the guitar riffs. This record marks the first time which bassist Dee Dee Ramone performs lead vocals, and is credited on two tracks. The album also contains the band's only instrumental piece, "Durrango 35."
Many critics who reviewed the album appreciated the band's retreat to earlier methods through writing, recording, and production. It was also noted by critics that the change of style was notable, and for the most part they strayed from integrating pop music. Despite the critical acclaim, the album proved unsuccessful in the US, being the band's lowest peaking record at that point in their career on the Billboard 200.
Recording and production
The recording of Too Tough to Die began in the summer of 1984 at the Media Sound Studios in New York City. The entire album was recorded in a single session, described by Rolling Stone's Kurt Loder to be "recorded virtually live in the studio." A similar recording process was used on the band's 1976 eponymous album, which was recorded over a period of seven days. The album marked the debut of new drummer Richie Ramone, who replaced Marky Ramone after he was fired for excessive drinking. The album's lyrics were written mainly by guitarist Johnny Ramone and bassist Dee Dee Ramone, while lead singer Joey Ramone restrained from the process because he "wasn't feeling well" prior to recording.
"As we got ready to make Too Tough To Die, we were focused in the same direction, and it made a difference. We knew we needed to get back to the get back to the kind of harder material we'd become known for. The pop stuff hadn't really worked, and we knew we were much better off doing what we did best."—Johnny Ramone
Previous Ramones records featured celebrity record producers in an attempt to gain some sort of popularity. Since this method did not yield the results which they were expecting, Sire Records contacted the producers of 1978's Road to Ruin: Ed Stasium and ex-band member Tommy Ramone. The album has less of a production value compared to their previous few albums, and the style of music leaned towards a more harsh sound because critics often disapproved of the sound quality on End Of The Century and Pleasant Dreams.
The cover photo for the album was taken by George DuBose in a subway in Central Park, New York City. Showing the dark silhouettes of each band member with blue lighting in the background and dry ice fog, the band members are standing side-by-side underneath the arch of the underpass standing. According to DuBose, the band did not need their faces on the cover because they had grown significantly in popularity; their faces being in the cover was originally intended, however. The photograph which the band chose as the cover photo was shot while the camera encounted a technical difficulty: the strobe lights failed to activate, resulting in much more contrasted picture. DuBose would later describe this occurrence as "one of [his] lucky accidents."
Music and compositions
Just as the recording methods resembled that of the earlier era of the band, the musical style which they produced also favored the band's earlier approach on punk rock. Even though "Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)" featured a synthpop feel, the overall genre leaned more so toward heavy metal music rather than pop music, which had been a major focus of the band's writing process throughout the 1980s. Authors Scott Schinder and Andy Schwartz explained that the album was "the Ramones' response to America's burgeoning hard-core punk scene, and did much to restore the band's musical credibilty."
"Too Tough to Die reclaimed the Ramone's original values of energy, catchiness, and brevity without resorting to retro pandering. It also featured the band's strongest set of songs since Rocket to Russia, with Dee Dee (who wrote or co-wrote nine of the album's thirteen songs) demonstrating a thoughtful, introspective edge on 'I'm Not Afraid of Life' and an apocalyptic social conscience on 'Planet Earth 1988.'"—Scott Schinder and Andy Schwartz, Icons of Rock.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic wrote that the album uses the "big guitar riffs" featured on Subterranean Jungle and transfigures them to be "shorter and heavier." The songs featured on the album are rather short and have a considerably fast tempo, which was a typical quality of the band's early work. The album features the only instrumental piece which the band released: "Durango 95," which clocks in at under a minute. The song's name is a reference to Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange.
Too Tough to Die is also the first Ramones' release which did not feature lead singer Joey Ramone on each track; both "Wart Hog" and Endless Vacation" feature bassist Dee Dee Ramone as lead vocalist. Initially, "Wart Hog"'s appearance on the album was declined by Joey, but Johnny lobbied this, later stating: "if I hadn't lobbied for them, they wouldn't be on the [album]." The lyrics to the song were not included on the initial printing of the album because Sire considered the drug-inspired lyrics to be too explicit for potential fans.
Too Tough to Die was generally well received by critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic called it "the last great record [the Ramones] would ever make" and noted that the use of Tommy Ramone as the album's producer was beneficial since it aided in the group returning "to simple, scathing punk rock." He also stated that the album reads "like a reaction to hardcore punk," while still maintaining their more melodic style in songs. Music critic Robert Christgau also suggested that the album's sound was a retreat to their earlier styles "with the cleansing minimalism of their original conception evoked," saying there initial sound is "augmented rather than recycled." Kurt Loder of the Rolling Stone concluded his interview by saying that "Too Tough to Die is a return to fighting trim by the kings of stripped-down rock & roll."
The album was the band's lowest peaking record at that point in their career, debuting at number 171 on the US Billboard 200. It also peaked at number 49 on the Swedish Sverigetopplistan chart, and spent three weeks on the UK Albums Chart where it peaked at number 63. The only single released from the album, "Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)"/"Wart Hog," peaked at number 85 on the UK Singles Chart, where it spent two weeks.
|1.||"Mama's Boy"||Johnny Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone, Tommy Ramone||2:09|
|2.||"I'm Not Afraid of Life"||Dee Dee Ramone||3:12|
|3.||"Too Tough to Die"||Dee Dee Ramone||2:35|
|4.||"Durango 95" (Instrumental)||Johnny Ramone||0:55|
|5.||"Wart Hog"||Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Ramone||1:54|
|6.||"Danger Zone"||Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Ramone||2:03|
|7.||"Chasing the Night"||Busta Cherry Jones, Joey Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone||4:25|
|8.||"Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)"||Dee Dee Ramone||4:06|
|9.||"Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love)"||Joey Ramone, Daniel Rey||4:31|
|10.||"Planet Earth 1988"||Dee Dee Ramone||2:54|
|12.||"Endless Vacation"||Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Ramone||1:45|
|13.||"No Go"||Joey Ramone||3:03|
|2002 Expanded Edition CD (Warner Archives/Rhino) bonus tracks|
|14.||"Street Fighting Man"||Mick Jagger, Keith Richards||2:56|
|15.||"Smash You"||Richie Ramone||2:23|
|16.||"Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)" (Demo Version)||Dee Dee Ramone||3:17|
|17.||"Planet Earth 1988" (Dee Dee vocal version)||Dee Dee Ramone||3:02|
|18.||"Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love)" (Demo Version)||Joey Ramone, Daniel Rey||4:06|
|19.||"Endless Vacation" (Demo Version)||Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Ramone||1:46|
|20.||"Danger Zone" (Dee Dee vocal version)||Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Ramone||2:07|
|21.||"Out of Here"||Ramones||4:10|
|22.||"Mama's Boy" (Demo Version)||Johnny Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone, Tommy Ramone||2:15|
|23.||"I'm Not an Answer"||Ramones||2:16|
|24.||"Too Tough to Die" (Dee Dee vocal version)||Dee Dee Ramone||2:35|
|25.||"No Go" (Demo Version)||Joey Ramone||3:05|
- Joey Ramone – Lead vocals
- Johnny Ramone – Lead guitar
- Dee Dee Ramone – Bass, guitar backing vocals, lead vocals on tracks 5, 12, 17, 19, 20, 24
- Richie Ramone – Drums, backing vocals
- Additional musicians
- Walter Lure – Extra guitar (on some tracks)
- Jerry Harrison – Synthesizer ("Chasing the Night")
- Ben Tench – Keyboards ("Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love)")
- Tommy Ramone – Producer
- Ed Stasium – Producer
- Dave Stewart – Producer ("Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)")
- Tony Wright – Cover design
- George DuBose – Photography
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