On Feb. 4, 1980, an LP was released which brought together two distinctly different generations of musician, with one of the key bands of the New York punk rock scene being produced by the man behind the Wall of Sound.
The idea of the Ramones being produced by Phil Spector was a mind-blowing concept, one that was hard for a lot of folks to wrap their head around at the time. Similarly, Spector’s method of production was so dissimilar from the usual methods that the Ramones were used to experiencing in the studio - most notably the fact that it took a hell of a lot longer - than they got pretty frustrated during the course of the proceedings.
Oh, and let’s not forget that by the time Spector finally finished the album, the cost of making End of the Century ended up being way more expensive than any of their previous records!
Sure, it sounded good, but...did it really sound like the Ramones?
Spector apparently first met with the Ramones in early ’77, offering to help them with their Rocket to Russia album, but the band took a pass, as they didn’t want to change up the work they’d been successfully doing with Tommy Ramone and Tony Bongiovi handling their production. After Tommy’s departure from the band, however, they revisited Spector’s offer, and they began work on End of the Century at the beginning of May 1979 at Hollywood’s Gold Star Studios, with Ed Stasium helping out as an engineer on the album at the Ramones’ behest.
The process of recording End of the Century was, by most accounts, pretty agonizing for the band. Per Dee Dee in his memoir, "Phil would sit in the control room and would listen through the headphones to Marky hit one note on the drum, hour after hour, after hour, after hour."
"I understood [Spector's] attitude," said Marky in an interview with Classic Rock. "He was from The Bronx, I was from Brooklyn. We got along very well and had a nice rapport...But he had his way of working that was very slow, and the Ramones had their way of working which was very fast. So that would sometimes irk everybody and led to animosity with Johnny and Dee Dee."
Spector also freaked Dee Dee out by brandishing a gun at one point, something which occurred after Dee Dee went searching for where Phil and Joey were meeting within Spector’s mansion.
“The next thing I knew, Phil appeared at the top of the staircase, shouting and waving a pistol,” Dee Dee wrote in his memoir. “He leveled 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.”
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Gee, I at least hope this happened prior to the band recording their cover of the song, so that they could familiarize themselves with the tune backwards and forwards.” Yeah, not so much: as it happens, the boys confirmed in a 1982 Trouser Press interview that Johnny, Dee Dee and Marky are all absent from the Ramones’ recording of that cover!
But here’s the crazy part: it actually paid off. End of the Century remains the highest-charting album of the Ramones’ career on both sides of the pond, climbing to No. 44 on the Billboard 200 and to No. 14 on the U.K. Albums chart. And, of course, in case you’ve forgotten, it also contains the song that served as the theme for the band’s motion picture spectacular, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. (Spoiler: their parents did know they were Ramones.)