The Walking Rock Alphabet: E

It would have been very easy to skip today’s little romp. Besides a return to chilly temps, a serious breeze had been blowing all day. Combine that with way too little sleep last night and a shit day at work, my couch was calling for me.
Yet I had to make it out, as my day started with a great message from a friend. Let me speak for a second about my buddy, Jason. A Ledge listener from the very beginning, he took time off from a business trip to Omaha to drive up here to cohost an episode with me. 
Jason had mentioned that he was contemplating duplicating this rock ‘n’ roll exercise format, but he hadn’t written for fun in years. I encouraged him to just join blogger and get the ball rolling, and this morning I received a message that was live! Congrats, buddy.
Today’s musical selection was an easy choice, as yesterday marked what would have been Johnny Ramone’s 64th birthday. Unfortunately, my “E” choice, End of the Century, was Johnny’s least favorite Ramones album, and was also the record that created the lifelong personal issues with vocalist Joey Ramone.
End of the Century was the band’s fifth album, and marked a relatively huge change in their sound. Well, to be completely honest, any change from the template that made them legendary and semi-famous would be a huge change.
Most of these alterations to their sound was due to the controversial and contentious hiring of Phil Spector to produce the album. It was reportedly Joey’s dream to work with Spector, but the rest of the band quickly grew tired of Spector’s quirks. It is a bit unsettling to hear the double-tracked drums on “I’m Affected”, or the wall of guitars used on many tracks...not to mention a version of “Chinese Rocks” that pales next to the already-released Heartbreakers version.
I’m willing to sit through any of the album’s deficiencies for one track on this record, and that is the cover of “Baby, I Love You”. Primarily known due to The Ronettes’ 1963 hit version, this is in my eyes Joey’s finest vocal performance of his career. Never known for his range, I’ll take the sincerity and emotional outpouring over any of the multi-octave technical divas that plague the charts these days. (It’s safe to say that this was due to the ongoing issue with Johnny “stealing” his girlfriend had much to do with this performance.)
Back to “Chinese Rocks”. This may shock a good percentage of you that know me from afar, but one of my two public vocal performances was on this song. Let’s go back to the mid-90’s and my friends in Violet, my favorite local band. Most of the members were also in a Johnny Thunders tribute band, and I had been invited to sing along at one of their shows. 
This isn’t the performance I’m talking about here, though. Sometime around this time, Violet was playing the Pomp Room, and I was told ahead of time they were going to throw in a couple of tunes from the Thunders catalog in their set...including “Chinese Rocks”.
It should be pointed out that this was at the peak of the Sioux Falls music scene, where not only did we see tons of great national acts hit our city but at least a half dozen local bands were drawing up to 1,000 people on a regular basis. This was one of those nights. 
A few minutes before it was time for “my” song, I hit the bar for a couple of shots of courage and made my way to the side of the stage. The next five minutes were a blur, and the next thing I know I’m jumping off the stage...and spraining my ankle! What a fucking dork!
Limping along to the bar for some “pain medication”, an acquaintance stopped me and said, “I didn’t know you were a singer!” “I’m not”, I laughed as I carried on to get my whiskey-coke. So ends my music career.
Back to End of the Century. As I stated earlier, it’s not generally listed along with the great albums of their career, and that’s too bad. It has its deficiencies, but it also has “Danny Says”, “Let’s Go”, “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School”, and “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?”. Nobody can argue that those aren’t career highlights.


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