Ppleasant dreams rsdleasant Dreams - Ramones (Rhino Records)
Pleasant Dreams Demos – Ramones (bootleg)

(Written from 23 May through 3 July 2023)

Ever notice how our first impressions are the strongest? That whatever we encounter first, stays with us, often for decades, and often despite intellectually knowing that that first impression is in fact wrong?

Like lasagne sticking to a carpet (don't try this at home) or a losing soul clings to pride, with both pasta sauce and draining soul not having a clue about what they're sticking to, or why, or even that they are sticking to anything.

Similarly, what we discover when we're young often stays with us no matter how wrong we might be. 

One reason why I revisit books, films and music which had a significant impact on my younger self is so that I can glimpse my younger self, and note how I have changed. “When Worlds Collide”. “The Dam Busters”. The Adverts' LP, “Crossing The Red Sea” (I'll get to that another day). “The Forever War”. “Apocalypse Now'” “Another Music in a Different Kitchen”.

With me so far? Good, now let's have that death conversation. 

Yes, this may take a while, and yes, I know I'm being a bit self-indulgent here. I'll save you the trouble of skipping to the end for the verdict on this latest version of 'Pleasant Dreams': it's four and a half bottles, and I reckon it's superior to the original release, so buy it, if you can find it.

As I began to write this piece, news reached us that Tina Turner and Kenneth Anger have both died.

Anger, I thought, was a pretentious bottom-feeder, his output significant in the sense that it inspired stuff, mostly stuff about which I have little interest. I see no reason to change that opinion. If I do, I'll be sure not to bother you about it.

Tina Turner was far more important, her fame spreading the message that you don't have to stay with that abusive dickhead you married, and that you can start with pretty much zip except your name and determination and reinvent your life to be free and happy. (Yes, she made some great records along the way, too, but I'm not a big fan of her later output).

And we were told that, a couple weeks further back, noted arsebogey Rolf Harris had died and been buried without the inevitable bomb threats, protests by conspiracy dingbats and assorted arsewipery common in these times. I expect folks will just have to make do with crapping on his grave and smashing his headstone. Please don't do this, keep Britain tidy!

Then it was Algy Ward, the bass player who played with The Saints, and  then The Damned, on some bloody influential records, before forming another influential band, Tank, which was equally ignored by the mainstream. And Andy Rourke, bass player with The Smiths, a band of four always irreplaceable parts. Influential but also successful.

Today, as I continue to write, Monte Cazzaza, of whose music I was rather fond.

By now you may be realising that I found this article difficult to write; as I continued, other people have also passed through the media's flickering goldfish-bowl eye, probably for the last time: Glenda Jackson; Donald Triplett; Daniel Ellsberg; and the repellent modern inventor of 'post-truth', "Bunga" Berlusconi, advocates of whose playbook include S. Morrison, B. Johnson and D. “Judas” Trump.

Like everyone else, when I see names of the notable, I often recall people I knew (however fleetingly) whose flame, notable or otherwise, went too soon - Lynton Cox and Kim Tonks (of Die Dancing Bears), Mike Pitts(aka Neptune Skyline), Rowland S. Howard, Spencer P. Jones, Brian Henry Hooper, Tony Pola, Tony Cohen, Charlie Tolnay, Renestair EJ, Tony “Grudge” Heyward, Rob Szkolik, Caz (aka Coco Petro), Martin Harris...and the dominos will continue to topple.. I'll spare you all the other names you won't recognise.

As we watch the normal, natural process of death ransack the great people of each era I doubt the reality of it fully sinks in - death is always something “over there” or to be squawked about in blockbusters or metal bands. The reality is something we glance at, fascinated, like a car crash, but thankfully we speed on and forget about it. 

Someone else can clean the mess up, because there's always someone else to clean shit like that up.

In one of my father's books on films he annotated an entry on Chaplin with the date of the man's death, adding, “the greats are beginning to go”. I read this somewhat uncomprehendingly as a child, a year or so before he became sick with the illness which took him two years later.

Closer to my home, a few weeks ago we woke one morning to read that, en route to see Eurovision, Ian Bellhad died. This shook a wide tapestry of Adelaide - Ian had been a significant figure in our musical and personal history. He owned and ran Andromeda Records for many years, later working in Big Star; I bought a lot of music from this man. After the gig on a Friday and Saturday night - well, 1am the following morning anyway - people would balk at forking out for a cab to the outlying burbs, instead heading to a nightclub while they waited for the first bus or train at 6am. Ian was one of those DJs. 

But Ian's presence at pretty much all the big significant gigs around town was almost a given; a consummate fan, he collected autographs and stories. I couldn't tell you when I first met him (1978? 1979?), but over the years Ian seemed to be everywhere, from endless DJ-ing to helping run the Big Day Out; on the few occasions I happened to be backstage ... Ian was there as well. Always in demand, of course, as people with big public personas are.

Critically, he was also an extraordinarily lovely, chill chap; how he managed to be so balanced I do not know. A memorial event was held at a nightclub, Jive (formerly Club Foote), one of Ian's old stomping grounds, with Adelaide farewelling him with the theme tune for “The Wombles” - which I gather he used to play to end his sets as a DJ. 

Tim Jarrett was another of the many extraordinary people who clustered to Adelaide's underground; he was, in fact, one of the most extraordinary. Capable of delivering copious reams of facts on any one of dozens of subjects he ... simply knew about. For example, not only must he have inadvertently memorised Julian Cope's book on Krautrock, he knew all sorts of things Cope didn't. He loved knowing about things which fascinated him, to the point of being furious with himself for not knowing about Le Petomane earlier. 

He loved his food, to the point of working out how to make certain dishes he'd tried in a restaurant. He loved his friends in the way you hoped all your own friends would care for you - he was selfless, and empathic, and loyal with the most innocently malicious sense of humour. You know how some ghastly people play pranks on other folks? Tim would think up the idea, and it would be sufficient for him to suggest it to a confidante - that was the laugh, the suggestion, not the actual prank (which was usually very inventive, incredibly appalling but very, very doable and funny as all get-out). 

There wasn't a mean bone in Tim's body. On the rare occasion he refused to help you, it was because ... he simply couldn't. Those who encountered his boyish glee at some annoying concept could forgive him - because there was no malice. Being seriously offended by Tim would be like being offended by a Mack Sennett pie-throwing film from the 1920s. Tim was delightfully and unrepentantly himself. Every time I hear the phrase, 'Bull's pizzle!', or 'cop a steaming load of that in yer eye, ya cruddock!' I will remember him. 

Ross Martin was another man apart. Effortlessly intelligent, like Tim above, he loved knowing about things which fascinated him, he loved his food, he loved his friends - he also was selfless, and empathic. Ross was also an invaluable part of the building industry - smart, practical and hands-on. One of the mainstay musicians in our underground, I came to know him better first when we began talking en route to a party at the Dales' joint, and he was the first musician I approached to join me in a band (which became the first and second incarnations of Smallpox Confidential; we're now on the fifth). He played drums, bass, keys, synth and ... other things, including my boots on a wooden box. Also, he introduced me to what became one of my top ten favourite condiments - a remarkable feat given that I was then in my fifties. Everyone who knew Ross and Tim has a heavy weight in their chest. 

Where's this taking us? Is this relevant?

Yeah, not too sorry about that. Looking back is hard; perspective is not easy. I've been reflecting on how we think of our younger selves in our later life, what our expectations were then. What we know now. It's easy to have a rosy appreciation of what we thought we were back then, without a contradictory view. I mean, I know we all do it, but of course once we get past a certain age we find ourselves peering in disbelief at randomly-discovered 40-year-old pictures of ourselves, muttering, "Jesus, was that me?" (usually accompanied by a derisive snort; "I don't remember that", as if not remembering what you clearly did will somehow erase its actuality). 

Thankfully, Jesus doesn't answer our question (probably too busy sniggering at the the bonkers dooflickies we've attached to ourselves, our idiotic clothes and haircut).

Speaking of which ... I'm sure you all recall the cover of the first Ramones LP. There they are, 'da bruddas', lined up against a brick wall just around the corner from the place they first played, a literally shitty club called CBGB's, in the Bowery of New York City.

To a kid growing up on 1960s “Mad” magazine books, late night movies like “Freaks” and “Schlock”, not to mention S.E. Hinton's stories about growing up in violent greaser gangs, not only did the Ramones look like a gang you could join, they looked ... well, pretty much like you and I did back then. Too-long hair, sneakers and jeans which never seemed to stay in one piece until mum finally threw them out (the horror and the fury – “those were my favourite jeans!”), corny T-shirts ... the only thing missing was the black motorcycle jackets, which I knew I could never afford (and I've never owned one). Curiously, long hair in the Ramones didn't make them look like hippies, but ... freaks, outsiders; you knew who these guys were. Aliens, but familiar aliens, because they were just like us.

At this point, I must say that, while some readers remember this period, and misremember it too, others have only books and the interwebbery to 'rely' on.

“The Ramones”, the band's first LP, was released on 23 April, 1976. While their first three LPs didn't set the charts alight, they absolutely altered music around the world. Timing helped. 

The charts were a bit complicated back then. The US top ten for 24 April features quite a few groovy tracks (as far as I know, not yet in a “Guardians of the Galaxy” film) - for example; “Right Back Where We Started From”, “Boogie Fever”, and “Fooled Around and Fell In Love”. 

There were also a few songs which, due to massive over-playing for the next 20 years, cannot now be appreciated by anyone who lived through this era without dry-heaving or experiencing PTSD; for example, 24 April also marked the beginning of the endless rise of Queen's nonsensically pompous “Bohemian Rhapsody”; John Sebastian's “Welcome Back” and Peter Frampton's “Show Me The Way”. 

Let's not remember the repellent Dr Hook. To a teenager, perhaps hyped up on expectation and eight cups of coffee a day, most bands seemed to produce songs which could enthral either other musicians or the lobotomised. 

Guess which Ramone said this, in a 1989 interview with Everett True

"In the ‘70s (music) had become like big business, very formulated and watered down, polished over. That's what we were reacting against when we started out. In '76 it was the height of disco in America with Donna Summer and corporate rock like Boston and Journey and Foreigner...also, you had bands like Styx and Pink Floyd that weren't playing exciting music, that weren't playing for the audience. They were playing with a little bit of arrogance. What we did was reassemble music, pick it apart and strip it down and reassemble it. ... We put the fun back into it ... We've always maintained high ideals and integrity. We revolutionised rock'n'roll music and brought a whole new attitude and excitement to music and turned the world around ... Our album in 1976 really was shaking things up. We were a catalyst and didn't quite get the recognition that we deserved, but I'm comfortable too. ... It feels good, to retain your initial beliefs and to practise them. A lot of bands lose sight of what they're doing."

Johnny or Dee DeeTommy or Marky

Nope, Joey. Rightly or wrongly, he could be very firm when it came to matters of principle.

The Ramones weren't alone in focusing their direction on the very basics of r'n'r; in the backwater that was Queensland, Australia, The Saints were hard at work before the Ramones formed. Sydney's Radio Birdmanhad also returned to a more primal series of sources, as did Rose Tattoo. All three Australian bands packed a wallop, but only two got overseas in the late ‘70s and both imploded. Queensland, sadly, remains a backwater.

The Ramones, the men themselves, of course, are all gone, one by one. 

Joey, 2001.

Dee Dee, 2002.

Johnny, 2004.

Their 'creative director', Arturo Vega, 2013.

Tommy, 2014.

To me, they could only be distant figures. I could never know these men personally, only their constructs. The Ramones - the music and the constructs - played an intimate and visceral part of my early life, imprinting their personas into my DNA with vast and gut-invading impact. And I doubt I am alone.

The key to understanding what went on inside the band seemed to take a while to come out. Their image was that of a close-knit gang. And that's the way they felt comfortable with you seeing them. 

On the last page of the booklet inside the 2002 CD reissue of “Pleasant Dreams”, Johnny wrote, "I have been Dee Dee Ramone's friend since 1969. We sat outside our job for two years talking about starting a band before doing it in 1974. He was ... a great songwriter, a friend, and the most influential punk rock bassist of all time. No one else is even close."

He's right, too. Not even Jean Jacques Burnel has been as influential as Dee Dee. Come to think of it, Johnny's self-invented style of guitar has proved more influential than Wilko Johnson's, and certainly just as exciting to witness. Together, Johnny and Dee Dee were like clouds of flour dust in a hot bakery.

Then they found Joey singing with Sniper, and all of a sudden the Ramones' emotive, tangling mixture of personalities and directions formed into a clear identity. Joey, of course, was the spark who turned that flour dust into a cauldron of fire. His vocal styling was unique, half-loud and clear, half mangled or mumbled, half-sung, half-chanted. Remember 'I Wanna Be Well', with the main chorus transformed into an almost-impossible to comprehend, "I wanna be whipped"?

When the Ramones were around, their trajectory was erratic, their path uncertain. Part of this was because over the course of about four or five years, the underground, punk or new wave (and whatever else you wanted to name it) got across one ringing message: you can do it. 

And many, many people did. Sure, many aped the Ramones, finding their own styles and niches as they did. Others simply took the idea and attitude as a sort of 'ground zero'; either way, the underground expanded like a balloon at a pump and burst into millions of shapes and fragments. It's worth remembering that The Boys Next Door once covered several Ramones songs.

There's only so much time, so much money and so much attention you can bestow when multiple effervescent scenes erupt like that. Can't be everywhere, can't buy everything. Judgements come swift and harsh. 

So I guess I'm saying that, while the fourth, fifth and sixth Ramones LPs  ('Road to Ruin', 'End of the Century' and 'Pleasant Dreams' respectively) did do better in the charts than their first ... I think that some of the folks who were seismically shaken by their first three began to drift away.  

- - - - -

So. Let's ask a few people who were definitely influenced by them.

RB: When did you first become aware of the Ramones - and what LP?

Garry Gray (Reals, Sacred Cowboys): We listened and bought the first Ramones album when it came out in 1976. (April?) We heard all that era of stuff in real time as it was being released. Dead Boys, all the English stuff, Television, Voidoids, Monochrome Set, Talking Heads “77”, Devo, everything. We learned everything from “NME”, “Cream”, “Rolling Stone”. I kept up with Ramones until ‘Rocket to Russia’. I stopped there, though I might have heard ‘Road to Ruin’. I lost interest after that. They were cool guys though ... the Sacred Cowboys played support for them at the Palace in St Kilda in 1989, I think."

RB: Do you remember hearing or encountering “Pleasant Dreams” (in 1981)?

Garry Gray: No, I have no memory of it. Given that I had listened to hundreds of bands by 1981, and had my own and my friends to contend with. I found many other things more compelling. By 1981, we had all moved on ... in 1976, we were kids, the era of “sick” 'Mad Magazine’s teenage humour and irony ... the Ramones tapped that humour though we weren't sure if it was make believe on their part ... I remember saying to the gang, "you have to be smart to be dumb"... everyone nodded and opened a beer; then we switched on “The Gong Show'” and “Blankety Blanks” ..after those days in the 1970s, we moved on to more serious matters.

RB: when did you first become aware of the Ramones - and what LP?

Francois Frenchdude (honcho at Basil Records and Blundertown Records): For me it was ‘Rocket to Russia’ and ‘End of the Century’ together; I was 16 when 'End of the Century' was released around 1980 and I was with a friend and his brother (4 or 5 years older); he already had these records and he taped them for me. Pure awesomeness, fast pop bubble-gum Rock’n’roll, I was very much into the bass lines ... I just recently heard of the Damned, Pistols, Clash and all - but these guys from NYC. Whoa!!!"

RB: Do you remember hearing or encountering 'Pleasant Dreams' (in 1981)?

Francois: "Of course! Jean Pierre my older friend used to go to London once in a while and bought it, that is why I bought the special Record Store Day reissue. I really love it because it's the original mixes with three extra songs not on the original; I had the original but was lost in the maelstrom of life ... The RSD release though, the remixes are better, with the bass, guitars and Joey’s vocal all more punchy and clean.

Jeremy Gluck (The Barracudas and solo): In a way, and I’m hardly unique in this, my whole music story ripples from the Ramones. My life led up to and from them. It’s corny but true. Some people find God – I found the Ramones. (Well, I found God, too, but He proved unreliable. Whereas 'Sheena Is A Punk Rocker' has yet to disappoint me.) 

Before I heard the Ramones, I saw them in pictures in Richard and Lisa Robinson’s grainy, great 'Rock Scene' magazine wherein, month by month, it became obvious that in New York something was happening as big as the S’60s. I was 16n, 17 and I cut out and taped pictures of the Ramones to my wall and door … and I had never even heard them. But I knew. It’s like the centurion thing in the Gospel: I knew. My story: Go home. Leave home. The first time I did hear the Ramones was an epiphany. I got back from school and heard, emanating from my older brother’s room, a strange buzzing, pulsating racket. I knew. 

My brother David had brought me up the right way in music taste and we had for some weeks been in vigil mode waiting for the Ramones debut to arrive. I walked in and asked and he shot me a beatific look of joint validation. I then spent weeks playing the album over and over again, and then ditto 'Leave Home', which latter album to this day I find perfect and the band’s best by far ...the Forest Park freak frat pile-up of songs that only The Beatles of their time could make. The sound of it – made possible by drummer Tommy – is magnificent, all clean and shiny and brutal. Joey sounds amazing, his mannered Merseybeaten bleatin’ renting the heart asunder just as Johnny’s demented Mosrite deconstructions turn all in their wake to the mush worthy of an invading army. In essence, an American classic, and frankly pissing on its imitators even now. Ramones happen only once in a generation. If that often. Mark it well, wannabe’s…

More of Jeremy here and I should point out that Cherry Red have just released a rather fantastic box set of Jeremy's first band, The Barracudas here.

- - - -

Okay, we're almost ready to begin.

First, a confession. At the time, from “Road to Ruin” onwards, I went rather cool on the Ramones. I know I used to own an original copy of “Pleasant Dreams” - I might have bought one on one of those crate-flipping trips where nothing else stands out so “I might as well get this one” - but it's not in the collection now, and I know a lot of my records found wings during my “share house (and all my possessions whether I like it or not)” years. 

Also, from 1983 to 1995 I was a bit preoccupied with other things and never really followed up on The Ramones, though I gather that “Too Tough To Die” and “Animal Boy” are pretty good.

Their first LP (which sounds astonishingly slow today) was right up there with the New York Dolls in getting my attention. I was 12, and heard it at Paul's place. After the low schmaltz of Adelaide radio, where the commercials were the heaviest sounding music I could access, The New York Dolls and the Ramones were IT.

They had everything, it seemed. Crudely clever lyrics about things I didn't fully understand (I was very much still in school), a fantastic buzzing rock attitude and short, sharp songs which were my idea of rock'n'roll, funny and occasionally bewildering. I recall I had to look up the meaning of 'cerebellum', although I somehow knew what a lobotomy was.

I was ignorant enough to be offended when (in 1978) an older man remarked that the Ramones were a pop band, a definition I felt minimised their achievement and impact - and one which I still think misses the point: the Ramones were several things in one package.

So you probably know all this, but here we go anyhow. The first LP sounds unique to all their LPs, they were finding their feet; Tommy's glittering, crashing cymbals form a dialect all their own. Johnny's guitar isn't anything like what it was to become. In fact, you can chart Johnny's guitar sound by the way it was recorded; by the third and fourth albums, it's an extraordinary creature, rather like a pavement saw. 

Here's Charles Shaar Murray on Johnny's guitar, via Everett True: 

Johnny is the Ramones' most remarkable instrumentalist. He drives his guitar like a racing driver going round hairpin bends, maintaining that constant deadpan roar so earnestly mimicked by ever '77 garage band. If the Ramones had never existed there would be no band for whom Johnny could possibly play guitar. If Johnny had never existed, the Ramones would never have the right guitar player.

Those last two sentences: something similar could be said of Dee Dee and his bass, and Joey's songs and vocals. And the band got better.

The albums became slowly more sophisticated (I know, something of an oxymoron), and the band were clearly aiming for the charts. “Rocket to Russia” had its thunder pulled from under it with the furore surrounding the Sex Pistols “Bollocks” album and the media's goldfish-bowl eyes fell on the UK “punk” bands rather than the New York underground which had done so much to inspire them. By 'Road to Ruin' the Ramones would have, I think, been somewhat annoyed; even more determined to pull out a hit. 

In fact, on listening back today, “Road to Ruin” is easily one of the band's most under-rated albums, and certainly stands alongside the first three.

Wanting a bigger return on the band, their record company had started to staple producers to the Ramones' LPs; partly as a result of the band had parted with Tommy after “Road to Ruin”, and (as I understand it) the Ramones requesting that, if they couldn't have Tommy to produce their fifth LP, could they have Phil Spector. Let's face it, at the time they weren't so much a pop-punk band as a pop-prank band determined to make it big; they all knew what they had was special and unique. The tension/ blend between classic American pop and hard, simple rock was what made them unique. Few bands came close to that template.

“End of the Century” should have seen the band prising themselves out of the small shitty bars with rip-off fees. The whole album sounds fucking great (when did you last listen to it?) with Spector's vast hammering hall of sound. They seemed to be breaking through, gathering new fans. 

Trouble is, because the songs on 'End of the Century' sound so damned good, you don't immediately realise that for once, there are at least four songs which are either a bit naff or simply not up to snuff. A couple might do with a more lo-fi production, but in this amplified arena, they ... don't work anywhere near as well as they should. And that's a third of the LP. 

And there they were on the cover of 'End of the Century', without their trademark leather jackets, looking all airbrushed for that 'Jackie'-esque magazine cover, as if they were a cutie-pie boy band. At the time I thought it strange that was the Ramones' highest charting LP (apparently number 44 in the US charts), but by then I was 16 and (I hope) more of a dickhead than I am now. Anyway, the band were finally gaining a bit of traction, a trajectory to higher planes ... Here's a link to some stories about that and more. 

In his book on the Ramones, Everett True states that the band played 154 gigs in 1978 (at the end of which they filmed “Rock'n'Roll High School” (which provided The Exploding White Mice with their band name); 158 in 1979 (while coping with Phil Spector's demonstrative nonsense); and 155 gigs in 1980. Take into account all the travel involved, and the recording of LPs ... they were damned busy. 

All the quotes below are from True unless otherwise stated; if you don't have it, get it here.

Another confession. I've not seen the documentary about the recording of “Pleasant Dreams”, so I'm not going to cite from it here. Nor will I quote from the two Ramones films also available on DVD: “End of the Century” and “Ramones Raw”, nor even the Italian documentary (shot in 1979). Too much, okay? This is not a thesis (no, it's really not).

So, beginning of 1981. Time to record their next, sixth studio LP; John Holmstrom - the cartoonist who drew for the Ramones - remembers: "Tommy produced the demo, and it was like the fifth great Ramones album ... but they gave it to Graham Gouldman (of 10cc) and he ruined it." 

One assumes Holmstrom isn't counting 'End of the Century' as a great Ramones LP. 

Anyway, that's not quite right. In January and February 1981 at Daily Planet Studios, Ed Stasium produced three sets of Ramones demos - all songs credited to the band as a unit.

Dee Dee recalled, "We were really striving for quality with the songs... we made three different sets of demos, five or six songs each at least." 

Four Stasium demos turned up on the “Pleasant Dreams” CD reissue in 2002; “Sleeping Troubles”, “Kicks to Try”, “I'm Not An Answer” and “Stares In This Town”. With the level the band have now reached, “Stares In This Town” and “I'm Not An Answer” would probably have needed a little work to bring them up to snuff, but they're classic stompers with a purpose. 

It's easy to read into songs, especially when a band is going through a difficult time. Take these lyrics from 'I'm Not An Answer',  

You're a drunken man
You're an animal
You name the place
'Cause we don't get along 

Tell me what to do
Come on, I dare you
You know you're responsible
Things should get rough

This seems to imply a fistfight is about to break out. Bearing in mind that, at this point, both Marky and Dee Dee were drinking heavily, and Joey and Johnny were already having a strained relationship. And from “Kicks to Try”: 

There's no, no rules to break
Sit here in my room and I cry
Another holiday
I wonder why 

I got one thing on my mind
I'm in trouble all the time
Met some guy who spat on me
It's the same every week

This is pretty miserable stuff, quite frankly. Certainly a lot of the fun seems to have gone out of the band.  

Everything's really banged up
Every day's like the last one

Then there's “Sleeping Troubles”: 

Now in the dark I am in bed 
Now I'm speaking with the dead

This is a very different Ramones to the band whose flippant, funny, clever songs made people shout with sheer joy when not dancing like dickheads to the utter noise they made.

In fact, if you didn't know the band's subsequent history, you'd swear the band were about to pack it in.

The rest of the demos form the “Pleasant Dreams Demos” bootleg LP. Twelve songs which, like the four outlined above, are a bit mufflier than we'd prefer but then, these are demos which have not been produced or boosted. “This Business is Killing Me”, for example, is a bit slower than the officially released version, and Joey's vocal isn't as confident or as clear.

Compared to both the original LP and the new RSD release, the demos are not perhaps essential, but they are interesting. “Yeah, Yeah” is another of Joey's bubblegum romance songs as much rooted in Buddy Holly as it is in the Supremes or the Crystals, it's sweet and wouldn't be out of place in a period film. That said, I assume it wasn't included in the LP itself because it wasn't quite complex enough – “7-11” and “Don't Go” have more depth. “Wasn't Looking For Love” is kinda a Ramones template. Oddly, I prefer the demo version of “Come On Now” to the released version, and the version of “KKK” to that on the LP; I'd argue that Joey's vocals are more spot-on.

The 'Pleasant Demos' tracklist is:

“Sitting in My Room”/ “She's a Sensation”/”She's a Sensation (take 2)”/ “Yeah, Yeah”/ “7-11”/ “Don't Go”/”This Business Is Killing Me”/ “Wasn't Looking For Love”/”'You Sound Like You're Sick”/ “The KKK Took My Baby Away”/”All's Quiet on the Eastern Front”/“Come On Now”

So, after six years of playing, touring and recording, the band, in some disarray but still determined to succeed, started work on their sixth album, again with a new producer. 

Joey: "We got pushed into using Gouldman. He'd written great songs for The Yardbirds, but he didn't understand us. He lacked aggression and depth... for the most part ‘Pleasant Dreams' wasn't us."

Joey's sensibility is more pop; Johnny favoured more short, sharp shocks to the system. You know, a return or recommitment to dirtier roots from their airbrushed chart height. This is the magical aspect to the Ramones, and one which seems to have caused them grief, rather than fame, dosh and better lives. The roughness of Johnny and Dee Dee, their cultural underbelly, these were the obvious drivers of what became conventional punk. Beginning to emerge from his OCD shell, I think it's fair to say that while Joey's pop mind was rooted in a strange, idealistic universe, he was also more willing to take risks with the band's sound in the pursuit of expanding the band's appeal. Johnny couldn't see it. A tragic shame there wasn't better, clearer communication between them. Imagine if they'd have made double their money each year from a tour with a fraction of the dates played.

Anyway, since the record company wanted those hits, boys, they brought in industry veteran and pop hitmaker Graham Gouldman (of 10cc fame) who, I think, took natural aim at the US charts. 

In hindsight, Joey's preference for Steve Lillywhite might have been more on the money, since their market was clearly modern UK - remember the impact of those early Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Members, XTC, Psychedelic Furs records? Peter Gabriel's “III”'? Surely, with the songs they'd amassed for “Pleasant Dreams”, the Ramones were better suited to a European audience.

Everett True cites Johnny; "I knew I was in trouble on the first day when (Gouldman) said, "Your amp is buzzing too much. Can you turn down your volume?" He wasn't right for the Ramones, that's all. We had no choice. Once you don't have the commercial success it's hard to maintain as much control over things as you'd like."

I'll just take a quick detour here, because this is incredibly important. The trajectory of the albums, including to “End of the Century”, include the recorded development of Johnny's guitar. The more you hear of that glorious buzzing, the shrieky swiping of his strings (a percussive force in more than one song), the more you want.

Maybe Gouldman hadn't listened closely to what the band had produced so far. Maybe he had. But to ditch Johnny's buzzing amp meant that a key part in the band's sound had been snapped off.

Perhaps True dismisses Johnny's other comments about Gouldman (found in the booklet by Ira Robbins in the “Pleasant Dreams” reissue); working with Gouldman "was easy - he was always a gentleman. He changed a lot of the songs: 'Here's a nice chord for the bridge, you should be playing a minor chord instead of a major chord,' things like that. He had ideas for harmonies and guitar parts that could be overdubbed. He also thought of bass parts."

True does make the point that, "as a bassist himself, Gouldman taught the Ramones to think of the bass as a melodic instrument, and introduced Dee Dee to the concept of minor chords."

Gouldman, again from the “Pleasant Dreams” 2002 reissue booklet; "I wasn't about to change them. There wasn't a lot of work to do. We changed arrangements slightly, but it was basic stuff ... If I suggested a guitar part and would show Johnny it, it had to sound like it came from him, or he wouldn't play it. Which I dug."

However, Johnny remained suspicious; ”I don't give a shit whether we get play or we don't; I don't care. All I want to do is keep our fans happy and not sell out. I'm fighting that within the band. They are trying to go lighter ... I'm against the band doing that." 

Of course, we can all see now that it was that extraordinary balance between the rough and the smooth, the pop and the drolly savage underbelly, which made the Ramones such a magnificent, constantly erupting force of nature. And, after the almost-almost success of ‘Road to Ruin’ they must have felt like fame and success was harder to get a hold of than a frightened soapy frog.

However ... the songs on “Pleasant Dreams” were credited to either Joey Ramone or Dee Dee Ramone; "for the first time on a Ramones album, songs were credited to individual writers - Joey wrote seven, and Dee Dee five. It was another crack in the gang façade," observes True.

Of course, when the songs are credited to everyone, that means that everyone feels they can tinker with them, suggest things. Input, change, development is a band thing. But when songs have a sole creator then it would be, mostly I think, inevitable that the sole creator would be more protective. 

Those first cracks came from a combination of things. Relentless touring, recording and working hard, the band began to have what some bands excuse as “creative differences”. The Ramones didn't renew their manager's contracts at the beginning of the year, and after making the Ed Stasium demos, Joey's girlfriend Linda left Joey for Johnny (it was, apparently, something of an open secret that Johnny had been seeing her) with the result that, “by March 1981, Joey and Johnny had stopped speaking entirely."

Joey: "Johnny crossed the line with me concerning my girlfriend ... creating total conflict with me ... he destroyed the relationship and the band right there ..."

John Holmstrom; "She started going out with Joey and then she started cheating on Joey with Johnny. This broke Joey's heart ..."

"Dee Dee's behaviour was becoming increasingly erratic, fuelled by the drug addiction. Joey and Marky were lushes...the turmoil was starting", remarked Johnny dryly.

As a signifier of how fractured the group were, Dee Dee wasn't even aware that Russell Mael was on the album [as a backing vocalist] until Joey mentioned it in a later interview.

Joey: "During the 'Pleasant Dreams' period we lost a lot of our fans. They didn't know where we were going."

Garry Gray: "I think the Ramones were a fan's band as opposed to a musicians band. A comic book."

I'll disagree here. Sure, that's how they portrayed themselves. A be-all and end-all. A comic, a gang, caricatures, not people. And there's that expectation thing again. A grown-up should no more expect a performer to be the same as when they were first discovered, or a band to remain the same over the many decades. After five albums, it would only be natural for a band tied to a cartoonish portrayal of themselves to want to be perceived more broadly. No-one wants to live in a series of boxes. It's a prison sentence (as the Beatles discovered).

For my money, the original fans started to wonder was going on around the time of “End of the Century”. Sure, it had a couple of classic hits, and several more classic songs. But it's not a great album. Were the band going to continue down this path? 

pleasant dreams demosThe demos for “Pleasant Dreams” reveal the potential for an incredible album. If only Spector had been a more rational producer, instead of how he appears to have been (a small insecure man dwarfed by his mansion, reputation and fears of inadequacy) then he would have been a shoo-in to produce their next album.

A brisk listen, then, to the original “Pleasant Dreams”; I find myself thinking this is damned hard to take. In terms of the songs alone, without thinking too much of the five previous LPs, with two exceptions this is a great Ramones LP. 

But it isn't, and it wasn't, and we can't go back. Nostalgia is where we look back and edit history, and has its own pitfalls of expectation.

What I was then, I am not now, and I can see myself all those years ago, lost in my little bubble of definitive this and binary that.

“Pleasant Dreams” begins with what must be the lamest manifesto in the history of r'n'r: “We Want the Airwaves”. I loathed it then and I loathe it now, “weight-watchers” Ramones with proto-sentiments akin to “we built this city on rock and roll'”(a vile song to which we all know the words). 

“We Want the Airwaves” has a pissy tempo, pissy phased guitar, the whole pissy smooth humourlessness is just so...pissy. Even the second verse's "Mr. Programmer/I got my hammer/ And I am going to/ Smash my/ Smash my/ Radio". I found this song, and still find it, icky and gag-worthy. Especially the “let's rock/ tonight” nonsense. Context? “We Want the Airwaves” is no “Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio”, which opened “End of the Century” like revolution. Not even close!

No, I don't begrudge da brudders from wanting to crack the charts. Of course not. But surely not with weak, gimmicky sludge like this; they got their initial audience on-side with relatable, bad-taste, wry funny songs; a deadpan, in-joke fun-house mirror in which their audience recognises themselves. Their circumstances were less than ideal but fuck it, y'know? All of that vanishes in “We Want the Airwaves”. I mean, alright, there's an element of expectation. Of course there is. Lemmy never sang falsetto, did he? But it's really not that, certainly not compared with the rest of the LP. In fact, had the rest of the LP been as fucking lame I wouldn't be writing this.

Hell, if they wanted an anthemic statement of purpose, a manifesto, the LP should open with Dee-Dee's “All’s Quiet on the Eastern Front”: sure, the chorus of "Watch the watch the way I walk/ Can't you think my movements talk?" is different from many Ramones songs, but so absurdly catchy you can almost see the film clip on MTV (no, no film clip was made for this one) and the cross-over onto mainstream radio; it's right up there with “Stayin' Alive”.

Anyway. On this original issue, then, while Joey's marvellous vocals are more or less front and centre where they should be, the band just seem to trundle along in the background like a bus in the next street. Take “KKK”, where the band are really cutting changes like swinging hammers, but are just not forceful. “It's Not My Place” just doesn't seem...vivid. That said, Joey has a tendency to drop his vocal down so that unless his balance is shifted up at certain points he sounds like he's mumbling. 

There's a big increase of nuance and range in Joey's vocals on “Pleasant Dreams” - but on this original issue you really have to make your ears squint to hear even a skerrick of it. The Ramones were craftsmen, if not artists, and Joey has a killer voice, but ... it ain't obvious on the original issue.

Oh, sure, the harmonies are in keeping with Joey's pop sensibilities, as is what sounds like (at some points) an orchestra. I can see “Come On Now” being a hit, with the right clip and push (although I don't like the song that much, the lyrics are mostly ok). But not “We Want the Airwaves”. Even given the standards of the period, the clip's pretty lame too. 

And don't mention the record company's bizarre choices for the US single; “We Want the Airwaves” ('nuff said), and the two UK singles; “She's a Sensation” and “The KKK Took My Baby Away”, fair enough I suppose, but “All's Quiet on the Eastern Front” and “Don't Go” were B-sides? What? “This Business Is Killing Me” or “Sitting In My Room” not singles either? Jeeeeez. The record manufacturers really missed opportunities here - not only did Da Bruddas look the part for these songs, when you play the songs you can almost see the film-clip, they're that evocative. 

Alright, so had “Pleasant Dreams” been given sufficient push with sufficient smarts by the cement company (and the band some decent personal guidance - hahahaha as if) all those years ago, I reckon “Pleasant Dreams” might've been a damn big hit. Horrible cover, by the way; total misrepresentation of the band and what they were about. The RSD issue's cover boasts “original alternate cover art” and I have to say that doesn't cut it either - the front cover certainly doesn't reflect what's inside. Risibly, the “Pleasant Demos” bootleg LP cover is far more spot-on.

What was the professional's verdict on 'Pleasant Dreams'?

"For me, it was the perfect combination," says Janis Schacht, who also worked with 10cc as a PR. "If they'd let Graham change the lyrics a bit, the album would have had major hits. 'The KKK Took My Baby Away' had the best melody ever, but difficult lyrics - with a few minor changes, it would have been Number One, no problem."

"Their subject matter stopped them being more popular, without a doubt," agrees filmmaker George Seminara, "the whole concept, the way they looked ... the mechanism that the Ramones hated from the beginning kept them down. When the Ramones played Forest Hills Tennis Court, Seymour brought along his new signing and said she was going to be the biggest thing in the world, and Joey was like, "Yeah, she's cute, but I can't see it." It was Madonna. She was willing to do what it took. The Ramones weren't."

I suppose that's one way of looking at it. At this point I recall several points where I realised that what I was aiming for wasn't what I wanted, not really, and that I wouldn't be remotely content if I tried to fill those shoes; not without a certain amount of emotional angst, I changed my path. No, I'm not happy. But I'm more comfortable, and I'm somehow on the right side of the dirt. 

So, er, back to the review, if that's what this is. What is the Record Store Day issue of “Pleasant Dreams”?

Okay, first, it's not the original Ed Stasium demos. These tracks were all recorded with Graham Gouldman as producer; and there are several differences to the original LP.

First, most of the brought-in harmonies, Gouldman's backing tracks and the softening gloss have all been removed. The Vaseline has been scraped away. The guitar is up, the bass clearer, and Joey's vocal is stronger and clearer. You can really hear - and fall into - Joey's voice now. And the Ramones sound like a band again, rather than...some blokes on an FM-chummy album. 

All of a sudden “Pleasant Dreams” has a crisply-stamped identity. That doesn't lessen Gouldman's role as producer, by the way - as we know, producers straddle a delicate line between being band mother and headmaster; their job, like that of a film producer, is to get the tracks done on time and within budget, mix 'em so they shine, and then sprinkle fairy dust on them so that the muggins public (that's you and me) will buy the LP and recoup the cement company's generous investment and further enrich them. 

Sorry, did I say cement company? I meant, record company. 

Second, the track listing is different. Side One is the same tracks in the same order, with the addition of Joey's “I Can't Get You Out Of My Mind” to close the side. Side Two ditches “Come On Now” (which - urgh, to me it just sounds like a forced version of “Let's Dance”) in favour of one of the last songs all four Ramones wrote together, “Sleeping Troubles”. The last song on Side Two is also an extra track, “Touring”, a Joey/Johnny song. The two extra songs were also recorded with Ed Stasium before the Joey/Johnny silence in March 1981; given that Joey is singing about going on tour with his arm around his girlfriend, I guess it's not surprising the song was ditched.

So, what's it all sound like?

Fresh, vibrant, and like the Ramones never went away, to be honest. But also - critically - you can see their gigantic development. Sure, their pop sparks are right out to the fore but also, the way they play is so bloody forceful it gets you awake. 

You know, I almost can't believe I dismissed this LP in 1981, but Gouldman's production presented the band as a thing I couldn't stomach. Typical selfish fan expectations, btw: 'this isn't the Ramones! How dare they change their sound!'

That said, “We Want The Airwaves”, with that guitar plucking sound ... no crashing chords, still strikes me as a seriously unexciting beginning for any LP. Sure, it's supposed to be a manifesto demanding your attention, which is an understandable emotion after so many years of touring and so much hard work for seriously fuck-all, but ... it's still the lamest song on the LP. So they're going for something different, but ... “let's rock tonight”... ugh. What path is this? AC/DC lite? that phased guitar or whatever it is ... just sounds like a band trying to sound "modern".


Actually, I reckon it's this first song which really dumps “Pleasant Dreams” because it sets up such a poor expectation for the rest. I can imagine reviewers giving up halfway through it, then skipping over the rest of the first side, then delivering a smart-arse verdict. Over the years I think a lot of LPs have suffered this fate. (One being Hunters and Collectors' “Fireman's Curse” - on relistening, I thought the songs had been ordered strangely; rearranging them makes a much more dynamic LP - except one song, which ... etc etc). 

I mean, come on. The Clash LP, “Cut the Crap” is, I'm sure, a good LP by most people's standards (ED: Er, no), but I found it dull because I couldn't get past what the Clash had achieved with their previous LPs. 

By contrast to “Airwaves”, Dee Dee's “All Quiet on the Eastern Front” is up-tempo, delightful back-to-the-real-Ramones with solid forward development: catchy, modern, evocative, beautiful. Here's the main lyric;

See me silently quietly creep
I am too amped up to sleep
Lamp rays shining down
Street lamps make the buzzing sound
Subway creaking down below
Garbage piled up and ready to go

 Lock the windows the gates on
Taxi in the distance coming along
Stalking the streets till the break of day
New York beauty take my breath away
Near some cats but dogs don't bark
Cool cats strolling after dark

Quite honestly, if I'd read that lyric at the time, I would've bought the LP new. The song itself should've lead the LP, and surely, surely should've been the single in both the US and UK markets. 

“The KKK Took My Baby Away”; there's so much more clarity here; where Johnny's fingers swipe the strings, before it was almost background; here, it's an essential percussion. Relentlessly simplistic... 

Ringing, ringing, ringing
Up the President
And find out
Where my baby went
Ringing, ringing, ringing
Up the FBI
And find out if
My baby's alive
Yeah, yeah, yeah

At the time the LP was released Joey said, "I must've written 'KKK' about seven years ago ..."; maybe so, but for almost everyone else who sees the main Ramones documentary, the song is about how Johnny Ramone stole Joey Ramone's girl. Why it was released in the UK, where the KKK is more a distant myth than a vile reality.. it couldn't have been a single in the USA, of course....

This incarnation of “Don't Go” is equally wonderful, with Joey's vocals so clear - he really was the baton-carrier for the Sixties' girl bands. And he wrote better lyrics than some of those Sixties hits, by the by. 

She wouldn't do what I wanted her to
She wouldn't do it for me

Rather makes you wonder if Joey wrote this about Linda. 

Dee Dee's “You Sound Like You're Sick” could easily be an out-take from any of the first four studio LPs, basically. 

“It's Not My Place”...well, listen. Surely this is a bona-fide number one smash hit? It's fucking incredible to hear this song so clear and glittery. All those beautifully worked changes, you can really feel a kinship with Joey's words ...

Don't want to be a working stiff lose my identify
Cause when it comes to working nine to five there ain't no place for me 
Ain't my reality
To me

To these ears, “I Can't Get You Out of My Mind” is slightly anomalous by comparison with the rest of the LP, which is probably why it didn't make the final cut. It's a damn fine, yearning romantic song. With a bit of work, it could equally easily make a top 40 hit - strings and more harmonies and whatnot. It's a great example of what Graham Gouldman brought to the Ramones, that potential the band had to bridge the gap between rawk'n'dirtyass clubs, and the gloss and posture of MTV. And, it didn't make the original LP. Ha.

Around about now I'm realising just what a killer LP “Pleasant Dreams” is, or rather, should have been. I don't just mean, “Gee, Gouldman shoulda this or shoulda that”. No, he knew the business in its day alright, and his job was to make the Ramones fit into that. He failed, of course, because the Ramones knew what they wanted, which was to plough their own furrow, and bend the airwaves to their perception of American pop and culture. They weren't in this to reflect what mainstream American culture was, but bend the underbelly back up through a manhole and into the light of day. 

See, when you appreciated the Ramones, you were essentially part of their gang of alienated misfits - not because you'd joined, but because you were one of them. One of us, one of us. On hearing them, you entered, and your world became more real, a broader thing. Seeing yourself in a metal mirror in a jail toilet. 

Like many other bands, of course, such an attitude is utterly unrealistic - but then again ... we can all name dozens of bands who changed the acceptable face of pop by dragging the mainstream under their umbrella. The Beatles or Bowie, for example; Led Zeppelin, or Alice Cooper, KISS or even The Police all spring to mind. 

For what's it's worth, I reckon “She's a Sensation” could also have been the second song, rather than being relegated to the second side. It would've been far more familiar for their audience; it's an incredibly straightforward romantic pop song, but it's so strong it'd difficult to believe Joey's not singing about his feelings for a real woman. 

She's a sensation
She's a sensation
I'm gonna make her mine 

No matter what you do
I give my heart to you
And oh, oh, baby
I will give it to you

No matter what they say
Yeah, we can find a way
And oh, oh, baby
We can find a way

Mind, this “make her mine” thing ... I know it's been a staple of romantic songs for yonks - including many of Joey's - but I've never understood it. I recall hearing "Every Breath You Take" and being quite disquieted; deranged possessive or what? 

But oh, yeah. Men. We tend to have a streak of overkill in us, don't we? When we mistakenly think 'our need' is 'love', when it's frustrated expectation. And we only realise what chumps we are - if we ever do - when it's waaaay too late. 

“7-11” reminds me of those glorious American 1950s romantic songs, blended with elements from a 'gimmick' songs (what with the car crash and all). I mean, sure, you can hear the Spectoresque here. Back before he became an isolated, deranged dickbag in a horrid wig.

“You Didn't Mean Anything to Me” is another one of Dee Dee's, and if anything, it's in the style of some of Joey's romantic songs, but it's a parody of the yearning and happy ever after schtick. Typically Dee Dee, it's flip and funny with a hefty wedge of tragedy. 

We got to get away, another lawn to mow
We had our last chance, I think I told you so
Every dinner was crummy even the ones for free
I was ready to pack it up, forget the agony

It's an overlooked gem for sure. Dee Dee might, of course, be singing about a girl, or ... he might be singing about being in the Ramones ...

And of course, this version is so much brighter than the muddier original.

Have I mention yet that while this RSD incarnation of “Pleasant Dreams” has a lot more clarity, it's also a lot darker? I'm afraid I find "Come On Now", with it's bright and breezy up-lit wonderland, to be rather risible (though the lyrics aren't bad:

I'm just a junk food guy
Now I'm telling you why
I'm living at the matinee, yeah
I just want to sleep and play, yeah

...which is pretty much how I would've been happy to live, but you know, stuff got in the way, like stuff does. Anyway.

“Come On Now” is swapped for one of the last songs the band wrote together as a unit, the considerably darker “Sleeping Troubles”.

Sleeping troubles are not new 
Everything aborts you 
Sleeping troubles are not new

and then

Now I wish for sleep at night 
Even though it doesn't quite
Now it's dark I am in bed 
Now I'm sleeping with the dead 

This is followed by Joey's “This Business Is Killing Me”.

You work, you work, you write all night
Until the early morning light
Can't please all the people all the time
All the people all the time
But then they don't please me

Then there's Dee Dee's “Sitting in My Room”, "humming a sickening tune ... we know what we think of them/ the problems just keep piling in/ they got complaints about everything" ... Just speculation, but what if this isn't (as has been suggested) just referencing the demands of the cement company? What if these words are also about the band? 'It's us against them'... sure. The cement company. "Maybe they should try to sniff some glue". 

The last track is ”Touring” which, nearly 30 years after the band split, gives us a clearer snapshot into the band at this point, makeup removed. Apart from a couple of lines which don't quite work ("let's go 500 miles to Mexico ... let's go 200 miles to Tokyo"... er, righto), it's bloody funny and - unlike “We Want the Airwaves”, far more of an honest anthem about the rock'n'roll the Ramones knew and were dedicated to, and a perfect finish to the LP, da Bruddas cruising on down the highway in their shitty old van.

Drive, drive, drive the night away
Straight on through to the break of day
Drive, drive, drive the night away
Well, it's in your blood, it's in your blood

I'm sure it was ditched because it was too much a reminder that the Ramones were slugging it out in crappy clubs for shrapnel instead of being the glamorous stars the Ramones - and the cement company - wanted them to be. No, “Touring” was not something that sat well with mom and pop on the front porch in the hit parade. It's not even one for the Al Bundys of the world. One line, though, stands out like the proverbial dog's balls on a birthday cake;

Touring, touring, is never boring touring, touring, oh baby, touring
Especially with your favourite girl now

Joey wrote the lyrics before Linda left him, and before he began his silent treatment of Johnny. Probably another reason the song didn't make the LP. Joey stuck to his integrity and his principles. I kinda wish he hadn't. After all, he'd written several breakup songs, so this wasn't a new thing to him. And, after the pain ... you change and become someone slightly different. Sure, it's hard. That's why people buy love songs; they identify with them.

With it's sardonic title, “Pleasant Dreams” (like “We're A Happy Family”) is a snapshot of despair shot through with beauty, and it really is a portrait of a band who, like The New York Dolls or Iggy and The Stooges or the MC5, really should've been humungous stars. But you know, life. 

If you like any Ramones songs after “Pleasant Dreams”, then you should thank whatever providence or faith in human stubbornness that the Ramones actually continued, in any form, after recording this LP. 

Let me emphasise, I find it utterly incredible that the band didn't split up at this point (and I am still amazed that more bands don't pull knives on each other, hastily burying the errant drummer/bass player/guitarist/singer by the side of the road).

From one of the other demos prior to recording with Gouldman, “Kicks to Try”, it seems that disillusion has well and truly set in; "There's no new rules to break/ sitting in my room and I cry ... there's some guys that I meet/ It's the same thing every week".

So let this be a lesson to me. Expectations prevent us from seeing what's right in front of us. In the immediacy and immediate demand of youth, there are important things we need to do right now. Decades on ... jesus, is that me? With the stupid hair and the awkward, self-conscious pose? 

Those big personas that made us what we thought we were and what we are, somehow, today, are either dead or gonna die. It's a simple equation. 

Older us's learn that personas exist for a reason, and at one time we responded to them for our own reasons, many of which we didn't understand, couldn't recognise, or were in denial about. Much of this is to do with a search not necessarily for identity, or a 'sense of belonging', but a desire not to be what we despise or dislike. We set up expectations of what we don't want to be. We need to be ourselves, and it takes experimentation to achieve that. Some of us, of course, take a hell of a long time to come to that realisation. Others, well. Yep, they're still that revolting bepimpled eleven-year old creep selling pictures of their sister.

If you saw the Ramones, particularly in the period with Tommy behind the kit, you can consider yourself damn lucky. If you saw the Ramones at all after that ... well. The world spins and turns and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Poor Joey. Sure, Johnny cheated on the one person he shouldn't have cheated on - the romantic in the band, the man whose unique gifts perfectly offset Johnny and Dee Dee, the man whose personality transformed the band from being just a rock'n'roll band into a band who shoulda, coulda, nah they never, but what if they ... changed the world AND made it big? 

But it takes two to tango, remember; Linda made a choice, and once she'd chosen, the reality was out of Joey's hands. Hell, would he have preferred her to come back to him, ffs? He'd never have been able to trust her, and would always suspect she'd be comparing the two ... and so he stuck to what he knew. His OCD wouldn't have helped. Decisions, expectations, youth, stubbornness ... Another attitude might've been to ... be the Joey Ramone who is in demand with the ladies!

Look. For anyone to remain so determinedly bitter, to perpetuate a rift in a strife-riven band with a man who, at rock bottom, looked on the Ramones as a business, was...let's say naive. In March 1981 Joey's choices were simple - quit the band; break up the band (the following year, before they went in to record their seventh LP, “Subterranean Jungle”, "both Joey and Johnny talked about quitting, but neither would"); or find a diplomatic solution to dealing with Johnny as ... let's say ... a work colleague

If that sounds like a bunch of shit solutions, I've seen deceitful rogering in the workplace trainwreck a tight-running office and turn morale into a sewer of rotating loathing (while the gutless cause of all the misery and self-loathing sat smirkily in his office pumping weights), so treating someone like just another drone is a damn sight more pleasant than refusing to talk to them - because that makes the entire tour bus feel like shit. Why would you put everyone through this horror show? 

Only, I suppose, if it didn't occur to you that you didn't need to, and that emotionally, there was no other way.

The Ramones, to my mind, typify so many of the most lovely and the most horrible traits of humanity. Our stubbornness when really, mate, you need to lighten up and let it go. Our romantic streak; yes, men really do have a romantic streak, but all too often we're viewing a persona, or a construct, instead of the person in front of us. When our expectations are thwarted, we become angry and blameful.

“Pleasant Dreams” is the Ramones' most pivotal moment. If you rate those early LPs, this is their most important LP after “Road to Ruin”; after that, I think it's “Too Tough To Die” and maybe “Animal Boy” (which I only vaguely recall now, must get it) and then, well ... reading the Ramones story, struggling and fighting to the bitter fucking end ... it's pretty fucking tragic.

I'm sure you're familiar with tragedy, and it's a damn sight more vile when you have it in your face than when you read about a band whose personas you once embraced as your twin spirit.

None of our friends deserve to die, and I'm sure you don't. But everyone dies, as did Darwin, Monk, Brando, Jung; as did Ren, Martin, Tony, Rob; as did Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny, Tommy, as did Ian, Tim and Ross; and as will you and I.