The Ramones Vs. Phil Spector: The Story Of 'End Of The Century'

By | April 29, 2019

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Portrait of the Ramones from the back cover of 'End Of The Century;' Phil Spector at a press conference at the Magic Castle circa 1978 in Los Angeles, California. Source:; Brad Elterman/FilmMagic

Pop masterpieces of yesteryear were the specialty of Phil Spector. The Ramones played punk rock based on the same classic structures. It was the end of the '70s and the end of the century. Was it time for the raw rockers from Queens to mix it up? Could Phil Spector bend them to his will the way he'd done with girl groups like The Crystals and The Ronettes? You know what they say about the unstoppable force and the immovable object -- this team-up, for an album called End Of The Century (1980), would be like taking a buzz saw to the famed Wall Of Sound. 

The Ramones may have not invented punk rock, but they gave it a style and a kind of sloppy finesse. As any tortured genius can tell you, it doesn’t pay to be ahead of your time, so The Ramones sought out a producer who could take their sound to the next level and get them on rock n roll radio. Enter: Phil Spector.

Throughout the ‘60s Phil Spector racked up a series of hits with artists like The Crystals, The Ronettes, and the Righteous Brothers. While The Ramones (Joey especially) were influenced by Spector’s pop hooks and Wall Of Sound recording technique, they quickly found that working with the eccentric producer wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

The stories behind The Ramones’ work with Spector constitute an unknown history, with some players long in the ground and the rest telling variations on a variation of the same story. The sessions for End of the Century produced a good album that’s not as fun as the group’s earlier material, but it showed that no matter what a producer did to The Ramones they were always going to be some weirdoes from Queens. 

Phil Spector Was Too Much Of A Perfectionist For The Ramones

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The Ramones weren’t used to the pop perfectionism of a producer like Phil Spector. He was a notorious taskmaster when it came to his artists, often requiring take after take of a song to make sure it was perfect. Prior to working with Spector, the band had only worked with their friend Ed Stasium, or their former band drummer and manager Tommy Ramone to knock out an album in a couple of weeks.

The Ramones didn’t keep their disdain for Spector a secret. In a 1982 video interview Johnny Ramones let loose on Spector’s drive for perfection:

Working with Phil was very difficult because I guess he’s a perfectionist so he likes to spend a lot of time redoing things and re-listening and it’s very time consuming. It’s very hard for us. Rock n roll’s got to be very spontaneous and a little faster.

Dee Dee agreed:

I like beauty to be instant. Not to be labored over, I don’t like music to be a hustle. I think we can just go into a studio and do it and not be frustrated. Phil seemed to be frustrated with us… He wasn’t the most friendly guy I’ve ever met. He tried to be friendly but then he had his guns on him and he wouldn’t let me out of his house for a couple of days.