Road to Ruin is the fourth studio album by the American punk rock band The Ramones, released on September 21, 1978, through Sire Records. It was the first Ramones album to feature new drummer Marky Ramone, who replaced founding member Tommy Ramone. Tommy left due to lack of album sales and stress while touring; however, he stayed with the band to produce the album with Ed Stasium. The artwork's concept was designed by Ramones fan Gus MacDonald, and later modified by John Holmstrom to included Marky instead of Tommy.
The songs on Road to Ruin were considered by both fans and critics as an attempt to get the band more airplay. The album incorporated musical elements which were unheard of in punk rock, such as guitar solos and ballads. The difference in style caused for mixed reviews by critics, with many pointing out that the band was trying to sell more records through a change in form. This attempt by the band failed, as Road to Ruin debuted at 103 on the Billboard 200, nearly 50 places behind its predecessor Rocket to Russia.
After the band's previous album Rocket to Russia saw poor album sales, drummer Tommy Ramone left his performing position to focus primarily on producing for the band. After Tommy suggested they search for a new drummer, they began looking in New York City based clubs. While at CBGB, Ramones bassist Dee Dee Ramone approached Marc Bell (Marky Ramone)—who had previously been the drummer in Richard Hell and the Voidoids—asking him if he was interested in joining the Ramones. A month after this confrontation, Bell was invited by Danny Fields and Monte Melnick to audition for the band. Around twenty others auditioned to be drummer, with Tommy overseeing the final choice. Bell played "I Don't Care" and "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" and each member agreed to allow him into the band.
Three weeks after Marky joined the band, the Ramones began recording Road to Ruin in Midtown Manhattan at Media Sound Studios, a premises of a former Episcopalian Church. Album engineer Ed Stasium explained the recording process: "After Tommy left the band, we went straight into working on the Road to Ruin album with Marky. We rehearsed a long time with Marky, just getting it down. Then we went into the studio, recorded, and mixed the record at Media Sound. We spent a lot of money, and the entire summer, on Road to Ruin." Music critic John Young of Rolling Stone called the album's production "clean and simple," but pointed out that the track "Bad Brain" contained "funny noises" in between drum beats, which prevents the song from having the humorous asperity that was intended.
The artwork's concept was originated by Ramones fan Gus MacDonald, who illustrated of the members performing with a lobster claw coming out of an amplifier and a snake around their feet. Following the drawing's completion, MacDonald sent it to the band and they decided to make it their Road to Ruin album cover. This sketch did, however, include original drummer Tommy, so the drawing had to be modified to depict Marky instead. This alteration was undergone by artist John Holmstrom, a Punk magazine associate and designer.
Being the first Ramones release to run over thirty minutes total, the album introduced many characteristics which were previously unheard of in punk rock, such as guitar solos, acoustic rhythm guitars, andballads. These attributes were debated on by the band's fans as well as critics, who questioned whether these changes were to expand their musical fashion or the band was simply selling out and abandoning their punk rock edge. Though "Bad Brain," "I Wanted Everything," and "I'm Against It" each serve as basic punk songs to intensify the behavior of the audience, the most popular tracks on the album are the pieces which part from their initial style.
|"I Wanna Be Sedated"MENU 0:00 "I Wanna Be Sedated" was described by author Brian Bowe as one of the band's "most classic" pieces of music. After a show in London, Joey told manager Linda Stein: "Put me in a wheelchair and get me on a plane before I go insane." This quote would be the chorus to "I Wanna Be Sedated," whose lyrics invoke the stress which the band was under during touring.----|
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"Road to Ruin reflected not just the Ramone's enduring love for Sixties pop, but a nagging desire to expand beyond the confines of 120 seconds in search of a new vocabulary of harmonic hooks, albeit linked to the guitar-crunching sonics established on their first three albums."—Tommy Ramone
The album opens with the midtempo piece "I Just Want to Have Something to Do," which contains lyrics pertaining to ambivalence and anomie. In the song, Joey manages to rhyme "Second Avenue" with "chicken vindaloo." The next track, "I Wanted Everything," is compared to Merle Haggard's song "If We Make It Through December," being called its "punk counterpart" by Rock: A Canadian Perspective author Larry Starr. "Questioningly" is a ballad focusing on failing relationships and heartbreak. "Don't Come Close" uses elements which can also be heard in country music, such astwang.
"She's the One" suggests that the band will continue making records, while "Needles and Pins" is a cover of the The Searchers' song "Needles and Pins." Rolling Stone critic Charles Young noted that the song could have easily been a joke, but was not since Joey "really puts his guts into these antiquated but beautiful lyrics and pulls it off." "I Wanna Be Sedated" was written by Joey while in the hospital where he was treated for burns on his face and in his throat. The injury was the result of an exploding kettle full of boiling water which served to treat sinuses. The album concludes with "It's a Long Way Back," which was written by Dee Dee and depicts his childhood in Germany.
With the band's slight change in musical style, material included on the album was intended to gain a sense of mainstream acceptance, though the band members felt as though this was not achieved.Tommy relates: "Road to Ruin was a flop Stateside, even though it had been a very deliberate attempt to secure American radioplay." The album's lack of commercial success showed for a negative impact on the member's morale, and this exasperation would continue into the band's future records and tours. On the US Billboard 200, Road to Ruin peaked at number 103, while on the UK Albums Chart it reached 32. The album also debuted at 25 on the Swedish Sverigetopplistan chart. The drive to sell more albums in the United States failed, which is evident when comparing the charting positions to Road to Ruin's predecessor Rocket to Russia, which peaked at 49 on the Billboard 200.
Initially, the album received mixed reviews from critics. Roy Trakin of the New York Rocker called the album "uneven" and "sometimes lazy," and preferred Tommy's drumming style over Markys, writing: "his light, distinctive, jazz-influenced drumming is sorely missed on Road to Ruin as Marky is of the heads-down basher school." Rolling Stone critic Charles Young noted that the album is not as humorous or influential as their debut, but that the band is not at all "losing its grip." He observes that the band modified their style because "dumb" people did not understand the music, while "smart" people did. Young also inquired that "I Wanna Be Sedated" was the album's "killer cut," comparing it to "Blitzkrieg Bop," "Loudmouth," and "Cretin Hop."
Critical acclaim for the album did not fully transpire until many decades after its release. AllMusic senior editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave the album 4.5 out 5 stars, saying the album fails to "yield the same results as the other records." He went onto examine that their music sounds as if they were playing only to sell records, and that since the band was still in its prime "such nondescript material sounds good, but the record has neither the exuberant energy or abundant hooks." Music critic Robert Christgau wrote that the album was constantly "topping itself," and implied that each track on the album was very listenable except "Bad Brain," which he called "repetitious."
All songs written and composed by Ramones; except where indicated.
|1.||"I Just Want to Have Something to Do"||2:42|
|2.||"I Wanted Everything"||3:18|
|3.||"Don't Come Close"||2:44|
|4.||"I Don't Want You"||2:26|
|5.||"Needles and Pins" (The Searchers cover)||Sonny Bono, Jack Nitzsche||2:21|
|6.||"I'm Against It"||2:07|
|7.||"I Wanna Be Sedated"||2:29|
|10.||"She's the One"||2:13|
|12.||"It's a Long Way Back"||2:20|
|2001 Expanded Edition CD (Warner Archives/Rhino) bonus tracks|
|13.||"I Want You Around" (Ed Stasium version)||3:02|
|14.||"Rock 'n' Roll High School" (Ed Stasium version)||Joey Ramone/Johnny Ramone/Dee Dee Ramone||2:20|
|15.||"Blitzkrieg Bop"/"Teenage Lobotomy"/"California Sun"/"Pinhead"/"She's the One" (Live)||Ramones, Henry Glover, Morris Levy||11:00|
|16.||"Come Back, She Cried aka I Walk Out" (Demo)||2:21|
|17.||"Yea, Yea" (Demo)||Joey Ramone||2:08|
- Tracks 13-14 first issued on Hey Ho! Let's Go: The Anthology, Rhino #75817 (7/20/99)
- Track 15 is from the original soundtrack album Rock 'n' Roll High School, Sire #6070 (4/79). Produced & Engineered by Ed Stasium. Remix Engineer: Joel Soifer
- Track 16 is Previously unreleased. Outtake from Road to Ruin sessions.
- Track 17 was first issued on All the Stuff (And More!) Volume 2, Sire #26618 (7/91). Produced by Tommy Erdelyi, written by Joey Ramone. Recorded during demo sessions for Pleasant Dreams.
The following personnel can be verified with AllMusic.