Album: Too Tough To Die
. . .
Maybe because Tommy was in the producer’s chair for the first time since Road to Ruin way back in 1978, the Ramones eighth album, 1984’s Too Tough To Die was hailed as a comeback. But man, I never heard it as such.
I actually heard it as a bit of a mess: Johnny’s instrumental co-existing with Dee Dee’s hardcore songs co-existing with the big keyboard-driven epics smack in the middle added up to an album that was lacking in something. And that something was melody.
That’s what I was missing, the pop part of their equation. Which is why I gravitated to the big songs in the middle: all of which had memorable melodies, though I kinda hated the keyboards on “Chasing The Night,” I loved them on the single, “Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)” which were played the the great Benmont Tench.
“Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)” was clearly intended to be the big breakthrough, as not only was it not produced by Tommy, it was produced by Dave Stewart, who in 1984 was one of the hottest names in music. And while I would argue that he definitely overproduced it by a half, especially on the bridge, Joey’s incessant “Sha-la-la-las” and the Walter Lure guitar solo that mimicked them won me over.
As did the great chorus that Dee Dee wrote:
I took the law and threw it away
Because there’s nothing wrong
It’s just for play
There’s no law, no law anymore
I want to steal from the rich and
Give to the poor
And while I’m sure that Johnny wasn’t all that happy about the lyrics, it wouldn’t the first time — and sure as shit wouldn’t be the last — where he played on a song that contradicted his political ideology, plus nobody who loves rock ‘n’ roll could possibly resist Joey’s utterly playful chants of “oh baby”, coming on like a resurrected Elvis Presley.
Why is this song different from all other Ramones songs?
For the second half of the 1980s, the Ramones would put out songs that were long self-conscious anthems — a few of which I’ll be writing about — and while one could they were creating self-conscious songs as far back as “Blitzkreig Bop,” and anthems as far back as, well “Blitzkreig Bop,” they were always short and tough-sounding
But “Howling at the Moon” was the first Ramones song you could imagine U2 covering without embarrassing themselves too much. It wouldn’t be the last.
“Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La-La)”
“Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La-La)” official music video
Did you miss a Certain Song? Follow me on Twitter: @barefootjim
The Certain Songs Database
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.
Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)
Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page