Ramones 80s album Halfway to Sanity is 34 years old today. Some people say that all Ramones song sound the same. That’s completely crap if you played this album in between their first (Ramones) and their last (Adios Amigos) they all sound different.
Halfway to Sanity is Ramones 10th studio album and their last album to feature drummer Richie Ramone. Richie left he band before the tour for the album began. He was pissed off that he didn’t get a share of merchandise sales. I think that’s fair enough, his name was on the logo seal t-shirts. On this album he’s credited for two songs ‘I Know Better Now’ and ‘I’m Not Jesus’.
The albums opens with ‘I Wanna Live’ written by Dee Dee Ramone and Daniel Rey. It’s the albums second single with the b side being ‘Merry Xmas I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight’. It’s probably the most well known song on the album. Bop ‘Til You Drop is the second song with Joey’s deep vocals coming in. I’d rather bop to the blitzkrieg bop. Garden Of Serenity has a hard rock metal feel about it than it is punk. The album jumps with the hardcore punk song ‘Weasel Face’ a fast upbeat track that’s more familiar with Ramones. ‘Go Lil’ Camaro Go’ is a catchy bubblegum Beach Boys influenced song featuring backup vocals by Deborah Harry.
The music changes to a hard rock song from Richie Ramone’s ‘I Know Better Now’. Lyrically it’s just about someone’s who’s grown up and knows better. ‘Death of Me’ is one of three songs on the album written by Joey Ramone. Another hard rock, soft metal sound with Joey’s deep snarls in the chorus. It’s still a catchy song and I can’t help to not sing along.
One, Two, Three, Four!
Dee Dee smashes in with the iconic 1234 for his song ‘I Lost My Mind’ and he’s on lead vocals. A fun fast punk song with a great touch of insanity. Real Cool Time written by Joey Ramone. The first single of the album, a pop song with a catchy chorus that has a 60s feel about it. When I first saw the track on the album I thought they covered The Stooges ‘Real Cool Time’. I kinda wish they covered that, or called this something else.
The last song by Ramones to feature one written by Richie Ramone is ‘I’m Not Jesus’. It shows that Ramones could blast out a fast hardcore punk song as many of their peers did at that time. With Dee Dee Ramone saying something in German, I can’t understand what it is he is saying. I think it’s Dee Dee, also features his 1234 in the break of the song. The tempo slows down with Joey Ramone’s love song. It sounds like it could have been on ‘End Of The Century’ it has a bubblegum ballad feel about it. Later Joey Ramone would record this with a duo with Ronnie Spector. I think the one with Ronnie better, even though I like this one too. For Ramones trivia this is Ramones longest song, coming in at 4 minutes and 35 seconds.
I’m fed up… I wanna puke… I wish I was dead!
The album ends with a Dee Dee Ramone written track. With lyrics that sound that like they were written on the spot in a pissed off mood ‘I’m fed up… I wanna puke… I wish I was dead!‘
This album isn’t the most recognised album of Ramones. On their ‘Ramones Mania’ compilation album ‘Bop ‘Til You Drop’ and ‘I Wanna Live’ are the only tracks from the album. ‘Garden of Serenity’ and ‘I Wanna Live’ were on the Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: The Anthology greatest hits compilation. No songs from Halfway To Sanity featured on the Greatest Hits compilation album.
This were rather tense at the time Ramones recording Halfway to Sanity, Daniel Rey described them as impatient. After the album some of their shows had to be cancelled because Richie left the band. They replaced him quickly with Blondie drummer Clem Burke. Clem went under the Ramones pseudonym ‘Elvis Ramone’. This was a very short stint and only lasted 2 shows. Clem Burke is a great drummer he just didn’t fit with the Ramones. Here’s a little sample from one of his shows.
On Larry King Live Clem Burke tells Tom Green his experience.
In conclussion the album isn’t brilliant but it isn’t terrible, there’s probably signs that band were tired. Joey signing ‘stop this crazy carrying on it’s gonna be the death of me’ is sure a sign of that. Not a great album to introduce Ramones to someone but a good enough one for any hardcore Ramone Fan.