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How the Ramones Bid Their Fans Farewell With ‘Adios Amigos!’

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The world of rock and roll shed a collective tear on July 18, 1995. On that day, the Ramones released their purposefully named 14th and final studio effort, Adios Amigos!

The album started with a customary shout of “1-2-3-4” and an innocently defiant message delivered via in Tom Waits’ “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up,” then repeated barely half an hour later with an unlisted rendition of the Spider-Man theme song. But not even these smile-inducing bookends could conceal the fact that wrinkled and tired Ramones of 1995 had very little in common with the four juvenile delinquents who first took the F train from Forest Hills, Queens to the East Village and CBGB in 1975.

For starters, founding drummer Tommy Ramone had long ago given way to Marky Ramone, then Richie, then Elvis, and then Marky again. More recently, bassist and major songwriter Dee Dee – the band’s mercurial secret weapon – had ceded his position to the fresh-faced C.J. in order to embark on an ill-fated rap career. He continued to submit songs for future Ramones records, but they were usually sung by C.J.

As for singer Joey Ramone and guitarist Johnny Ramone, though both men had been there through it all, ever standing just a few feet apart from each other on stage, they couldn’t have grown further apart. At first their differences could be put down to polar personalities (Joey was a free spirit; Johnny a focused workaholic) and divergent politics (liberal/conservative). But the apex of their rivalry was in the early ’80s, when Joey’s girlfriend Linda left him for Johnny. The couple married in 1984 and remained together until Johnny’s death in 2004.

In other words, and for all of these wide-ranging reasons, the Ramones were little more than a shell of a band, both creatively and personally, by the time they recorded Adios Amigos! So it’s nothing less than miraculous that Joey, Johnny, Marky and C.J. still managed to fill their swan song with irresistible punk anthems like “Makin’ Monsters for My Friends,” “The Crusher,” “It’s Not for Me to Know” and “Born to Die in Berlin” (all of them Dee Dee compositions, the latter pair sung by Joey).

Listen to the Ramones Perform ‘Life’s a Gas’

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Elsewhere, deceptively named (yet still undeniably catchy) acknowledgments of misery such as “Life’s a Gas” and “Have a Nice Day” rubbed shoulders with rather respectable C.J. contributions in the Clash-like “Scattergun” and “Got a Lot to Say.” Those were shored up by a handful of token run-throughs. There was also a histrionic cover of Johnny Thunders’ “I Love You,” a familiar recycling of the Ramones formula in “Cretin Family,” and a highly unusual, psychedelia-infused semi-ballad in Joey Ramone’s moving “She Talks to Rainbows.” (Japanese fans were also gifted a bonus track when the Ramones covered Motorhead’s tribute, “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.”)

Together, these songs inevitably evoked mixed emotions and no small amount of nostalgia from stalwart Ramones fans around the world, who were still unwilling to accept the possibility of the band’s demise … until this was officially confirmed, along with that year’s farewell tour. Luckily, U.S. residents were granted a reprieve when the Ramones were invited to participate in the sixth edition of the Lollapalooza Festival, throughout the summer of ’96, which ultimately served as some kind of belated recognition of everything they’d done for rock and roll, in exchange for so little personal and financial reward.

More depressingly still, these personal tolls would quickly mount as each band member figured out how face “life after the Ramones,” leading to shockingly premature deaths for Joey, who succumbed to complications from lymphoma in 2001, Dee Dee, who died of a heroin overdose one year later, and Johnny, who lost a long battle with prostate cancer in 2004. (Original drummer Tommy passed on in 2014.)

Only Marky remains among us to carry on some portion of the Ramones’ legacy — a legacy which cannot be tarnished by the diminishing returns of their latter-day career, nor detract from the worthy last gasp undertaken through Adios Amigos!

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