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It would be a stretch to call any record on which Tommy Ramone played “Trunkworthy” since the first three albums by the Ramones are all classic, covered and canonized. Less appreciated is the work he did behind the scenes as their producer (and sometimes lead guitarist), best exemplified by this track from their album Too Tough To Die — considered by many to be their last great record and the only one that deserves to keep company with their early long players.
After leaving home (pun intended) to chase the charts and pursue a slightly poppier, more produced sound with producers Phil Spector, 10cc’s Graham Gouldman and Tommy James’ behind-the-scenes partner Ritchie Cordell, The Ramones came back to what they do best. The resulting album—which Tommy coproduced with Ed Stasium—dug back into the classic sound while finding ways to move forward and even, at times, experiment. You can hear a return to form and a break form formula on the album’s second track, “I’m Not Afraid of Life,” which has a more grinding sound that would not be out of place on something by Jack White, Queens of the Stone Age, later period Green Day, or other indie hard rock outfits that owe part of their sound to those four guys from Queens. With lyrics that feel fatalist, philosophical and even personal, “I’m Not Afraid of Life” helped the Ramones beat the rap that they kept making the same record again and again.