|Studio album by |
|Released||July 20, 1981|
53:15 (Expanded Edition)
|Singles from Pleasant Dreams|
Pleasant Dreams is the sixth studio album by American punk rock band the Ramones, released on July 20, 1981, through Sire Records. While the band members wanted Steve Lillywhite to produce, Sire chose Graham Gouldman in an attempt to gain popularity through a well-known producer. The recording process brought about many conflicts between band members, most notably the strife between Joey Ramone and Johnny Ramone, due to Johnny starting a relationship with Joey's girlfriend. There were also disputes about the overall direction of the album, with Johnny leaning towards hard rock and Joey towards pop music. Ultimately, the album incorporated high production values and varying musical styles, straying from traditional punk rock on songs such as "We Want the Airwaves," "She's a Sensation" and "Come On Now."
Despite Sire's efforts to broaden the band's appeal by enlisting Gouldman to produce, the album was not commercially successful, peaking at #58 on the Billboard 200 and only charting outside of the US in Sweden. The album also met with mixed critical reception.
The writing process for Pleasant Dreams began in January 1981. With Sire Records management being insistent on allowing a celebrity record producer to work on the album, they hired Graham Gouldman--songwriter and musician for the British band 10cc--to produce the album. Prior to working with Gouldman, the Ramones had recorded demos for the album with audio engineer Ed Stasium, and while the band had intended for Steve Lillywhite to produce the album, this decision was rejected by Sire. The studio recording process began on March 30, 1981, and initiated several conflicts between band members. This tension was partially due to Dee Dee Ramone's drug addiction, as well as Marky Ramone and Joey Ramone developing problems with alcohol, resulting in the frustration of Johnny Ramone. These conflicts and differences became evident in the songwriting as, for the first time on a Ramones album, each song was now credited to individual members rather than multiple members.
The time period of recording was a high-point in musical style for both Joey and Johnny, though they directed their sound towards different styles of music: Joey's inspiration from pop music became evident in his writing, while Johnny's keenness of hard-rock guitar riffs are apparent in much of his performing on the album. Johnny thought that this did not result well for the band's sound, saying: "I knew going in that this was not going to be the type of album I wanted. It really could have used another two of three punk songs ... All I want to do is keep our fans happy and not sell out. I'm fighting within the band. They are trying to go lighter, looking for ways to be more commercial. I'm against the band for doing that." Joey countered by explaining: "By Road to Ruin [and] End of the Century, I was doing the majority of the songwriting. I started feeling that the Ramones were faceless; there were no individual identities in the band." Joey went on to say that, while this method had worked well in the beginning of their career, it began to annoy him, since "everything [he] wrote, the band would take credit for."
During early stages of the album's development, Joey was dating Linda Daniele. After the album was released, however, Daniele left Joey and became Johnny's girlfriend. Ramones' road manager Monte Melnick relates: "Joey was devastated. It affected him deeply. Johnny knew it was bad and kept Linda totally hidden from that point on. She didn't come to many shows and if she did he'd hide her in the back; she wouldn't come backstage. He'd run out to meet her and leave as soon as they were done." While Johnny would eventually marry Linda, Joey held a strong grudge against them both, and, though they continued to perform and tour together, the two rarely talked to each other. Joey explained that Johnny had "crossed the line" once he started dating Daniele, and noted that "he destroyed the relationship and the band right there." Johnny defended himself by stating that had Daniele not left Joey for him, "he wouldn't have even been talking about her and saying how much he loved her because he wouldn't have been obsessed about it."
The album opens with "We Want the Airwaves," which has instrumentation that strays from traditional punk rock and more towards hard rock. Music journalist Chuck Eddy described the song as "a sort of Black Sabbath punk rock." Though it was long rumored that the album's third track, "The KKK Took My Baby Away," was written about Johnny stealing Joey's girlfriend, the song was reportedly written some time before Joey had found out about this. Joey's brother Mickey Leigh relates: "The fluky connection between Johnny and the KKK raised a specter that keeps friends and fans speculating to this day. At the time, though, it had to be an unusual situation for him being that, as often happens with song lyrics, his words now took on a whole new meaning." The following track, "Don't Go," was described in Musician, Player, and Listener as "Spector-ish," likening the song's production values to those of music producer Phil Spector, the infamous producer of the band's previous record, End of the Century. According to the magazine, the lyrics detail "an archivist's sense of young love by the book and how innocent rock 'n' roll is supposed to sound."Everett True, author of Hey Ho Let's Go: The Story of the Ramones (2005), explains that the album's fifth track, Dee Dee's "You Sound Like You're Sick," "returns to the bassist's traditional institutionalised theme." Side A ends with "It's Not My Place (In the 9 to 5 World)," which was described by music critic David Fricke as "driven home" by drummer Marky's "feisty, Bo Diddley-style" drum beat, noting that it borrows the middle eight (of thirty-two-bar form) from the Who song "Whiskey Man."
Side B of the album begins with "She's a Sensation," which was said by author Dave Thompson to have a 1960s melody which "melts through the hard rock." The next song, "7-11," deals with dating at a young age, where the couple goes on dates to places like convenience stores and record swaps. The lyrics follow a boy who meets a girl by a Space Invaders arcade machine, who eventually has to let her go after she dies in a car crash. True relates: "You can lose your heart within the singer's torched '7-11'. Joey details in time-honoured girl group fashion the beauty of young love that takes place among the most mundane, humdrum of surroundings." "You Didn't Mean Anything to Me," written by Dee Dee, reflects the desolation and vacillation that the bassist was feeling in his personal life, as well as within the band. This is evident through lines like "Every dinner was crummy/Even the ones for free." The pop-oriented song "Come On Now" was described by True as a "sparkling rush of blood to the head from the 'comic book boy'," with True adding that it was comparable to songs by The Dave Clark Five and 1910 Fruitgum Company. The eleventh track on the album, "This Business Is Killing Me," was written by Joey about how everyone expects him to please others but how he simply cannot please everyone all the time.Pleasant Dreams concludes with "Sitting in My Room," which David Fricke quoted in the conclusion of his review of the album, saying: "'It's us against them,' sneers Joey ... 'They just wanna worry ... /They just wanna be so lame/Maybe they should try and sniff some glue.' Or put Pleasant Dreams on the box and crank it up to ten."
Released on July 20, 1981, the album was not commercially successful, failing to spawn a single hit. Though Sire Records had merged with Warner Bros. Records, none of the singles from Pleasant Dreams were released in the US. Sire had insisted that the album be produced by a celebrity producer, hiring Graham Gouldman to the job expecting this to help expand the band's fan base. Joey relates: "The record company told us the album would bomb if we didn't use Graham Gouldman, so we worked with Graham--and the album bombed anyway." The album would only chart in the US and Sweden, peaking at 58 on the Billboard 200 and 35 on the Sverigetopplistan chart, with the singles released from the album failing to chart.
Pleasant Dreams received mixed reviews from critics, with many pointing out that the high quality sound production made the band stray from their roots even more so than the change in style. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, senior editor for AllMusic, noted that Gouldman steers the band's style away from "bubblegum, British invasion, and surf fetishes" and toward "acid rock and heavy metal." He went on to say that the sound quality was "too clean to qualify as punk" and that the music on the album had "lost sight of the infectious qualities that made their earlier records such fun."
Music critic Robert Christgau said that the album "comes off corny" compared to the band's first four releases, which he described as "aural rush and conceptual punch." While he felt that the songs featured on the album were better than those on End of the Century, he claimed the album was "less focused" compared to Leave Home, but "fun anyway." David Fricke of Rolling Stone began his review by writing "Pity the poor Ramones," and went on to give it a mixed review. He deemed the album a "comic relief" and noted its contents of "fortified vocal harmonies, an occasional dash of keyboards, a certain production gimmickry."
Track listing adapted from AllMusic.
All tracks written by Joey Ramone, except where noted.
|1.||"We Want the Airwaves"||3:22|
|2.||"All's Quiet on the Eastern Front"||Dee Dee Ramone||2:14|
|3.||"The KKK Took My Baby Away"||2:32|
|5.||"You Sound Like You're Sick"||Dee Dee Ramone||2:42|
|6.||"It's Not My Place (In the 9 to 5 World)"||3:24|
|7.||"She's a Sensation"||3:29|
|9.||"You Didn't Mean Anything to Me"||Dee Dee Ramone||3:00|
|10.||"Come On Now"||Dee Dee Ramone||2:33|
|11.||"This Business Is Killing Me"||2:41|
|12.||"Sitting in My Room"||Dee Dee Ramone||2:30|
All tracks written by the Ramones, except where noted.
|2002 expanded edition CD (Warner Archives/Rhino) bonus tracks|
|13.||"Touring" (1981 version)||Joey Ramone||2:49|
|14.||"I Can't Get You Out of My Mind"||3:24|
|15.||"Chop Suey" (Alternate Version)||Joey Ramone||3:32|
|16.||"Sleeping Troubles" (Demo)||2:07|
|17.||"Kicks to Try" (Demo)||2:09|
|18.||"I'm Not an Answer" (Demo)||2:55|
|19.||"Stares in This Town" (Demo)||2:26|
The following personnel can be verified with AllMusic.