The Ramones - Leave Home: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition album review
Their glorious second album, now with previously unheard trimmings and still housed in the sleeve blamed for its downfall
While 1976’s epoch-making Ramones was a tough act to follow, Leave Home saw the band mature as songwriters, accelerate tempos and ascend from scuffling monochrome into glorious living colour as they finally captured their live power. That said, former manager Danny Fields blames the “awful” fashion shoot-style cover for the album’s relative chart failure and lingering status as “least loved of all the first four albums”. The title refers to the Ramones’ venturing beyond their Bowery stamping ground to America’s gig circuit and the UK.
Determined to improve on the first album’s somewhat flat sound, Tommy Ramone decided to produce the band himself, joined at Sire Records’ insistence by Tony Bongiovi. With tight discipline imposed by Tommy and taskmaster Johnny, the Ramones entered New York’s Sundragon studio in October 1976 and recorded their next brace of songs, completing backing tracks in two days, then spending five more on overdubs and Joey’s vocals.
When Leave Home was released in January 1977, it transcended the first album’s promise and re-imagined rock’n’roll as pop perfection with future classics such as Commando, Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment, Suzy Is A Headbanger, You’re Gonna Kill That Girl and outsider anthem Pinhead (inspired by Todd Browning’s 1932 cult movie Freaks).
Only here is the notion presented that band and associates were disappointed with the mix. It sounded glorious on a regular stereo but in his liner notes, session engineer Ed Stasium says it was rushed, and he even supplies a new mix aimed at restoring the full force of Johnny’s guitar.
Stasium’s new take is joined by remastered originals, plus a whole disc’s worth of rough and alternative mixes. Highlights include the “bubblegum” version of Glad To See You Go, the “doowop mix” of You’re Gonna Kill That Girl and Joey and Dee Dee’s sped-up freaks babble for Pinhead. There’s also hit single Sheena Is A Punk Rocker and Babysitter, which replaced Carbona Not Glue on the album after it was pulled.
Least loved no longer, Leave Home is repositioned among the Ramones’ very best as a towering classic of its era. Roll on Rocket To Russia.