June 1979: Ramones Release ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The Ramones and Phil Spector. It's one of the most notorious collaborations in the history of rock 'n' roll. The famously chaotic recording sessions resulted in the band's colorful fifth studio album, End of the Century. Among the tracks the punk legends created with Spector at the helm: movie theme song "Rock 'n' Roll High School."

Producing the track was a contentious affair, with the eccentric producer putting the band through rigorous paces. Spector pushed guitarist Johnny Ramone to the brink of madness trying to capture the song's opening power chord: "Working with Phil was very difficult because I guess he's a perfectionist so he likes to spend a lot of time redoing things and re-listening and it's very time consuming," Johnny Ramone said in 1982. "It's very hard for us. Rock n roll's got to be very spontaneous and a little faster. He spent 12 hours sitting there and listening to the same chord over and over again. I mean it's just not worth it," Johnny added. "I mean nobody else could hear the difference. The chord came out sounding okay, but 12 hours worth ain't really worth it, you know?"

The legend that Spector waved a firearm at the band during the sessions were a bit exaggerated, according to Marky Ramone: "Phil Spector, my buddy, never pointed a gun at us in the studio - that's just hearsay," he told Songfacts. "There is a video where Johnny Ramone says, 'Phil, what are you going to do? Shoot me?' And he was talking about Phil Spector. But he wasn't there pointing the gun at him. He knew he had guns on him, so that's really what he was alluding to...But the thing is that Phil had a license to carry, and he would take them off and put them down. You're not going to wear them the whole day in the studio. So that probably intimidated him and Dee Dee. Me and Joey loved him - we got along with him great. But it turned out the way it did - it was an experiment, and that's the result."

"Rock 'n' Roll High School" was released ahead of the movie and the soundtrack on June 1, 1979 (the film arrived on big screens on August 24, 1979). In typical Ramones fashion, the high-energy punk anthem didn't make a dent on the U.S. charts, not even registering on the Hot 100. Over in the UK, the tune peaked at #67. The song was a hit around the world, however, climbing as high as #5 in the Netherlands, and #8 in Belgium.

The song arrived with a production music video heavily steeped in the Rock 'n' Roll High School movie, with the members of the band make the most of detention in their own inimitable ways. The clip features Marky Ramone in drag as the detention monitor, as well as Dee Dee's first wife, Vera Boldis, Johnny's then-girlfriend Roxy, and Joey's then-girlfriend (who later married bandmate Johnny), Linda Ramone.