PHOTOGRAPHY Josh Allen
WORDS Paige Vreede
The progenitors of punk have earned a spot at The Grammy Museum to commemorate the 40th anniversary release of their 1976 self-titled debut album. Since forming in 1974, the Ramones have undoubtedly become one of the most influential bands in music history. At a time when New York City was on the brink of bankruptcy and no fun at all, four misfits from Forest Hills, Queens got together and formed a band. They were loud, they were fast, they had something to say, and they didn’t care who was offended along the way - this sort of approach to their music quickly became seminal to what would later be known as punk rock.
After a stint in New York’s Queens Museum, the exhibit displays over 50 publicly and privately owned objects honoring their musical achievements. On the opening night of the exhibit there was a Q&A discussion that included Linda Ramone (widow of Johnny Ramone), Mickey Leigh (Joey Ramone’s brother and the Ramones stage manager from 1974-76), British pop/punk icon Billy Idol, Seymour Stein (Vice President of Warner Bros. Records and co-founder of Sire Records), Monte Melnick (tour manager for the Ramones), Ed Stasium (producer/engineer), and Shepard Fairey (founder of OBEY and longtime Ramones fan).
“We were watching everything that came out of New York. Obviously everything that came out of CBGB’s and hearing that first album was like an affect of a tidal wave in terms of how it affected people coming out with music in England” Idol said reminiscent of the first time he heard the Ramones, “So really the Ramones album was like whoa what the fuck. This is the way. It was a blueprint. Like this is the way, this is where we’re going to knock everybody. People were looking for something so desperate. We were the disenfranchised youth on the scrappie that’s what they were telling us and here was a band telling us fuck you, fuck them, don’t listen to ‘em, you can rock.”
Cherished memories were revealed during the intimate Q&A discussion. Linda Ramone went on to discuss how, despite Joey and Johnny’s eminent differences, Joey would still send Johnny a Christmas card every year. Melnick and Leigh spoke in feverous detail about how much the boys hated being spat on every time they played a gig in the U.K.
The presence of the room is encapsulated in musical legacy. The walls are adorned in relics of punk history from black and white photos taken by Roberta Bayley (the photographer who shot the front cover of the Ramones debut album), to original posters from the July 4th, 1976 show at The Roundhouse in Camden, England alongside Flamin Groovies. Behind a glass case bestows four Forest Hills High report cards, one from each original member; and despite wanting to go to ‘Rock n Roll High School’, as it turns out, Dee Dee Ramone was an “A” student in both science and arithmetic. Johnny Ramone’s military approach to running the band is exposed in a preserved day planner, containing the approximation of attendance, and how much was being paid at each and every show they played. One of the most interesting artifacts however, is the bands rider, which includes two-dozen assorted donuts and a gallon of milk.
The Ramones lasting influence planted the seed for The Sex Pistols and The Clash in the U.K. and their minimalist sounds paved the way for The Descendants, Black Flag, among hundreds of others in the U.S. The Ramones created music with a passion and fury that will discernibly continue to inspire for generations to come.