“Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: Ramones and the Birth of Punk” opens at Queens Museum in NYC

By on April 10, 2016

The retrospective Ramones exhibition Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: Ramones and the Birth of Punk — which opens today at Queens Museum in New York City, curated by guest curator Marc H. Miller — collects artifacts showcasing the band’s influence on early punk rock, going all the back to their outerborough roots in Forest Hills and their raucous shows at CBGB, which one recent reviewer called “the epicenter of the inchoate punk scene.”

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Tonight’s opening reception is from 4-8pm (EST), and features an afternoon and evening of Ramones-inspired sets (approximately 6:45-7:45 EST) by punk bands Show Me the Body and The Kominas, who both claim the Ramones as an influence, and carry the torch of punk today. Show Me the Body are a Queens-based punk band that is fueled by the current wave of gentrification in NYC, while The Kominas are a self-described “brown Post Colonial Punk group whose known for satirical takes on war on terror paranoia, doing updated covers of the Ramones and original material.”

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Also featured will be performance pieces by Queens International 2016 artists Alina Tenser and Melanie McLain, open studios with the museum’s artists-in-residence, and the new Lockwood Queens Museum boutique. Food and drink will be available and there will be a shuttle between the Museum and Mets-Willets Point stop on the 7 train.

The Queens Museum exhibition includes more than 350 items from the group’s archives and goes on display beginning April 10, running until July 31. Welcoming visitors tonight will be Punk Magazine co-founder John Holmstrom’s specially commissioned cartoon map tracing the band’s path from Forest Hills to the downtown nightclub CBGB.

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The Queens Museum collection is actually the first of a two-part retrospective Ramones exhibit organized in conjunction with the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, where a secondary show will open on September 16th before closing out in March 2017.

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Both the Queens NY and L.A. exhibits — in collaboration with Ramones Productions Inc., JAM Inc., and Silent Partner Management — will share many key objects drawn from more than 50 public and private collection across the world, but each will focus on two different aspects of the band’s existence; the Queens Museum focuses on the bands roots in Queens and will highlight how they influenced both rock music and visual aspects of punk, demonstrating the Ramones’s remarkable influence on music, fashion, fine art, comics, and film, all of it part of the larger downtown milieu that followed Andy Warhol’s work with the Velvet Underground.

“It’s so wonderful to see the legacy, the music and the sheer fun of the Ramones discovered and embraced by new generations. For four guys from Forest Hills, Queens to have a major exhibit at the Queens Museum is a great coming home, an awesome honor, and a cool-as-hell celebration of punk, freedom, culture, and Ramones mania!,” Jeff Jampol — president of JAM Inc., and co-manager, Ramones — told Night Flight.

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Meanwhile, opening later this fall, the Grammy Museum version in Los Angeles — under the auspices of Grammy Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli — will attempt to set their place in the larger pantheon of music history and pop culture.

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The exhibition just also happens to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Ramones’ eponymous debut album release by Sire Records on April 23, 1976. That album’s 14 tracks were fast and loud short buzzsawing bursts of energy totalling just 29-minutes and four seconds, a blitzkrieg-style sonic assault that took the rock world by storm and influenced an entire generation of similar bands in their wake.

The Ramones — born John William Cummings, Thomas Erdelyi, Douglas Glenn Colvin and Jeffrey Ross Hyman, but otherwise known as Johnny, Tommy, Dee Dee and Joey Ramone — originally hailed from Forest Hills, although Marky Ramone (who replaced Tommy as the group’s drummer), was born in Brooklyn.

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In the band’s first bio — written by Tommy Ramone, and sent out with their first demo, on a reel-to-reel tape — there was no reference to “punk,” as the type of music they were playing didn’t yet have a name, but Tommy did point out what they didn’t play:

“The Ramones are not an oldies group, they are not a glitter group, they don’t play boogie music and they don’t play the blues.”

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The band’s first press release — also written by Tommy Ramone — said “The Ramones all originate from Forest Hills and kids who grew up there either became musicians, degenerates or dentists. The Ramones are a little of each.”

The Queens Museum exhibition features a colorful wall of concert posters spans five continents and three decades, as well vintage concert flyers, recently unearthed early press package, Joey and Dee Dee’s original lyric manuscripts, guitars and leather jackets owned and worn by the band.

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Also featured are classic photographs by celebrated New York-based photographers Bob Gruen, David Godlis (usually known as “Godlis”), George DuBose and Roberta Bayley, as well as an exhaustive collection of more than 150 snapshots by Danny Fields, Keith Green, Jenny Lens, Ian Dickson as well as additional contributions from Punk magazine’s John Holmstrom and Legs McNeil.

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Cartoon drawings by Sergio Aragones (Mad magazine) and John Holmstrom illuminate the humor in the band’s caustic lyrics, some of which are written graffiti-style on the museum walls.

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Also displayed are special artworks by Matt Groening, Mark Kostabi, Curt Hoppe, Fly Orr, Richard Hambleton, Shepard Fairey and Yoshitomo Nara’s newly commissioned billboard painting welcoming visitors with a giant “Hey Ho Let’s Go,” testifying that the whole world loves the Ramones. There are also original idiosyncratic art pieces from both Joey and Dee Dee Ramone.

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According to the museum, which is headed up by a new director, Laura Raicovich,

“[T]he exhibition will be organized under a sequence of themes — places, events, songs, and artists. Welcoming visitors will be Punk Magazine co-founder John Holmstrom’s specially commissioned cartoon map tracing the band’s path from Forest Hills to the downtown nightclub CBGB. Rare artifacts such as a recently unearthed early press package and early flyers and lyrics, represent the musicians’ Queens upbringings and their transformation.”

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In the exhibit’s last room visitors to Queens Museum can see, projected on a wall, 26-minutes from the Ramones’s 1977 New Year’s Eve show at the Rainbow Theater, at Finsbury Park, London. This footage (all that survives) was also released as the band’s first live album by Sire Records UK in April 1979.

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Most of the Queens Museum exhibit of memorabilia actually comes from two sources: the late Arturo Vega, the band’s designer and art director, who memorably created the band’s iconic logo, and longtime tour manager Monte A. Melnick, who had met Tommy Ramone in junior high school and served as the band’s tour manager until they retired in 1996.

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Melnick provided (by his own estimation) at least 25% of the items on-hand from his own personal collection, including passport applications, gig posters and t-shirts.

Sadly, Vega — who designed the Ramones’ famous presidential seal and eagle logo, which he later had tattooed on his own backside — passed away in 2013, shortly after Miller began putting the exhibit together.

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The Queens Museum exhibition is open concurrently with the museum’s Queens International, its biannual exhibition, held since 2001, which showcases artists who live or work in Queens, in addition to a show devoted to the writer and activist Rebecca Solnit, whose Atlas books have used mapping as a new way to think about the cultural and political life of cities.

The museum’s 2016 programming ends in the fall, on September 19th, with the opening of the first New York retrospective of the five-decade career of pioneering environmentalist and feminist artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles.

The presentation of Hey! Ho! Lets Go: Ramones and the Birth of Punk at the Queens Museum is generously supported by Delta Air Lines, the official airline sponsor of the Queens Museum. Queens Museum is also grateful for the support of Annette Blum, Fred Heller, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Very special thanks to the Estate of Joey Ramone and the Johnny and Linda Ramone Foundation. Production support provided by Pace Gallery.

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Birth of Punk: The Ramones 40th Anniversary Exhibit at Queens Museum
Date: April 10-July 31
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday 12-6pm (however, starting April 13, 2016, museum’s hours will change to: Wednesday through Sunday 11-5pm)
Admission: $8 adults, $4 seniors, FREE for students and ages 18 & under
Location: New York City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, New York City
Phone: 718-592-9700
queensmuseum.org

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.