Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: The Queens Museum Unveils Ramones Exhibition
The museum celebrates the hometown godfathers of punk
Featured image by Danny Fields, all other images are courtesy of the author
Coming from Queens, the Ramones are an essential stitch in my blue-collar birthright. The buzzsaw of their all-heart, three-chord fury has long soundtracked my horizon. To forever-hum, they’ve given me a refrain of self-deliverance, a chorus of it’s-possible. You can come from here and start something. You might even change the whole fucking world.
On the 40th anniversary of the release of the Ramones debut album, the Queens Museum unveils a new retrospective exhibit as ode the seminal punk band, and its roots in the borough. Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: Ramones and the Birth of Punk traces the foursome’s upbringing in near-by Forest Hills through their ascent into the annals of music and visual culture. The exhibition stresses that the transformation of John Cummings, Jeffrey Hyman, Douglas Colvin, and Thomas Erdelyi into Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and Tommy Ramone drew not only a line in the sand in the history of rock-and-roll, demarcating what had come before and all that would come after, but that it was also their look, from leather jackets as uniforms to iconic album covers, that permanently affected all of pop culture at large.
The show, organized under a sequence of themes—key places, records and songs, events, and their lasting legacy—documents the unlikely legends’ career through a gathering of more than 350 objects on loan from the band’s family and friends. Newly unearthed flyers and early press materials hang above never-before-seen personal photos. Handwritten lyrics by Joey and Dee Dee share space with decades old tour posters and T-shirts that span five continents. We get to see the Ramones, as if anew, through images from photographers Roberta Bailey, Danny Fields, Bob Gruen, and David Godlis.
The band’s long-time tour manager, Monte Melnick loaned the exhibition more than 150 items from his own personal collection, including an agenda book dated October of ’77, bearing the hand-scrawled log of shows played, what they were paid, and just when exactly their equipment was stolen. Among entire walls of Ramones album covers, and inspired artwork, video monitors blare footage from early shows, prompting the hushed know-every-word, sing-along response from viewers.
So while institutional acknowledgement is probably the least punk rock thing there is, Hey! Ho! Let’s Go! does remind us that it’s hard to think of a world without the Ramones. And frankly, who would ever want to?
Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: Ramones and the Birth of Punk, curated by Marc H. Miller and GRAMMY museum executive director Bob Santelli, is on view at the Queens Museum from Sunday, April 10 through July 31, 2016.