Released in April 1976, the Ramones’ self-titled debut album introduced the world to four unsmiling hoods in ripped jeans and leather jackets, and to the uncompromising attitude known as punk. Ramones’ minimalist tunes, slapstick lyrics, buzzsaw guitars, and blitzkrieg tempo became the wellspring for a genre of music and a strain of culture.
On this first album’s 40th anniversary, the Queens Museum and theGRAMMY Museum are partnering to present an unprecedented two-part exhibition celebrating the lasting influence of punk rock progenitors the Ramones. Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: Ramones and the Birth of Punk. While the exhibition’s two parts will share many key objects drawn from more than 50 public and private collection across the world, each will explore the Ramones through a different lens: the Queens Museum iteration will begin with the Ramones’ roots in Queens and reveal their ascendancy in both music and visual culture, demonstrating their remarkable influence on music, fashion, fine art, comics, and film. The Grammy Museum version will contextualize the band in the larger pantheon of music history and pop culture.
The vision of Queens Museum guest curator Marc H. Miller and GRAMMY Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli, the 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 from John Cummings, Jeffrey Hyman, Douglas Colvin, and Thomas Erdelyi into Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and Tommy Ramone. Video monitors playing early Ramones shows, while vintage concert flyers and photographs by Bob Gruen and David Godlis place them within the larger downtown milieu that followed Andy Warhol’s work with the Velvet Underground.
Like Warhol, the Ramones used branding as an art form. Art director Arturo Vega turned his iconic eagle logo into a pioneering range of T-shirts and other merchandise, and the origins of that now ubiquitous band symbol are traced. Vega also encouraged Dee Dee Ramone’s idiosyncratic paintings, several of which are on view.
The Ramones’ unchanging image is preserved in album covers and outtakes by Roberta Bayley, Mick Rock, and George DuBose. 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. Original lyric manuscripts by Joey and Dee Dee, and guitars and leather jackets used by Joey and Johnny, bring the band that much closer.
A colorful wall of concert posters spans five continents and three decades. The Ramones’ spectacular stage presence and their life on the road, is captured in photographs by Danny Fields, Keith Green, Jenny Lens, and Ian Dickson, and through an exhaustive collection of more than 150 snapshots, fliers, posters, t-shirts, tour itineraries, and memorabilia on loan from the Ramones’ longtime tour manager Monte A. Melnick.
The Ramones would connect with artists like Matt Groening, Mark Kostabi, Curt Hoppe, Fly Orr and Shepard Fairey, all featured in the exhibition, with 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.
Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: Ramones and the Birth of Punk will be on view at the Queens Museum from April 10 through July 31, 2016, and will open at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles on Sept. 16, 2016, on display through March 2017.
Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: Ramones and the Birth of Punk is organized by the Queens Museum and GRAMMY Museum, in collaboration with Ramones Productions Inc., JAM Inc., and Silent Partner. The exhibit is co-curated by Queens Museum guest curator Marc H. Miller and Bob Santelli, Executive Director of the GRAMMY Museum.
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. Special thanks to Linda Ramone and Mickey Leigh. Production support provided by Pace Gallery.