New York City’s punk scene coalesced in the mid-1970s at CBGB (& OMFUG), a now-defunct club on the Bowery, where a series of bands popularized the sound of youthful rebellion. But even among acts like Blondie and Television, the Ramones stood out. Playing brutally fast sets, clad in ripped jeans and leather jackets, the Ramones invented a kind of music that became inextricably associated with downtown NYC—and inspired generations of Chucks-wearing, three-chord-bashing progeny the world over.
This past April, the Queens Museum mounted a Ramones retrospective, honoring the band—whose members hailed from the borough’s Forest Hills neighborhood— on the 40th anniversary of their self-titled recording debut. (That album included such anthems as “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Beat on the Brat” and “Judy Is a Punk.”) The gallery show, curated by Mark H. Miller, featured original images, artwork, lyrics and—what else?—the leather jackets donned by Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy. It heads next to the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, which partnered with the Queens Museum to organize the display.
During the exhibit’s run, we spoke with some of the musicians, photographers and writers who witnessed firsthand the band’s rise to fame. Watch the interviews below for a peek into the origins of American punk rock.
Roberta Bayley, Photographer
Bayley worked for Punk magazine and shot the cover art for the Ramones’ studio debut.
David Godlis, Photographer
Godlis photographed many live shows, including those by the Ramones, at CBGB in the ’70s.
John Holmstrom, Artist and Editor
The co-founder of Punk magazine illustrated the covers for the Ramones’ Rocket to Russia and Road to Ruin.
Jesse Malin, Musician
The singer, formerly of D Generation, toured with the Ramones in the ’90s.
Dick Manitoba, Musician
The lead singer of the Dictators performed with the Ramones at CBGB.
Legs McNeil, Writer
Punk magazine co-founder McNeil helped author I Slept with Joey Ramone, a memoir by the lead singer’s brother.