Over the past two months, I had the awesome opportunity to co-lead a Punk Rock School Bus tour, in concert with the recently closed HEY HO! LET’S GO! Exhibit on the Ramones at the Queens Museum. One tour was back in June and the other was last month. On each tour I got to take a yellow cheese bus chock full of Punk Rock fans on an awesome neighborhood tour of Forest Hills and Rockaway Beach in Queens.
For those of you who have never heard of the Ramones, they were the first true punk band. Dressed in matching leather jackets and ripped jeans, they were terrible musicians who more often than not devolved into arguments with one another instead of playing basic three-bar-chord songs, mostly about girls and partying and being bored teenagers. But they were instrumental to MANY many teenagers who went off and started their own band.
I offer a tour, HEY HO! LET’S GO! Punk Rock on the Bowery which, while visiting various bars and shops, compares and contrasts the Gangs of NY of the 1850s with the punks of the 1970s. My whole theory is that the only thing separating these two disparate cultures is 150 years and electricity. And after a couple of pints, you believe me!
On June’s Punk Rock School Bus tour, I co-guided with former punk rocker Richard Adler, of the proto-punk band Tangerine Puppets. Richard was a fellow Forest Hills High School student alongside all four Ramones (hint – none were actually named Ramone.) and future folk superstars Simon and Garfunkel. We visited a number of punk rock cultural landmarks, including the apartment buildings in Forest Hills where they lived and the Law Office (formerly an artist gallery) where they first practiced.
On July’s Punk Rock School Bus tour, I co-guided with Monte Melnick, the Ramone’s touring manager of 20 years. I told stories about how NYC was the birthplace of punk a century before the musical movement actually started, as well as shared some interesting NYC stories and the city that helped to form The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, etc. But the true star of the tour was Monte, with his extraordinary stories about putting up with the Ramones and all their antics. This tour ended in the Rockaways where we joined a punk rock concert-in-progress, featuring local NYC noise rockers Rattrap Bumpkin and the Unstoppable Death Machines.