Surprise!! It’s another post about the Ramones. Don’t like it? Too bad. Why not go read an Old Testament-sized breakdown of the new Beyonce opus and suck a carton of rotten eggs?
Anyway, my friend Greg posted a nice piece from the Observer today penned by Tim Sommer of “Noise the Show”/Hugo Largo fame (I could also point out that `twas Sommer who was instrumental in making Hootie & the Blowfish successful, but why dwell on that?). In the piece, Sommer waxes rhapsodic about the greatness of the first Ramones album, citing it as the “Best Punk Record of All Time.” It’s not a difficult argument to defend, but I’ll let you all debate that one.
The unimpeachable merits of the Ramones’ debut LP, however, is not the thrust of this post. Personally speaking, I think Rocket to Russia was a better album, but my favorite, all-time Ramones album remains It’s Alive, which is essentially the first three albums (including Leave Home) played harder, faster and sloppier. It was the first proper Ramones album I ever owned, and I plan on being buried with a copy, because it’s fucking perfect from start to goddamn finish.
Anyway, blah blah blah. The reason for this post is the inclusion of a photograph in the Observer piece, that being the one at the top of this post. Snapped by the legendary Bob Gruen in the now very distant days of 1975, it shows da brudders emerging from a New York City subway like the gaggle of leather-clad nogoodnicks they so very much were. It’s a photo that’s long haunted me in that its precise location always struck me as being impossible to identify. I chalked it up to being one that I’d never be able to track down.
But then I started to think about it again.
Gruen took another shot of the Ramones during that same day, that being the more iconic one below. You don’t even have to look closely to glean that it’s the same session — Dee Dee is sporting the same striped shirt, Joey’s got a black shirt on and Johnny Ramone — like the proud Yank he was — sports the inimitable image of Captain America on his chest. This photo below finds the boys in front of their erstwhile home turf of the Bowery at Bleecker Street. It’s a legendary shot.
Given that the shot up top and the shot just above were invariably taken on the same day, it made sense to me that they were summarily taken in the same area. That’s when a lightbulb went off above my head.
I remembered a certain afternoon a few years back when I was boppin’ around with my kids, taking pictures. I do this a lot. They’re less enthused about it now, but they used to get well psyched-up for our little photo safaris around Manhattan. In any case, I vividly recalled a day wherein I snapped some shots of them cavorting around the subway entrance and phone booths around East Houston and Second Avenue. This is basically the southeastern corner of the same block that was once home to the Mars Bar (gone), the Taoist Temple of the Ancestral Mother at 9 Second Avenue (gone) and 295 Bowery, a.k.a. McGurk’s Suicide Hall (gone). It’s also simply one block away from CBGB, the spot at which Gruen shot the more iconic photo of the boys above.
The subway entrance in question there is for the F train. Here’s one of the shots I took in 2012 of my children, Oliver & Charlotte (then 6 and 8 years old, respectively). Compare and contrast it with the Ramones photo — pay special attention to the pattern of the metal fencing around the stairwell.
I can’t verify it, but it looks like the same exact spot, no? I'm taking a leap and chalking this one up as solved.
To celebrate, here’s a bit of “Pinhead.” Gabba Gabba Hey!