For Ramones fans, Forest Hills High School in Queens is as seminal a site as performance venues CBGB and Max’s Kansas City. The school is where the Ramones – Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny and Tommy – first met. On Sunday, the intersection in front of the school at 67th Avenue and 110th Street was renamed The Ramones Way to honor the late pioneers of punk rock.
The Ramones formed in 1974 and their tumultuous career ended when they disbanded in 1996. Hundreds of fans attended Sunday’s ceremony, where speakers included Joey’s brother, musician Mickey Leigh, and local politicians who spearheaded the effort.
“When the Ramones wrote and recorded ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll High School,’ I don’t think they ever envisioned a day like today where they would have a street named in their honor right in front of their alma mater,” said U.S. Rep. Grace Meng. “The Ramones publicly spoke about coming from Forest Hills and they sang about their home borough in songs like ‘Rockaway Beach.'”
“Tomorrow morning, when students look up and see this bright green sign, some may ask ‘Who were the Ramones?'” said New York City Council Member Karen Koslowitz. “And it will be explained that they are about to do what four giants of the entertainment world did two generations before: Walk through the front doors of Forest Hills High School.”
The Ramones were hardly honor students back when they were known as John Cummings (Johnny), Jeffrey Hyman (Joey), Douglas Colvin (Dee Dee) and Thomas Erdelyi (Tommy). But clad in leather jackets and tight jeans, they crafted the look and sound that defined punk and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
Forest Hills High has spawned music icons that include Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Burt Bacharach and Mountain guitarist Leslie West. “For some reason, maybe there’s something in the water, but there’s so many amazing musicians, artists and all kinds of talented people that just keep coming from here,” observed Leigh.
“A lot of them now can come and look at this sign and be inspired by it. Two guys I can think of in particular who can come here and look at that sign and be inspired and say to each other, ‘Hey, if we work really hard like those guys did, maybe one day there’ll be a Simon and Garfunkel sign.'”
“That’s what this is all about! Let’s keep the inspiration going.”