As the 40th anniversary of The Ramones’ 1976 debut album approaches, the pioneering punk band will be celebrated with a hefty slate of products and events heralding its legacy, including a documentary, reissues and a traveling exhibit.
The campaign, which focuses on the four original members — Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy, all of whom died between 2001 and 2014 — came to fruition thanks to a detente reached by Joey’s brother, Mickey Leigh, and Johnny’s widow, Linda. It was a vital hurdle to clear. “So many vendors think it’s impossible to do anything with The Ramones, but it’s not,” says JAM Inc.’s Jeff Jampol, who oversees the group’s business with Silent Partner Management’s Dave Frey.
Look for the collaboration to kick off at South by Southwest on March 17 with a Grammy Museum-organized panel featuring Seymour Stein, who signed the band to Sire Records, and Leigh and Linda Ramone. That evening, several bands also will perform the group’s music.
Meanwhile, back on The Ramones’ home turf, an exhibit of memorabilia opens at the Queens Museum in New York on April 10 and will include Johnny’s recently unearthed leather jacket and guitar. An expanded version moves to Los Angeles’ Grammy Museum in October. In addition, a world tour of at least 18 cities is planned for 2017.
On the music side, Rhino will release a three-CD/one-LP deluxe collector’s edition of the band’s self-titled first album, overseen by its original producer, Craig Leon, and include demos and a live concert. Other special packages are likely, among them a singles box spanning the group’s career.
The Ramones’ first European date — at London’s Roundhouse on July 4, 1976 — will serve as the entry point for a worldwide theatrical documentary that showcases the band’s influence. The show drew members of The Sex Pistols, The Clash and Elvis Costello and “was one of the key things that launched punk rock,” says Jampol. A release date for the doc has yet to be set.
The celebration also involves a still-developing partnership with Levi’s, The Ramones’ jeans of choice, that includes photographs of the group in more than 800 retail outlets. There will also be a perfect-bound, high-gloss Archie Meets The Ramones comic book released in conjunction with New York Comic Con in October.
Jampol emphasizes that commercial tie-ins are approached very judiciously. “For instance, we’re not doing a leather jacket campaign,” he says. “To make all these brand extensions — ‘Get your Ramones sunglasses here,’ or ‘Here’s how to cut your hair like a Ramone’ — is pandering and not respectful of the legacy or art.” But Frey jokes that they are still waiting to hear back from household-products manufacturer Carbona, the brand mentioned in the Ramones chestnut “Carbona Not Glue.”
After the 40th anniversary, Jampol and Frey will continue to roll out new Ramones events tied to key milestones. In the very early stages are discussions about mounting a Broadway version of the 1979 cult film Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, which featured The Ramones. The movie’s original producer, Roger Corman, is already onboard, as is TV/film executive Gail Berman.
If the rollout goes as planned, new fans will discover and embrace The Ramones for decades to come. “It’s really unbelievable how simple but great their music is,” says Frey. “If we do this right, it could be like Charlie Chaplin: It’s timeless, and the content speaks to all generations long after we’re not here.”
This article was first published in the Feb. 6 issue of Billboard.