Destinations

10 places every punk rock fan should visit in New York City

The author stops at "The Ramp" mural as part of this NYC punk rock pilgrimageThe author stops at “The Ramp” mural as part of this NYC punk rock pilgrimage — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni

While no longer touring, the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Ramones are three original punk rock bands that people still talk about today. Although the two former bands spent significant time in New York City, only the latter is a real New York band. And all three were influenced by New York Dolls.

With former Dolls frontman David Johansen the focus of Martin Scorsese’s 2022 concert film “Personality Crisis: One Night Only,” a renewed interest in the two early 1970s Dolls albums has sparked. And 50 years after the first Ramones concert at CBGB, there’s no shortage of interest in the band and its place in rock-and-roll history.

One way to capture it all is a punk rock road trip around New York City, from the West Village to the East Village, ending in the Queens neighborhoods of Rego Park and Forest Hills, where the four outcasts who would eventually take on the stage surname Ramone met at the high school that now has an adjacent street bearing their name. Here are 10 points of interest.

Hotel Chelsea

The historic Hotel Chelsea has remodeled since Nancy Spungen met her demise in Room 100The historic Hotel Chelsea has remodeled since Nancy Spungen met her demise in Room 100 — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni

The now-charming historic Hotel Chelsea is an ideal home base if you’re in the city, or at least a stop for drinks and take in some punk rock — and lots of music, literature, and art — history.

Fortunately, it feels nothing like the kind of place where a heroin-addicted rock star would hold court to a rotating door of local undesirables. One of the most infamous stories of Hotel Chelsea is the death of 20-year-old Nancy Spungen, girlfriend of Sid Vicious, the bassist for the Sex Pistols. She was discovered in a pool of her own blood, and he was arrested for the murder. Vicious died of an overdose before the case went to trial. The room, room 100, is no longer; it was boarded up and divided into two spaces.

63 Bank St. in the West Village

The building where Sid Vicious died is located in the West VillageThe building where Sid Vicious died is located in the West Village — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni

Less than four months after Spungen’s death, John Simon Ritchie, aka Sid Vicious, succumbed to a heroin overdose the day after being released from Rikers Island. The artwork for his eponymous solo release includes a photo of Sid’s covered body being removed from the five-story building at 63 Bank St., where he died in his sleep. The privately owned building is not open to the public.

Punk rock shows at The Mercer Arts Center

The New York Dolls played many early shows at the former Mercer Arts CenterThe New York Dolls played many early shows at the former Mercer Arts Center — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni

In its former life, the Mercer Arts Center was to the New York Dolls what CBGB later became for The Ramones, Talking Heads, and several other up-and-coming acts who wanted to play original material. Today the building houses the New York University School of Law’s Hayden Hall.

Its spot in punk rock history: The Dolls played their first paid show here in 1972, just 15 months before parts of the building collapsed, killing four.

The former New York Dolls loft on Chrystie Street

The former New York Dolls loft still stands on Chrystie StreetThe former New York Dolls loft still stands on Chrystie Street — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni

The former New York Dolls loft at 119 Chrystie St. is the one piece of NYC punk rock history that’s still edgy. The three-story building looks unkept compared to the red brick ones on either side. At least one boarded-up window makes it easier to imagine starving artists coming and going while trying to score a record deal, among other things. On the positive side, you’ll find relatively affordable Chinese and other food options within walking distance.

Keeping punk rock alive at The Bowery Electric

Bowery Electric in the East Village still has punk rock showsBowery Electric in the East Village still has punk rock shows — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni

While CBGB ceased being a concert venue in 2006, you can still catch punk shows from newer bands and former Ramones at The Bowery Electric in the East Village. It’s where three of the last four Joey Ramone Birthday Bash celebrations, an annual event since his death in April 2001, took place. You can also catch the Johnny Thunders Birthday Bash here in July.

The Ramones in Albert’s Garden

The Ramones' debut album cover was shot in Albert's GardenThe Ramones’ debut album cover was shot in Albert’s Garden — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni

Bowery and East 2nd Street is an important intersection for Ramones fans — the northeast intersection is even dubbed Joey Ramone Way. On 2nd Street, you’ll see the John Derian Company, where Arturo Vega designed the famous Ramones logo. Continue east, and you’ll see Albert’s Garden on your left. The brick wall in the northwest corner? That was the location for the iconic cover for the Ramones’ eponymous first album.

The garden is privately maintained and open from April to October. Even if you are visiting outside of regular hours, the park is small enough that you can see the spot the wall where Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy Ramone stood wearing their signature jeans and black leather jackets.

Punk rock scenes in the alley behind the former CBGB

The Ramones' "Rocket to Russia" album cover was shot in the alley behind CBGBThe Ramones’ “Rocket to Russia” album cover was shot in the alley behind CBGB — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni

Any punk rock fan who has visited New York City has probably stopped by the former CBGB at 315 Bowery. Some fans might not know that the rear entrance to what is now the John Varvatos Bowery location was the backdrop for the Ramones’ “Rocket to Russia” album cover (unless you’re on a rock-and-roll walking tour).

The short alleyway is called Extra Place. While it’s not impossible to see a homeless person or two back there, don’t expect to see intoxicated punk fans vomiting onto the ground. Like most of the East Village, this area has been cleaned up (or frustratingly sanitized, depending on your view).

The Clash mural in Tompkins Square Park

Clash fans appreciate the Joe Strummer mural outside Tompkins Square ParkClash fans appreciate the Joe Strummer mural outside Tompkins Square Park — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni

While Clash guitarist, lyricist, and lead vocalist Joe Strummer was not a New Yorker, there is a mural of him outside Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. It’s here because the real-life John Mellor patronized Niagara, a bar located at the southeast corner of Avenue A and East 7th Street.

The Ramones mural in Rego Park

Fans stand with the Ramones in Rego Park (The Ramp)Fans stand with the Ramones in Rego Park (The Ramp) — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni

There are two Ramones murals in Queens, their home borough. The first is on the edge of Rego Park; it shows up on maps as The Ramp. This black-and-white mural set against a red wall depicts the four original members dressed in their signature jeans and leather jackets. Joey, Johnny, and Tommy are smiling, while Dee Dee (with guitar) is looking down at the magazine Tommy is holding.

Another Ramones mural under the Long Island Railroad sign

This Ramones mural lives under the Long Island RailroadThis Ramones mural lives under the Long Island Railroad — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni

The more exciting of the two Ramones murals in Queens is under the Long Island Railroad sign. This one is more notable for a few reasons. First of all, it’s in Forest Hills, where the original band members all bonded in high school over a love of The Stooges. Second, it’s in color. Third, it also includes Brooklynite Marc Bell (Marky Ramone), who played drums on more Ramones albums than Tommy and Richie combined.

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