RAMONES MUSEUM, BERLIN
The Ramones Museum in Berlin is a wonderful little treasure trove full of music memorabilia spanning the band's career from 1974 to 1996. Containing over 1000 original artifacts, it features items such as copies of the band's stage set-up and riders, rare posters, unpublished photos, signed memorabilia, stage worn clothing, instruments and amps, original tour-shirts, hand-written letters and song lyrics, along with other unique merchandise.
The idea for the museum was born in the Summer of 2005 when founder Flo Hayler moved in with his girlfriend who said it was either 'her or the Ramones junk on the walls'. So, with about eight boxes of pretty cool stuff including; Johnny Ramone's stage-worn jeans, one of Joey's stage-worn gloves, a white Mosrite guitar, some old Ramones shirts and a poster from their last ever show in Buenos Aires, he found a basement and turned it into a mini 'museum'. Starting as a bit of a joke amongst him and his friends, they opened the basement to the public on Sep 15th 2005. It was free entry, only opened at weekends and they didn't think it would last more than a week - but it soon became popular and started to grow. Two years after the opening, the landlord of the building kicked them out after finding someone else who was willing to pay more money for their beloved basement, so they were forced to find new premises.
In the Summer of 2008 they found a site that included a cafe in the Mitte district of Berlin. Arturo Vega, often referred to as 'the fifth Ramone' came to help them curate the exhibit and returned once a year to check how it was doing right up until his death in 2013. They decided to use the cafe space as a bar for people that would attend live shows in the museum. The building had a built in wooden platform with a few steps which they used as a stage, and the very first band to perform was Alkaline Trio, whose gig helped launch The Ramones Museum into one of the city's best locations for acoustic live shows. After nine years in the Mitte district, they decided a change was needed and the museum moved to its current site in Kreuzberg in 2017. The museum describes itself as 'a constant work in progress' and makes no promises that it has found its forever home, but for now it has a great space to display its wares. Regular events take place and there's a lovely cafe within the museum building.
I arrived on a dreich February afternoon and was hit by the aroma of fresh coffee as I opened the door and walked past the cafe to the counter. After buying my ticket, the girl presented me with a Ramones pin badge, explaining that it gives lifetime membership and free entry should I ever want to visit again, and pointed me towards the museum entrance which was through a pair of wooden swing doors. Pushing through the doors, I instantly found myself engulfed in a Ramones wonderland with every inch of the place covered in merchandise. Tshirts and posters adorned the walls, glass cases held paperwork from various tours and shows, and guitars sat in cabinets alongside stage-worn jeans, shoes and jackets.
I slowly wandered through the maze of narrow corridors taking my time to read the band interviews from old fanzines and rider/expenses sheets for their tours and shows. I then turned a corner where an open curtain revealed the entrance to a small cinema room containing a two-seater sofa and a tv screen playing a continuous video loop of the band's performances along with interviews with prominent figures talking about their relationships with the band. Making my way back out, I noticed a large poster advertising the band's concert at the Barrowlands in Glasgow in 1989 - what a show that would've been.
Whether you're a fan of the Ramones or not, the museum is definitely worth a visit purely for the music history and cultural significance of the artifacts. Despite the relatively small size of the museum, there is so much to look at and you could easily spend a couple of hours or more examining all the items in detail. The fact that the ticket price includes free lifetime entry into the museum is also a nice touch.
Location: Oberbaumstraße 5, 10997 Berlin.