Sometimes a band can change your life. If you see them at just the right age, when your mind is wired and your heart is open and you’re making taking just the right cocktail of recreational substances, the right musician can hand you a sound that becomes a new way of seeing the world, and like that, your entire path is altered. For some people it’s the Clash; for some people it’s Patti Smith. Sometimes it’s Public Enemy or R.E.M. or Bikini Kill or Kendrick or Sleater-Kinney or M.I.A. or Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings or Liz Phair. For Tom Hearn (and many others), it was the Ramones.
Hearn’s new solo show at 72 Gallery is titled, appropriately enough, “The First Time I Saw the Ramones.” The titular event took place on the night of July 22, 1976, when Hearn accompanied his friend Legs McNeil (who would later co-write the definite document of the era, Please Kill Me) to a Ramones show at the Arcadia Ballroom in New Haven. At the suggestion of photographer Larry Kerson (whom he was assisting at the time), Hearn grabbed two Nikons, some lenses, and a fistful of film on his way out the door – and that night, he began documenting the burgeoning New York punk scene. Here are some of the results.