Like most logos, the design for the Ramones was created with a purpose. To brand the group as the quintessential All-American rock band using imagery from The Presidential Seal. And while the Ramones are no more, their legend, and famous eagle, live on.
Let’s get this out of the way: the actual name of the band is Ramones, not THE Ramones. Trouble is, that’s weird to write and even on the official Ramones’ website, they’re referred to as “the Ramones” with a lower case “t”, so no hate mail on getting the name wrong m’kay?
The Ramones’ logo was designed by New York City artist Arturo Vega, a longtime friend who lived with several members of the band. Vega also served as the band’s lighting director and produced the band’s T-shirts, their main source of income during early touring days. Most of those designs featured artwork based on an American Bald Eagle belt buckle which had appeared on the back sleeve of the Ramones’ first album. Vega was inspired to create the band’s logo design, basing it on The Presidential Seal, after a trip to Washington, D.C., wanting the design to portray ‘An All-American Band.’
The scroll in the eagle’s beak originally read “Look Out Below”, but this was changed to “Hey. Ho. Let’s go” taken from the lyrics of the band’s first single, Blitzkrieg Bop. As an aside, that phrase is also used in several Stephen King novels (King is a huge fan), while the Ramones recorded the soundtrack song to the film adaptation of King’s Pet Sematary which is, beyond a doubt, my all-time fave Ramone’s track. Here’s it is:
Anyhoo, the arrowheads were inspired by a design on a polyester shirt Vega had bought, and were meant to “symbolize strength and the aggression that would be used against whomever dares to attack us.” Similarly, the branch was meant to symbolize an olive branch “offered to those who want to be friendly.” Those with a keen eye will notice that the branch isn’t actually an olive branch at all, but that of an apple tree. The reason? It was changed to represent the Ramones being “as American as apple pie.” The addition of the baseball bat was arbitrary and due mainly to Johnny Ramone’s love for baseball though some people claim it referred to the lyrics from “Beat on the brat (…with a baseball bat).” There was also a variant in which the eagle was holding a ICBM missile, a nod to their album Rocket to Russia.
Replacing the “Seal of the President of the United States” in the circular border, Vega paced band member names, changing them as the band’s lineup evolved over the years. The logo was originally designed in full color (above), but is more often seen in a raw black and white form (lead), partially because of the minimalist tread in the New York punk scene of the 1970s, but mostly because it was cheaper to reproduce.
Despite calling themselves the Ramones, all of the band members adopted pseudonyms ending with the surname, and none of them were actually related. They performed 2,263 concerts, touring virtually nonstop for 22 years until 1996, when the band played a farewell show and disbanded. Since the breakup, the band’s three founding members – lead singer Joey Ramone, guitarist Johnny Ramone, and bassist Dee Dee Ramone – have all died. Ironically, one of the Ramones’ best selling albums was entitled Too Tough to Die.