Ah, the sarcasm of the Ramones.
Their second album from 1977, Rocket to Russia, featured plenty of it, but nothing quite like in “We’re A Happy Family.” This song is the Ramones way of destroying the traditional concept of the American Dream. For them, this is what punk was meant to do; criticize society by saying and doing whatever they wanted in short bursts of guitar riffs, catchy lyrics, and dark humour. They didn’t appeal to the masses, but to those who were willing to listen. While they were far less politically charged than their counterparts in the East, that didn’t stop the Ramones from making a name for themselves in punk culture in America.
“We’re a happy family
Me, mom, and daddy”
“We’re A Happy Family,” with its repetitive and head-banging sound that features Ramones’ traditional three-chord patterns, seems to give the impression of a happy tune with the chorus, purposely trying to lead you into a sense of comfort at the concept of one, big, happy family. But of course, then the truth comes out with the rest of the lyrics, references to drugs and troubles beyond repair barreling forward.
“Daddy’s telling lies
Baby’s eating flies
Mommy’s on pills
Baby’s got the chills.”
With the concept of a suburbia as being part of the American Dream still making headway after the Summer of Love in the ‘60s, the Ramones here are essentially trying to refute that in their own way, showing the ugliness behind every white picket fence.
This song stood out to me because even now people are singing about this kind of thing, with songs like “Dollhouse” by Melanie Martinez becoming popular and touching on similar issues within a different genre. Also, more and more often have I been reading about baby’s being born with drug withdrawals and the shakes. Looks like we still haven’t quite reached a perfect suburbia. Maybe, it now being the 40th anniversary of Rocket to Russia, everyone should check out the album and this track in particular for a reminder about what can lie behind that picket fence.