The Punk Rock History Of ‘Gabba Gabba Hey’

You may have screamed it along with the Ramones, but do you even know what it means?

This year marked a lot of anniversaries for the pivotal punk rock band Ramones. It was the 40th anniversary for two of their most popular albums Rocket To Russia and Leave Home. A deluxe edition will be released for Rocket To Russia on November 24 and this past July Rhino Entertainment released a 40th anniversary box set for Leave Home.

Some of their most well known songs came from their sophomore album Leave Home. Tracks like “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” and “Blitzkrieg Bop” are practically anthems to the entire punk era. However, it’s the track “Pinhead” that provides the line that even Wikipedia says is known because of the Ramones.

“Gabba Gabba Hey;” you sing along to the lyrics while you bang your head and chant, “we accept you, one of us.” I bet you feel real punk rock, but you know what’s even more punk rock about that? The chant is actually based from this badass movie from the ‘30s, Freaks, where people who were actually from real sideshows were featured.

The movie is about the love and scandals that happen within a traveling sideshow–a behind the scenes, if you will. The chant is from a scene when they group of “freaks” are drunk at dinner and trying to initiate a women into their world. They all are drinking from what they call a “loving cup” while chanting “one of us, gooble gobble.” However, the woman, well, freaks out and storms away.

And here’s an interesting fact; two of the biggest stars in the film were conjoined twins known as the Hilton sisters. (There’s an entire, pretty tragic, documentary about them on Netflix called Bound By Flesh.) They made it in Vaudeville and became pretty big stars. However, with the dawn of films and Broadway their fame eventually fizzled out and they passed, still conjoined, in a quaint town working at a grocery store.

The film, along with a bearded lady, people with dwarfism, men and women missing limbs and many others who were big in the sideshow circuit of the ‘30s and ’40s, also featured “pinheads” (people suffering from microcephaly). Hence the lyrics, “I don’t want to be a pinhead no more, I just met a nurse that I do go for.”

The Ramones came along in 1977 and decided to bring the freaks together. Freaks to the Ramones didn’t mean people with physical deformities, but people who just felt like outcasts, a.k.a. punks.

So, by saying “Gabba Gabba Hey” you are declaring yourself a fellow freak with the punks—making “Pinhead” the ultimate punk rock anthem.