We’re A Happy Family – A Tribute to the Ramones

I was just a little kid when my grandpa died. I remember the preacher calling him “Robert,” his first name, throughout the funeral. I had never heard anyone ever call him Robert before that day, and haven’t since — his middle name was Patrick, and everybody knew my grandpa simply as “Pat”. Of course, the people in the church didn’t know him as Pat. In fact, I’m sure they didn’t know him at all. It had been years since he had stepped foot in a church. It’s a tough lesson to learn as a kid that death is a business. People show up, call you “Robert”, take a few thousand bucks from your insurance company, and head right back out the door they walked in.

Rob Zombie, who has proven that he can single-handedly delay every project he touches (see The Crow and House of 1000 Corpses) has somehow managed to finally get We’re A Happy Family – A Tribute To The Ramones, his homage to Joey Ramone, assembled and released. (The oldest reference I could find to the album is this June 2002 MTV News article which says the album is expected to hit stores in August of 2002.) Thank God they finally got it released, in the length of time this album took to hit shelves, another Ramone (Dee Dee) died as well. Put this thing off any longer and the others are likely to kick the bucket as well.

Alas, Joey and Dee Dee are probably the lucky two, as they’ll never have to hear this compilation. Most of the bands here appear to have dropped by, dedicated a cover tune to “Robert,” and headed out along their merry way, collecting their cash on the way out the door.

The Ramones were all about the basics. Basic instruments, basic chords, basic recordings, basic everything. Like frugal chefs, the Ramones could take chords from someone else’s song and turn it into an album’s worth of material. How ironic it is that bloated stadium rock bands like Metallica and Marilyn Manson ended up on a tribute to a punk band who was all about the basics.

Leading the charge is Rob Zombie’s interpretation of the “Blitzkrieg Bop,” a classic punk sing-a-long theme that’s been turned into a nu metal crunch and shoutfest. Cute. No, that’s not Dee Dee and Joey moshing, they’re rolling over in the graves, folks.

The biggest offenders are bands like Marilyn Manson, who turned “The KKK Took My Baby Away” into a drum machine-led violin catastrophe. Thank goodness there’s a few songs between that and The Pretenders’ “Something to Believe In,” or I might have fallen asleep right then.

Then you’ve got the “punk” section of the disc. Green Day, performing “Outsider,” manages to keep a little of the Ramones spirit while still not losing their identities in someone else’s song. Rancid’s version of “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” is almost unrecognizable; the Offspring’s “I Wanna Be Sedated,” on the other hand, is so close to the original it hurts. Eddie Vedder, singing with Zeke, kicks in two songs for the disc. There are so many other songs that suck on this disc, that “I Believe in Miracles” and “Daytime Delemma” escape my wrath simply by not sucking as much as other parts of the album.

Metallica’s “53rd and 3rd” and U2’s “Beat on the Brat” are also loyal, almost to a fault, to the originals. At least they sound like one take, dirty productions, something the Ramones would have enjoyed. Except, of course, that I’m sure both of those bands earned more money for their contributions than the Ramones made during their career. Garbage’s “I Just Wanna Have Something To Do” and KISS’ “Rock N’ Roll Radio” have more production on them than many Ramones albums. I couldn’t tell if it was a tribute to the times, or just yet another example of “not getting it.”

Tom Waits’ “Return of Jacky and Judy” is the grittiest song on the disc, and the only one with any feeling.

In fact, other than Waits, Metallica, and a few of the punk bands, I begin to wonder if these bands ever heard the Ramones, or were just along for the ride (or a buck). An over-produced mega-million dollar song on a Ramones tribute stands out worse than a white guy at the million man march.

What’s worse is, there’s nothing on this disc that I like better than the Ramones versions. Save your money and pick up All The Stuff and More (Volume 1 or 2), Ramones Mania (Volume 1 or 2), or any of the other various greatest hits packages out there. None are hard to find, and all pack more Ramones attitude into their little pinkies than this tribute.

All this disc made me do was wanna sniff some glue.

01. Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Havana Affair
02. Rob Zombie – Blitzkrieg Bop
03. Eddie Vedder Zeke – I Believe Miracles
04. Metallica – 53rd And 3rd
05. U2 – Beat On The Brat
06. Kiss – Do You Remember Rock’n’roll Radio
07. Marilyn Manson – The KKK Took My Baby Away
08. Garbage – I Just Wanna Have Something To Do
09. Green Day – Outsider
10. The Pretenders – Something To Believe In
11. Rancid – Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
12. Peter Yorn – I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
13. The Offspring – I Wanna Be Sedated
14. Rooney – Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
15. Tom Waits – Return Of Jacky & Judy
16. Eddie Vedder Zeke – Daytime Dilemma (Dangers Of Love)

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