Artist: The Ramones
Song/Album: Pinhead / Leave Home
Writers: The Ramones
Year Released: 1977
Genre/Sub Genre: Rock / Punk

Why it’s a “Penn’s Pick”:

Clever, simplistic, infectious, repetitious, memorable, genre defining and of course ATTITUDE!  These are just some of the factors that have enabled this 2:44 Punk song to stand the test of time not just within the Punk genre, but within popular culture as a whole.

Today’s Rock writers and artists have a lot that they can learn from Pinhead and the Ramones.  Some have the craft but are missing the attitude.  Some have the attitude but are missing the craft.  If you want to REALLY make an impact, you need both!

This Penn’s Pick clip features the Ramones performing Pinhead in their prime at the Rainbow in 1977.

Gabba Gabba Hey!

Some Key Compositional Facts:

  • Form (I-IB-A-IB-A-IB-IB-C-IB-A-IB-IB-O): Intro (Vocal) – Instrumental Break Variation 1 – Verse 1 – Turnaround – Instrumental Break Variation 1 – Verse 2 – Turnaround – Instrumental Break Variation 1 – Instrumental Break Variation 2 – Bridge – Turnaround – Instrumental Break Variation 1 – Verse 3 – Turnaround – Instrumental Break Variation 1 – Instrumental Break Variation 2 – Outro
  • The short 0:08 intro instantly grabs your attention and hooks you into the song via its unique nature (drums + reverse vocal effect lead in on the repetitive lyrics “Gabba gabba we accept you, we accept you one of us!”)
  • Pinhead contains 3 verse sections within the song, all of which repeat in the same exact manner during each occurrence.  This includes the melody AND lyrics!
  • Each verse vocal line consists of the same syllable count (10) and melody, making it exceptionally easy to get engrained within the listener’s head.
  • 46% of the entire song is spent within the instrumental break sections.  This is followed by the 23% spent within the outro and 20% within the verse.
  • Pinhead DOESN’T contain a chorus!
  • The “D-U-M-B” bridge provides both a departure from the ultra-repetitive nature of the song and fosters memorability by reverting back to the pounding drum/solo vocal nature of the intro coupled with interspersed instrumental breaks (of course)!
  • The long outro (relative to the entire song) consists of the repetitive “Gabba Gabba Hey” vocal – which is one of the most memorable phrases in the history of popular music.
  • Note that the “Gabba Gabba” phrase is introduced during the intro and concludes the song as well during the outro, which enhances the memorability factor.
  • Pinhead consists of 3 primary instrumental themes – the 4 short 0:02 – 0:03 turnarounds that follow the verse and bridge sections, the 5 0:11 IB-1 sections and the 2 short 0:05 IB-2 sections that follow the third and last IB-1 occurrences within the song.  Note that IB-2 also defines the backing music throughout the entire outro.
  • Note the limited/simplistic/unique nature of the lyrics which greatly enhances the engagement and memorability factors –  INTRO: “Gabba gabba we accept you, we accept you one of us.” VERSE: “I don’t wanna be a pinhead no more. I just met a nurse that I could go for.” BRIDGE: “D-U-M-B everyone’s accusing me.” OUTRO: “Gabba Gabba Hey.”
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