“We Destroy The Family”: Punks vs Parents, circa 1982

By on May 15, 2015

“Every generation asks the same question,” says local KABC TV reporter Paul Moyer, the narrator of this 1982 “public affairs presentation” on punk rockers versus their parents, “and the answer is always the same. Parents worried when bobby-soxed teens swooned over Frank Sinatra. They worried when a greasy-haired hillbilly brought rock ‘n’ roll to the kids. They worried when the Beatles propelled teenage hysteria to new heights. But if we’ve learned anything, in all that time, it is this: kids grow up, and subcultures die. Punk, too, will fade away.”

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“We Destroy The Family” was a punk song, written by Lee Ving and Philo Cramer of the L.A. band Fear, and that’s who we have representing the side of the punk rockers — as far as the musicians go — and we start off, in fact, with Ving offering up the lyrics up to the song as though they were morsels of sage advice:

“Let’s see… Steal the money from your mother and buy a gun,… We destroy the family.”

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Moyer then welcomes us to “a concert in the San Fernando Valley,” as Fear launches into the song. What then appears onscreen to the gentle viewer at home must have looked like a quick descension into chaos — while Ving and the band charge forward and being churning rhythmically with the song, the crowd immediately begins to do what they always do when the music from a band like Fear begins, with Ving counting off, in rapid-fire: “One-two-three-four, one-two-three-four!”

A swirling mosh pit erupts and we see slam dancing and stage-diving backflips — “the kids say it’s just controlled aggression,” Moyer happily offers up — and we’re sure it all looked pretty crazy to the typical viewer of KABC’s local programming, but as Moyer has already told us: “These are mostly middle-class kids out having a good time on a Thursday night in Reseda.”

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We dug into this a little deeper and found that this 22-minute segment is actually just a part of the 5-part documentary on punk rock’s deleterious effects on the establishment. Five parts!

By the way, this special KABC documentary series also comes a year after the theatrical release of the 1981 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, which will be finally be released — in a deluxe four-disc anthology, in both DVD and Blu-ray formats, chronicling L.A.’s hardcore punk, hair-metal and gutter-punk phenomena – next month, as we told you here.

His preamble continues and we learn that for the next twenty minutes we’ll be seeing “a story and parents and punks, and some families in trouble.” Noting the music’s British roots, he adds, “What was once an expression of working-class rage is now pre-packaged individually for teens with a yen for rebellion. Punk may be dead in London and New York, but it is alive and well in the suburbs.”

Moyer continues to do his best to explain punk rock music, and how punk fans respond to it, and what it’s doing to families in the L.A. area, obviously siding with the parents here, and also mentions that tickets to see Fear on the night they were filming cost $8.50.

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The show’s first case study was the Hodge family, who are shown living in an opulent SoCal suburb; the segment opens with a shot of their eminently comfortable family home, mother Carolyn playing the piano under the approving gaze of father Ron, while children, Ron Jr., and Rhonda, watch their parents, obviously bored out of their minds, from a nearby landing.

“They were going to put me in a mental hospital for awhile,” offers Ron Jr., who has a shaved head, “because I didn’t want to live here. They thought I was crazy or something, because I changed.” We also see his sister, Rhonda, who learns at the same time that we do that her mother has been reading her private journal entries, and I’m not sure how we’re supposed to decipher what it means when her mother actually says, “I read it in your own handwriting.”

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The series also includes footage from a group therapy session with Serena Dank, a self-proclaimed expert on punk kids, where the parents express their concerns and grievances, and we’re sure Ms. Dank was paid handsomely to offer up advice.

Moyer eventually tells us that “After watching this little therapy session, it’s important to remember this is not the first generation to bring parents to tears,” although we can’t imagine how the parents who dealt with Sinatra, Elvis and the Beatles would have reacted if their kids would have liked Fear instead.

Actually, here’s a suggestion — if your grandparents have internet access, send them the link to this post, and then leave us a comment below about what they said in response. Can’t wait for that.

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.
  • Dan

    Just to clarify, KABC in Los Angeles ran this as a 5-part report during their local newscast in the evening, with each night’s report only running a few minutes. One short piece on Monday, the next on Tuesday, etc, ending on Friday. You know the drill — just a sensationalized topic to get people to watch their newscast instead of the other guys’.

    Then a short while later, they added extra footage and padded it out to fill a half-hour (22 min) TV slot, which they aired (only once that I’m aware of) during the late night hours. I think this was done to make it eligible for some local TV award.

    So this version is longer and better than if you simply took the 5 nightly reports and strung them together. I was the one who originally uploaded this video to YouTube (which the above was taken). I have since uploaded a better-resolution version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-1HJnz4Zgk

  • Munkiman

    Very cool, Dan! Thanks!