The subject of school has been a big theme for pop songs since Chuck Berry goose-stepped his way through School Days (Ring Ring Goes The Bell) in 1957. However, it seems that the seventies heralded a certain golden age of school-related songs, despite it being something of a pop void to many music fans. What makes these songs so memorable? And what does the lack of quality edu-odes today say about education in the noughties?
5: Rock ‘n’ Roll High School – Ramones. “I don’t care about history, ‘cos that’s not where I want to be!” Although not often regarded as a Ramones classic, this 1979 soundtrack number to the movie of the same name stands proud as a thumping sing-along at a time when the band was spending a lot of time exploring new pop directions, and finally getting some chart recognition. It’s funny how at no point during my life of education, even beyond university, I’ve never actually seen a student cruise around in a GTO.
4: When I Kissed The Teacher – ABBA. “Leaning over me, he was trying to explain the laws of geometry, and I couldn’t help it, I just had to kiss the teacher!” This cringe-worthy and decisively un-pc representation of teacher/student relations is the opener to the Swedish quartet’s fourth album, Arrival. Aside from the story video acted by the band, the most disturbing aspect of the song is the teacher’s response to Agnetha’s affections. Simply put: he likes it.
3: Baggy Trousers – Madness. “All I learnt at school, was how to bend not break the rules.” Yes, I know that this song is from 1980 but so what. How could anyone ignore this cheeky celebration of schoolyard vandalism and nostalgic pranks. Whatever happened to getting the cane? And to be fair, you’re likely to receive an ASBO for pulling someone’s hair today. Make me young.
2: Another Brick In The Wall – Pink Floyd. “We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control.” It all seems to get a bit gloomy and serious by the time The Floyd get involved. Still, Waters’ tune and the accompanying animation and movie turned this into some kind of prog anthem for doomed youth. The innocent fondness, of which we are used to, is replaced by a strange haunting choir – and all of a sudden there’s a reason to repel education beyond the juvenile need of ‘getting kicks’.
1: School’s Out – Alice Cooper. “Well we got no class, and we got no principles, and we got no intelligence, we can’t even think of a word that rhymes.” Here’s a little post-modern excerpt about Cooper’s acceptance of his lacking in ability to rhyme. But he just don’t care! There’s just something eternally visceral about that feeling of leaving school behind, and it’s a tune to boot; it’s also funny that he was 24 and four albums into his career when this song was released!
I accept that there are countless others from this era. But how many can you name from the last ten years? Not that many I reckon. And why? Well, it would seem that in this age of home teaching and a more varied school curriculum, there simply may well be less to complain about today. For the sake of pop music, that could well be a shame.