Sunday, May 29, 2011

10 Great (and Bad) School Songs

10 School Inspired Songs from the Websnacker Archives

In a move obviously perpetrated by ignorant politicians, obsessive academics and greedy education companies, kids these days are having a really short vacation and are going back to school much, much earlier. In fact most of them are back at School already.

Whatever happened to free time for children, of not having to go back to brainwash camp and why did needlessly anxious parents and other such minions of school evil allow these sinister changes? It's not like this extra time in the school trenches is making the kids any smarter, so why not let the little brats have some more summer vacation?

Anyway, instead of harping on the nation wide super sale of Apple iPhone4 or Justin Beiber T-shirts (De rigueur for the fashion forward trend-following teen-sheep), lets dust off the old tape recorder and review some of the world's great and not so great songs (read bad songs) about school (from my archives) to the test. Don't worry if your favorite school-themed song isn't on here, it probably sucks anyway. Why? Because I'm the teacher now and I said so.

1. Beach Boys: Be True to Your School
Uggh. No disrespect to Brian Wilson and his Manson-friendly brothers, because they definitely churned out some important and lovely psychedelic harmonic pop, but this glee-club disaster of a song sucks. The devotion to your alma-mater lyrics sound like something the super dad on "7th Heaven" would write, and the "Rah, Rah, Rah, Sis-Boom-Bah" background vocals are about as square as music can get without somehow involving both Kenny G. and a church youth group. Youtube

2. Chuck Berry: School Days
An exemplar specimen, not just of the school songs genre, but of Rock n' Roll in its entirety. This song, with its wonderful guitar work echoing Berry's witty lyrics, paints a truly amazing, portrait of teenage life during the dawn of Rock n' Roll. A true joy, we only wish all of our current staple of songs on air were as clever, catchy and poignant as this 1957 classic. Youtube

3. Dead Prez: They Schools
Wow. Hip hop Duo M-1 and Stic man really break it down on this one, spewing not only fury and rage but also some serious knowledge and insight into just how screwed up America's school systems are, especially for Afro Americans. The only thing keeping this track from being a straight up winner is the somewhat weak R&B style hook which manages to detract from the overall power and impact of the verses. Youtube

4. MC5: High School
Those were the days when Wayne Kramer and his boys seemed to be coasting on proto-punk "Kick Out the Jams" White Panther reputation and hence, this lackluster celebration of youth gone wild. Certainly not their best work. There's potential here, but these guys need to buckle down and apply themselves if they really want to spark a revolution. Youtube

5. Nirvana: School
Sure it's not quite as catchy or dazzling as “Smells like Teen Spirit”, but this is good solid genre work. Cobain's pained wail and the repeated refrains of "No Recess" and "You're in High School Again" skillfully, if simply, articulate the utter torturous anguish that, for most of us, was (or is) High School. Youtube

6. Replacements: Fuck School
Very early Replacements at their shoddy, patchy, punk/drunk rock best. Its 90 secs of pure midwestern youth insurgence and it earns a considerable credibility bonus by virtue of the fact that bass-player Tommy Stinson was all of just 15 years old at the time and probably had to skip his 10th grade Social Studies to make the recording session. Youtube

7. Van Halen: Hot For Teacher
This song rocks. An under rated Van Halen gem. A perfect riff and some great rocket-ship soloing from Eddie combined with David Lee Roth's perfectly lascivious hard rock vocals form a classic tune. It's too bad David Lee Roth called it quits afterwards only to be replaced by what many fans call an insipid and second-rate imitator in Sammy Hagar (which I completely disagree though). Youtube

8. Pixies: Weird at My School
This Doolittle era rarity is an attention-grabbing Country and Western flavored tune about a kid that lives at his Catholic school and wants to have sex with the nuns. Not bad at all but from alternative chart regulars like the Pixies, we would expect a little better. Youtube

9. Ramones: Rock n' Roll High School
A lot more fun in theory than practice, this is probably one of the Ramones' lamer songs. It's just a little too '50s kitsch for tastes. Still it is the Ramones, a perpetual Teacher's favorite, so it squeezes in just above the mark of mediocrity. Youtube

10. Sam Cooke: Wonderful World
On first listen, this song sounds almost as square as, if a lot more expressive as, "Be True To Your School," but a deeper listen reveals it’s many saving graces. Cooke's voice is so smooth it's spiritual, his lyrics are self-deprecatingly endearing, and most importantly… he's trying to get laid. You can't fault a guy for that. Sam may not claim to be an A Student, but he was one of the pioneers of Soul music and with this majestic performance he earns top marks. As a side note, at the height of his popularity, Cooke was shot dead when was 33 years old under rather mysterious circumstances. Bet they don't teach that at school. Youtube

Notable Mentions (with Youtube Links)
Alice Cooper - “School's Out
Boomtown Rats - “I Don't Like Mondays"
Bryan Adams - “Summer of 69
Crash test Dummies – “Mmm Mmm Mmm"
Jackson 5 - “ABC
Pet Shop Boys - “It's a Sin"
Pink Floyd - “Another Brick in the Wall

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