It’s that time of year when another school year has just started. You can’t escape the start of a new school year because before your summer vacation is even close to coming to an end, you’re getting inundated with Back to School commercials on TV and radio and after a while you accept it, get onboard and join in the craze to shop the Tax-Free Weekend hoping that the things you buy qualify as tax-free BTS items (they usually don’t). This time of year always takes me on a trip down memory lane as I remember all those years of wishing that Labor Day weekend wouldn’t end because that was it, the carefree fun of the summer was over.
Today’s Monday’s Music Moves Me theme is Songs about School. Here are a few of my favorite school-oriented songs.
School’s Out by Alice Cooper – “School’s Out” is a 1972 song first recorded as the title track single of Alice Cooper’s fifth album and written by the Alice Cooper band: Cooper, Michael Bruce, Glen Buxton, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith.
Cooper has said he was inspired to write the song when answering the question, “What’s the greatest three minutes of your life?” Cooper said: “There’s two times during the year. One is Christmas morning, when you’re just getting ready to open the presents. The greed factor is right there. The next one is the last three minutes of the last day of school when you’re sitting there and it’s like a slow fuse burning. I said, ‘If we can catch that three minutes in a song, it’s going to be so big.'”
Cooper has also said it was inspired by a line from a Bowery Boys movie. The title (and song) were inspired by a warning often said in Bowery Boys movies in which one of the characters declares to another, “School is out,” meaning “to wise up.” The Bowery Boys were characters featured in 48 movies that ran from 1946-1958. They were young tough guys in New York City who were always finding trouble. The movies ran on American TV throughout the ’60s and ’70s, eating up a lot of air time on independent stations. It was one of these TV viewings that Cooper saw. In the film, the character Sach (Huntz Hall) did something dumb, which prompted one of the other guys to say, “Hey, Sach, School’s Out!” Cooper like the way the phrase sounded and used it as the basis for this song.
On his radio show, “Nights with Alice Cooper”, he joked that the main riff of the song was inspired by a song by Miles Davis. Cooper said that guitarist Glen Buxton created the song’s opening riff.
The lyrics of “School’s Out” indicate that not only is the school year ended for summer vacation, but ended forever, and that the school itself has been blown up. It incorporates the childhood rhyme, “No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks” into its lyrics. It also featured children contributing some of the vocals. The song appropriately ends with a school bell sound that fades out.
In a 2008 Esquire interview, Cooper said: “When we did ‘School’s Out,’ I knew we had just done the national anthem. I’ve become the Francis Scott Key of the last day of school.”
“School’s Out” became Alice Cooper’s first major hit single, reaching #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart and propelling the album to #2 on the Billboard 200 pop albums chart. Billboard ranked it as the No. 75 song for 1972. In Canada, the single went to #3 on the RPM Top Singles Chart following the album reaching #1. In Britain, the song went to #1 on the UK Singles Chart for three weeks in August 1972. It also marked the first time that Alice Cooper became regarded as more than just a theatrical novelty act.
Some radio stations banned the song from their airwaves, stating that the song gave the students an impression of rebelliousness against childhood education. Teachers, parents, principals, counselors, and psychologists also shunned the song and demanded several radio stations ban the song from ever being played on the air. REALLY?? Wow!
How I miss the days of vinyl! This album opened like a school desk and contained a pair of paper panties. This is the kind of “added value” you just don’t get with CDs. Did any of you own that album?
The song is definitely an end of school-year and summer vacation anthem, but it was also used in a Back to School campaign a few years back:
In 2004, the song was also used in a Staples television commercial for the back to school retail period in which Alice appeared as himself. A young girl with black hair, obviously disappointed that school is starting soon, says, “I thought you said ‘School’s out forever.'” Alice (who’s pushing a shopping cart full of her school supplies) replies, “No, no, no … the song goes, ‘School’s out for summer.’ Nice try though.”
My Old School by Steely Dan – “My Old School” is a single drawn from Steely Dan’s 1973 album Countdown to Ecstasy. It reached number 63 on the Billboard charts.
The “Old School” referred to in this song is Bard College in Annandale, New York, where Donald Fagen and Walter Becker met. The song is at least partially inspired by an event that occurred at Bard, where both Becker and Fagen, along with their girlfriends, were arrested in a pot raid on a party that was orchestrated by an ambitious young District Attorney named G. Gordon Liddy (hence the line “Tried to warn ya about Geno and Daddy G”). Despite the fact that California has not (yet) tumbled into the sea, both Fagen and Becker have returned to Bard.
This song is so rich with musical artistry. The horns and the guitar work are amazing. Crank this one up for sure!
Back to School Again by The Four Tops from the Grease 2 sountrack – “Back To School Again” is the opening number from the 1982 musical Grease 2. With music by Louis St. Louis and lyrics by Howard Greenfield, this uptempo track which features nearly the entire cast, runs to well over six and a half minutes, and contains some classy choreography every bit as impressive in its own way as Michael Jackson’s classic Thriller video; the song’s most noticeable feature is its heavy base line; the theme is evident from the title – first day back after the long American Summer vacation.
The main vocals are performed by The Four Tops, and the horn arrangements are by Andy Huson.
Smokin’ in the Boys Room by Brownsville Station – “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” is a song originally recorded by Brownsville Station in 1973 on their album Yeah! It reached number 3 in Canada and on the US Billboard Hot 100, and was later certified by the RIAA. It was written by Brownsville Station lead singer/guitarist Michael “Cub” Koda. Koda wrote for various music magazines, including Goldmine, until he died in 2000.
This song is about a group of schoolboys who sneak out of class to smoke tobacco in the boys’ bathroom, only to be found by the principal who reminds them “No smoking allowed in school.” Cub Koda got the idea for the song from memories of hanging out at a movie theater with his childhood friends – they would smuggle cigarettes lifted from their parents into the men’s room at the Clinton Theater in Ann Arbor, Michigan on Friday nights. Coda says the “old duffer” who owned the theater would come after them, but never caught them in the act.
When he found himself in a band, Koda drew from this experience to write the song, shifting the scene from the movie house to the schoolhouse.
It took Koda just a half hour to write the song and an hour for the band to record it. They didn’t think much of it, but the song became far and away their biggest hit. Brownsville Station – comprised of Koda, bass player Michael Lutz and drummer Henry Weck at the time – had released two album previous to Yeah! and were enjoying regional acclaim around Michigan when “Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room” took them to the national level.
Good Lord, do I remember smokin’ in the lavatories! I don’t smoke anymore. I quit back in August of 1996. But for a good number of years, I was a pretty heavy smoker. I started smoking at a really young age (11) so in junior high and then high school, us “cool kids” were always packed into the stalls in between classes puffin’ away, trying to get in as many drags as we could before the bell rang. I only remember getting caught once. It was during the middle of a class period and I was the only one in the bathroom when I heard the ‘clack, clack, clack’ of heels coming into the bathroom so I ditched my cigarette in the toilet and tried to wave away the smoke but naturally there was smoke cloud billowing above my stall. I guess I was pretty fortunate because even though I was often doing bad things back then, the teachers all liked me so I rarely got in trouble (I was an honor student after all). I came out of the stall and said, “Hi Mrs. (I can’t remember her name)” and she just looked at me with this disappointing look and said, “Get back to class Michele.” Okay. Thanks!
Does this song bring back memories for you?
School Days by the Kinks – This song is from Schoolboys in Disgrace (or The Kinks Present Schoolboys in Disgrace), a 1975 album by the Kinks.
The front cover was illustrated by Mickey Finn of T. Rex. It later appeared on NME’s list of the ’50 worst covers of all time’.
According to the back cover liner notes, the story which the album presents is as follows:
Once upon a time there was a naughty little schoolboy. He and his gang were always playing tricks on the teachers and bullying other children in the school. One day he got himself into very serious trouble with a naughty schoolgirl and he was sent to the Headmaster who decided to disgrace the naughty boy and his gang in front of the whole school.
After this punishment the boy turned into a hard and bitter character. Perhaps it was not the punishment that changed him but the fact that he realised people in authority would always be there to kick him down and the Establishment would always put him in his place. He knew that he could not change the past but he vowed that in the future he would always get what he wanted. The naughty little boy grew up… into Mr Flash.
Mr Flash was the name of the villain from the Kinks’ rock opera Preservation (released as Preservation Act 1 and Preservation Act 2).
I don’t know about you but, like the song says, my school days were some of the happiest and most fun times in my life. Although I went through my share of shit back then, for the most part, I enjoyed being a popular kid in school and had a ton of wild and crazy friends and we did some really wild and crazy things…things that keep me smiling and laughing to this day. This song really says it, how I feel about school.
What are you favorite songs about school? How do you feel about school? Did you like it, hate it? Why?
Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) is a blog hop hosted by X-Mas Dolly, and co-hosted by JAmerican Spice, Stacy Uncorked and Curious as a Cathy. Be sure to stop by the hosts and visit the other participants.