Though we like the September weather, we're not too jazzed about the foreboding vibe that accompanies the coming of Fall. We all know the agents of oppression are upon on. Shorter days, colder nights and school back in session. Homework, detention. Even those of us who haven't been near a school under court order remember and often dream about being back in school. It's usually the day of the test. I haven't studied. I haven't read the textbook. I didn't bring a number two pencil. In fact, I didn't wear any pants. Talk about unprepared. On the bright side, I seem to look exactly as I did in high school and so does everyone else. The ruins of encroaching old age have been eliminated. But it's going to be really tough walking the hall without my pants. Someone might notice.
But here are five songs key to school survival. They speak the truth.
School": They rhyme "school" with "golden rule." Can't argue with that. In their day--the progressive rock of the 1970s--Supertramp was a band of guys who already looked old even though they really weren't. They recorded albums that had "classical" touches and bored the hell out of people who didn't own stereo systems hi-fi enough to do their sound justice. They liked "social commentary" and from what I can see, they don't view school as the enemy, but a social construct that can lead to bad things in the wrong hands. Right ON!
Rush--"Subdivisions": While we're dealing with overserious prog rockers, why not add a Rush tune to the party pile? What I love about Rush--beyond their "Canadian" status, which is too cute--is how they suck the life and joy out of everything they touch. Kids I knew liked shopping malls until they heard this song. Then they realized it was all part of an overall evil scheme of "Subdivisions" meant to equalize and neutralize their inner greatness. If these kids didn't have to "conform or be cast-out" in the high school halls, they might have gone on to become the next Shakespeare, the next Rembrandt, the next Cheetah Chrome! But, no, they live in cul de sacs and work as well-paid CPAs for leading home improvement companies. Such evil.
High School": Now we're talking! The MC5 started off as a band of revolutionaries, looking to blow up the U.S. Government and teach people to live communally with a minimum number of porta-potties. These fun-lovin' deviants soon realized that capitalism doesn't have to suck if you can own the means of production. In a moment of twisted logic, they hired future Bruce Springsteen manager-producer Jon Landau for his first production job and while he didn't encourage the band to sing about building cars, he did convince them to go back to their early rock 'n' roll roots (all of 15 years old at most) and get down with the "kids." The album didn't have the impact it should and the band went back to rarely agreeing on anything.
Ramones--"Rock 'N' Roll High School": It's hard to explain to someone these days, but there was a time when not everyone owned a Ramones T-Shirt. There was a time when they were not very successful. Critics liked them. Certain people in the music biz liked them. But they couldn't break through. Conspiracy theories have mostly been proven true. The MAN didn't want the Ramones to succeed. Failing to score serious radio hits, the Ramones turned to film, figuring they could sneak into the mainstream that way. Even with a crucial "blowing up the school" sequence, Rock 'N' Roll High School was never more than a cult classic. It's a damn huge cult now. And we got this great tune to boot.
Welcome To The Machine": Before you think I've suddenly turned this awful "Back to School" theme into something to celebrate, I offer you this pulverizing composition from those purveyors of psychedelic sloth, the Pink Floyd. Sure, they were talking about a kid who leaves school to work in the music business--alas, the Machine. But as teenagers sitting in the high school parking lot in the back of a Chevy Nova, their audience heard it as a doomed admission that in just a few minutes all would be exiting the car and entering THAT building and submitting to the soul-crushing exercise of going through the motions one class period at a time. Then you'd think, wait, it's Wednesday! Pizza day! Whew!