Ben’s Ten: Volume IV: Songs About Education

With the school year just beginning, it seemed appropriate to take a look at some rock and roll songs that cover the subjects of education, teachers, teen angst and rebellion. Not surprisingly, most rock songs featuring lyrics about school discuss topics of sexuality, drug use and frustration — not so much good grades, positive studying habits and perfect attendance. Songs about school strike a nerve in youth culture, as the lyrics are relatable. Who hasn’t had a crush on a teacher (“Hot for Teacher”), been anxious for summer to start (“School’s Out”) or daydreamed about taking revenge on a bully (“Jeremy”)?

1) “Bitch School” by Spinal Tap: A beautiful, poetic song by the most influential and inspiring band of the ’80s. His girl is being a bitch, so he has no choice but to send her back to “Bitch School.” Best line: “You’re so fetching when you’re down on all fours.”

2) “Campus” by Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend is famous for their preppy, Ivy League look. The members met while attending Columbia, so it’s no surprise then that their debut featured a song about, well, being on campus. … That and the girl he sees and can’t stop thinking about. Best line: “I’m sleepin’ on the balcony after class.”

3) “Catholic Schoolgirls Rule” by Red Hot Chili Peppers: You can’t be more blunt with a song title. The Chili Peppers have always had a playful, funny element to their songwriting. Either that or they’re pedophiles. Best line:  “In the class she’s taking notes, just how deep is my throat.”

4) “Violent School” by the Dead Milkmen: Years before the Columbine tragedy, singing about violence and guns in school was not only socially acceptable, but even funny — especially coming from Philadelphia’s most notorious punk/comedy trio. Best line: “Violence rules, guns are cool and we’ve got guns, in our school!”

5) “Hot for Teacher” by Van Halen: In retrospect, “Hot for Teacher” was a silly, sexually fueled novelty of a hit. No one knew how to have a good time in the ’80s like David Lee Roth. The video, featuring a sexy teacher as a stripper, the band’s synchronized dancing and some shredding guitar solos, is timeless. Best line: “Got it bad, got it bad, got it bad, I’m hot for teacher.”

6) “Rock ’n’ Roll High School” by the Ramones: The Ramones were always fantastic at stripping music down to the bare minimum. Three chords paired with honest lyrics about the school experience was all this song needed to go down in the history books as classic. Best line: “I just wanna have some kicks. I just wanna get some chicks.”

7) “School Days (Ring Ring Goes the Bell)” by Chuck Berry: Well into his 30s, Chuck Berry remained brilliant at describing the adolescent experience — that itch to get the hell out of class and hang out with “the one you love,” while enjoying a little rock and roll. Berry also gets points for being one of the sickest dudes in rock; he got busted with cameras in the restrooms of his restaurants and there’s a video of him peeing on a girl. That’s gangsta. Best line: “Hail, hail rock ’n’ roll. Deliver me from the days of old.”

8) “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper: Much like Chuck Berry’s “School Days”, Cooper’s “School’s Out” is a song to which the kids could relate. The song was an anthem for long-haired stoner kids all over the country in the early ’70s. Best line: “Out for summer. Out till fall. We might not go back at all!”

9) “Working Class Hero” by John Lennon: The “Plastic Ono Band” album found John Lennon in the middle of primal scream therapy, writing some of his most intensely personal songs. He felt he’d had a rough life, especially at school, but was able to transcend his early, traumatic experiences and become a role model for a whole generation. Best line: “They hurt you at home and they hit you at school.”

10) “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam: Eddie Vedder never discussed the meaning behind “Jeremy”. Out of respect for his fans, he left it open for interpretation. But judging from the video and lyrics, the picture is pretty clear. There’s a kid who is picked on at school, and one day has too much of it and goes beavershit crazy, gunning down his classmates. Best line: “But we unleashed a lion. Gnashed his teeth and bit the recess lady’s breast.”



About Ben Allen

Our music editor Ben Allen was born one stormy evening in a quaint Northern California coastal village. Upon birth he was immediately exposed to the soothing analog sounds of artists such as Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, Paul Simon, Captain Beefheart and Santana. As the lad grew, so did his appreciation for an assortment of abrasive hard rock. A pubescent flirtation with butt metal was shattered in the early 1990’s by exposure to Nirvana and other so-called “Alternative” bands. While in college, our protagonist became a DJ on a local station, and began work as a freelance music journalist. During this period he became entranced with artists such as Tortoise, Slint, Modest Mouse, Guided By Voices and Pavement. Currently Allen resides in Arcata, CA where he continues to obsess and salivate over new recordings by his favorite artists. He works with music industry people to ensure that Savage Henry’s contributors receive music and other promotional materials. He also writes a silly monthly list titled “Ben’s 10.”

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