Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Lessons: Rock N Roll High School

Ramones, Rock n Roll High School

A lot of songs about high school are delinquent, party songs, or about hating teachers, rebellion and learning pretty much nothing useful. Ever. Alice Cooper's "School's Out" comes to mind, silly as it is. I never bought into the Beach Boy's "Be Cool to Your School"--in fact, I kind of resented the band for singing any kind of praise at all concerning school. Which, for most of my life, was a prison, rather than a place that should be celebrated with drums and guitars. the songs that spoke to me were the ones that reinforced rebellion. Maybe burning books. The best school songs are the ones about how much school sucks. 

Strange how those anthems speak to both the cliches and the realities of a lot of kids. I'm a teacher now, but I hated school from first grade until the moment I graduated from undergrad. Any song that dealt with rebelling against teachers, their dirty looks, all those pencils and books, spoke to me in a distinct, familiar and sympathetic voice

Songs like "Rock n Roll High School", and the eponymous movie (I believe the song came first and the movie was built as a vehicle around it) were perfect. Aggressive enough to feel good, pump the blood up on test days and my inevitable failing grades that followed, rock music was a saving grace in my angst filled teenage daze. The Ramones were silly punks, inspiring horseplay, girl-chasing, and petty vandalism rather than full on burn-it-down rebellion. I got into more hardcore bands as I got older, and Metallica was putting out their best work when I was in high school, so the kind of music that fed into my growing frustrations certainly played a role in my development, and a loud one. (I got pretty fed up with school for a while there, but somehow, stuck it out. The angrier, louder, meaner music that found its way to me helped me through, as well). But the Ramones hold a special place in my heart for providing the soundtrack to my earliest days of discovering music and the saving grace it would give me--a sustaining power, a joyous and continual discovery, and constant companion, music was the part of my life that made sense, and made sense of the parts I didn't understand. Or particularly enjoy. I can't tell you how many times a teacher confiscated my walkman and my cassettes. When I got in trouble at home, restriction meant my stereo and my guitar got confiscated and stored away in my parent's closet. I always managed to sneak my walkman out without them knowing. The lure of music was too great. 

But, the lessons of rock music remain the best ones I ever learned, my idols my best teachers. Rock music was what made sense. What moved me and what pulled me along with a promise of better things to come. It was a great promise. 

It still is, to be honest. I spend an inordinate amount of time in my life on music. I hated school, but I survived it.  And, I have music to thank for getting me through those odd days of my teenage years, and the odd ones that have followed. My high school days never quite lived up to the promise the Ramones made in their songs, but, I think we made up for it in college...but, those are tales best left untold here...

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