Sunday, 10 February 2013

School's Out For Half-Term - 10 songs about school

Since my kids are about to have a week off for half-term, thought I'd do a school-themed music chart in honour of having to cook two meals a day for them instead of just the usual one. But as they've got older, this half-term they're going to have to revise for their first serious external exams.

1) "Mary Of The 4th Form" - Boomtown Rats
Before he became beatified for shouty importuning on behalf of starving Ethiopians, Sir Robert of Geldof was the frontman of Irish punk band Boomtown Rats who to my mind didn't quite get punk rock. But that was okay, they knocked out a few half-decent singles that saw them regularly on our TV screens in the Pop Charts. Like Clockwork really...

2) "High School" - MC5
Remember when Bands were so politically dangerous the US authorities chased them from pillar to post, harassed them, arrested band members etc? No? Well Bobo & Simon Cowell could hardly prompt such fears now could they? Admittedly this is not one of their best tracks, but I love the band and this track is about school, so there! Kicks Out The Jams MFs!

3) "School's Out" - Alice Cooper
And though from a similar part of the post-industrial US decline in Michigan, Alice Cooper was non-political and just aimed to put on a good show. I was never a fan, but this is still a great anthemic song.

4) "Art School" - The Jam
The Jam always came in for a lot of stick form their contemporaries because they wore suits and looked
more like Mods and covered Who and Wilson Pickett songs. I always wondered whether this was partly their riposte to that wing of British punk that emerged from Art Schools such as Adam Ant and the Malcolm McLaren/Jamie Reid influence on the Sex Pistols.

5) "Headmaster Ritual" - The Smiths
Arggghh! Anyone who follows me online knows I really don't like The Smiths and yet here is the second recent one of my charts in which they appear. Guitarist Johnny Marr may well have been a fretboard wonder, but I always found his jangly sound reedy and thin. And yes Morrisey's reedy and thin vocal probably did compliment the guitar wonderfully well, but I just found it equally irritating. Still loads of people loved them so what do I know?

6) "I Don't Wanna Be Learned" - The Ramones
You gotta love The Ramones right? Millions of songs played very fast lasting no  more than two minutes and then all sounding exactly the same! Sort of Status Quo but played faster. And then they go and play a goofy love song with a string orchestra backing them - genius! ("Baby I Love You")

7) "Playground Twist" - Siouxie And The Banshees
It's funny, those first two Siousxie And The Banshees' albums were really a cutting edge of punk, taking it away from being dumb one-chord thrash (take a bow The Damned) and into a really quite arty precursor of New Wave and yet Siouxie is never mentioned in the same breath as the New Wave bands like Gang of Four, Joy Division, Magazine et al. Partly because she went Poppy quite quickly, quite Gothy soon after that and because the two musical masters behind that early Banshee sound, Kenny Morris and John McKay departed the band after those two albums. What might have been eh? Instead Siouxie released "Hong Kong Garden" and "Israel".

8) "Another Brick In The Wall Part 2" - Pink Floyd
'But Marc' this has no mention of school in the title' I hear you cry. True, but it has the inimitable refrain "We don't need no education". Lead singer Roger Waters was thrown out of the same school I ended up attending and has said in interviews that it was his experiences at school that lie behind the whole concept of "The Wall" album. There, that's my shared claim to fame! I too was scarred by attendance of such a school! Though I failed to be expelled. Didn't even get a detention, ever.

9) "School Spirit" - Kayne West
With albums called "The College Dropout",  "Graduation" and "Late Registration" Mr West takes this education thing very seriously. Still, the usual cussing and bad mouthing of rap, plus the ridiculous vocal manipulation makes this sound more like David Bowie's "Laughing Gnome". Ergo hard to take seriously...

10) "School Mam" - The Stranglers
The dirtiest bass intro in rock gives way to um a real smutty fantasy. I'm just going to leave it there...

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