The 10 classic rock songs about school feature some great tunes that often had these rockers share their collection of memories and experiences when they were once upon a time students. In some cases, these songs about school served as a dose of education, based on what was observed and experienced by some of the recording artists who graduated to become iconic rock gods. While many songs on the list have become cult classics, there may be a few that may come across as hidden gems not as many classic rock fans may know about.
Top 10 Classic Rock Songs About School
#10 – Beauty School Dropout (by Frankie Avalon)
Written by the songwriting team of Warren Casey and Jim Jacobs, “Beauty School Dropout” was a song that was featured in the popular 1978 musical, Grease. It was performed by Frankie Avalon as part of a dream sequence from one of the movie’s characters, Frenchie. In the movie, she dropped out of high school to attend beauty school. However, after dropping out of that she was at a crossroads on what to do next. In the song, Avalon told Frenchie she should go back to high school and graduate from there first.
In the movie, Avalon’s character was cast as Teen Angel, a teen idol who happened to be Frenchie’s guardian angel and was designed to look like Fabian. Prior to the film adaptation of Grease, this popular musical was first performed on February 5, 1971, at the Kingston Mines Nightclub in Chicago, Illinois. The theme was based on a 1950s-era group of high school teenagers that dealt with all sorts of social issues between peer pressure and personal relationships. This became a Broadway favorite before becoming a box office blockbuster that would win over the hearts of millions around the world. While “Beauty School Dropout” may not have been among the big hits from the Grease movie soundtrack, it was a dreamy easy-listening favorite as the audience fell in love with Didi Conn’s on-screen portrayal of Frenchie.
#9 – High School Confidential (by Rough Trade)
Not to be confused with the 1958 version performed by Jerry Lee Lewis, “High School Confidential” from Rough Trade was a 1980 controversial single that was first released in Canada before the rest of the world heard about it. The reason behind the controversy was in the lyrics performed by the Canadian rock group’s lead singer, Carole Pope. The subject of Rough Trade’s affection as a fellow high school student was a blonde young lady who had a reputation for sleeping with members of the school faculty. It also hinted at some jealousy as the singer admitted she also felt a strong attraction to her. Since Rough Trade’s lead singer was a woman, it was assumed the song’s sexually explicit lyrics also had a lesbian theme.
Despite several radio stations across Canada and the United States refusing to play “High School Confidential,” it became a number twelve hit in Canada. This song served as a source of inspiration for upcoming artists, including another popular Canadian singer, K.D. Lang. Over time, Rough Trade’s “High School Confidential” became a cultural icon among fans who still embrace this classic rock song with open arms.
#8 – Hot for Teacher (by Van Halen)
“Hot for Teacher” came from Van Halen’s sixth studio album, 1984. This 1984 release featured the group’s crush it had on a beautiful school teacher who caught its eye. It’s not uncommon for students to become attracted to that one special teacher who stands out from the rest of the school’s faculty. What made “Hot for Teacher” stand out as a single was Alex Van Halen’s drum solo before the guitar riffs from Eddie Van Halen picked up the song’s pace, along with bassist Michael Anthony.
Adding popularity to “Hot for Teacher” was a music video that met with a bit of controversy after it revealed footage of the men grabbing their “family jewels,” as well as a scene suggesting David Lee Roth urinated himself. Water was used in Roth’s scene as a joke to see if anyone would bother to notice.
On the official music charts, “Hot for Teacher” only peaked as high as number fifty-six on the US Billboard Hot 100 and at number eighty-three on the Canadian Top Singles Chart. It was also a number eighty-nine hit in Australia. Although not one of the group’s greatest hits, it became a cult classic among fans who loved the fusion of various hard rock elements that turned this song about school into a classic.
#7 – Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (by The Ramones)
In 1979, The Ramones released “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” as a single that became a number sixty-seven hit on the UK Singles Chart. Although it didn’t make a chart appearance on the US Billboards, it still became a classic favorite, especially among European nations as it was a top ten hit in Belgium and the Netherlands. This was the most popular version of the three that were recorded for the 1979 comedy, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. The first version was recorded by Ed Stasium and it was supposed to be the one for the soundtrack. However, it wasn’t issued until the 1988 compilation album, Ramones Mania, was released. Instead, a second version of the song featured a remix by Phil Spector would be used and this was the version that would also be released as a single.
The third version was a brand-new recording that became part of the tracklist of the Ramones’ fifth studio album, End of the Century. This one featured slightly different musical arrangements and a long guitar-based intro. There was also a music video that was shot for this version, featuring Marky Ramone dressed up in drag as a teacher.
#6 – Don’t Stand So Close to Me (by The Police)
1980’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” was a single the Police released as a song about a teacher who crossed the line by having sexual relations with one of their students. This came from the Police’s third studio album, Zenyatta Mondatta and it became a number-one hit on the UK Singles Chart as well as in Denmark, Ireland, and Spain. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number ten. Worldwide, this was a huge hit for the Sting and his bandmates and it also earned the trio act a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. In the UK, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” became certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) after selling over one million copies.
#5 – Teacher, Teacher (by 38 Special)
1984’s Teacher was a movie that starred Ralph Macchio as a student attending a dysfunctional high school. The movie brought up a sensitive topic as there were very real concerns shared by some parents who felt the education system was letting their children down. Students were allowed to graduate even if they hadn’t learned enough from their teachers before moving on. It’s theme song, “Teacher, Teacher,” was a single performed by 38 Special that scored a number twenty-five hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 and a number twenty-six hit in Canada. On the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart, it peaked as high as number four.
Don Barnes was the lead vocalist behind “Teacher, Teacher,” which featured a music video sharing clips of the movie. The song was written by the songwriting team of Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance. Fans of 38 Special may recognize Donnie Van Zant as the younger brother to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Ronnie Van Zant.
#4 – High School Confidential (by Jerry Lee Lewis)
In 1958, MGM released High School Confidential as a movie that was directed by Jack Arnold and starred an ensemble cast, including John Drew Barrymore. “High School Confidential” was the movie’s theme song and it was credited to Jerry Lee Lewis and Ron Hargrave as the songwriters. It was recorded by Lewis at Sun Studio before he and his bandmates performed this song on the back of a flatbed truck. Lewis lip-synched “High School Confidential” before an audience of fake high school students.
The 1958 version was released as a single and it peaked as high as number twenty-nine on the US Billboard Hot 100, at number nine on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart, and number five on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Chart. It was also a number thirteen hit in Canada and a number twelve hit in the UK. Lewis’s “High School Confidential” also sold enough copies to become certified gold by the RIAA.
The legacy of this song includes live performances by Jerry Lee Lewis that became some of the greatest rock concerts in music history. The one that stands out the most was the 1964 performance he had with a British group known as The Nashville Teens. Together, their performance was among the greatest features of the album Live at the Star Club, Hamburg. In 1983, “High School Confidential” was featured in Breathless, a movie starring Richard Gere and Valerie Kaprisky. It was also featured in the 1989 movie, Great Balls of Fire!, which starred Dennis Quaid as the iconic rockabilly artist.
#3 – Be True to Your School (by The Beach Boys)
1963’s “Be True to Your School” was a single released by the Beach Boys from their album, Little Deuce Coupe. The song was written by Mike Love and Brian Wilson and has an album version and a single version. The melody behind this cult favorite came from “On, Wisconsin!,” which was a fight song belonging to the University of Wisconsin. Brian Wilson’s Hawthorne High School in California also used the same melody while he and his brothers attended there.
“Be True to Your School” was more than just a tribute to the high school that educated the Wilsons. It became an anthem among fans who shared a similar love for their own high schools. On the US Billboard Hot 100, this became a number-six hit. This was also the case in Sweden. In Canada, it peaked as high as number four. In New Zealand, it was a number three hit and in Australia, it charted as high as number ten. This was a song about sharing the pride of an educational facility that played its role in shaping students like the Wilsons to become successful with whatever career path they chose for themselves as adults.
#2 – School’s Out (by Alice Cooper)
Released in 1972 as a single, “School’s Out” became one of Alice Cooper’s biggest hits and one of his signature songs. The inspiration behind it came from the discussion he had about three of the greatest minutes of his life. He commented Christmas was one of them while the last three minutes of the school season was another. In the lyrics, Cooper’s idea of “School’s Out” wasn’t just limited to enjoying summer vacation. It was about leaving for good. When the song ends with the sound of a school bell before it fades out, it plays a role in its fan appeal.
“School’s Out” was Alice Cooper’s first big hit as a recording artist. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it became a number seven hit while in the UK, it topped its official music chart. It also proceeded to sell enough copies in the UK to become certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). Not only was “School’s Out” a breakthrough hit for Cooper it also showed there was more to the man than novelty theatrics. As popular as this song was, certain radio stations had it banned as they felt it would trigger school students to embrace rebellious behavior against their teachers. They weren’t the only ones as parents and professionals in psychology also shared their distaste for Cooper’s song.
What “School’s Out” represented wasn’t about rebelling against schools. It was about embracing freedom after school was finally over. Schools were not exactly favorite hangouts for kids, regardless of where they came from as it meant spending hours behind a desk in a classroom. This was especially true for students who were singled out by bullies. Among fans of hard rock, “School’s Out” became an anthem and it was used in a collection of movies such as Beth Cooper, Dazed and Confused, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, and Scream. It was also used in 2004 as part of a back-to-school advertising campaign on behalf of Staples. Cooper appeared as himself in the commercial.
#1 – Another Brick in the Wall (by Pink Floyd)
When the subject is about school and is taught as dramatically as it gets, it’s hard to beat Pink Floyd’s all-time classic, “Another Brick in the Wall.” There are three parts to this 1979 song. Starting with “Part 1” the protagonist of the story had begun to build a metaphorical wall around himself after the death of his father. In “Part 2,” the bricks of the wall begin to layer up as the trauma he experienced between abusive teachers and an overprotective mother builds up to “Part 3” as Pink’s conclusion that everybody he encountered is merely “just bricks in the wall” and nothing more.
The most popular chapter in this three-part song was “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2.” This was a protest song written by Roger Waters as he criticized the schools that he felt were a bit too harsh with their teaching methods. He especially had a distaste for boarding schools and this was seen in The Wall as a film when the students were lined up and marched towards a meat grinder that took away each person’s identity.
“Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2” was released as a single and it became a number-one hit on several official music charts around the world, including the US Billboard Hot 100. It also sold over four million copies and became certified platinum in Italy, the UK, and the US. It was gold in Denmark, France, Germany, and Spain. It was also incredibly popular in Canada and Spain but neither nation offered any certifications for it, despite the fact there were enough sales to at least become certified gold as well.
“Another Brick in the Wall,” plus all three of its chapters, was part of a rock opera album Pink Floyd put together before releasing it as The Wall. This, plus the filmed production that came with it, became a cultural phenomenon all over the world. The album itself sold over thirty million copies around the world and still holds the record as one of the most popular studio recordings of all time. This was Pink Floyd’s greatest achievement as a rock band as it thoroughly educated its audience with some of the best musical material ever to reach their ears.
10 Classic Rock Songs About School article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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