Today was my first day back in a non-hybrid, full classroom since March of 2020. By the end of the day I felt like I had run a teaching marathon. When I got home my children, experiencing their first day of the same, were exhilarated. I can't remember the last time I saw them so happy. (This makes me more mad than ever at how badly their school district has fucked things up under COVID, but I digress.)
It struck me that I was NEVER this happy to be back at school. I was a good and diligent student, I just felt pretty ambivalent about school itself. A lot of the time seemed wasted, and I had to endure bullying and exclusion. For this reason I have weirdly gravitated towards having rebels and stoners and friends even though I am pretty straight-laced nerd. I appreciated these other people because they didn't seem to like school all that much either.
This rebel attitude towards high school has long been present in rock music, especially in the 1970s, when denim-jacketed wearing dirtbags had plenty of anthems for their lifestyle. Here are some of my favorites.
Going to the bathroom to smoke during school is a classic dirtbag hobby. A couple of years ago when vaping spiked among the youth it made an unfortunate comeback. I first encountered this song via the pretty flat Motley Crue cover back in the mid-80s. At the time I loved it despite being a nice little Catholic boy, my fascination with rebellion that I myself would never commit already evident. The Brownsville Station original has some fantastic blues rocking riffage behind it, one of the great examples of the genre.
The Runaways, "School Days"
The Runaways don't get enough credit for being one of the most viciously hard rocking bands of the 70s. They were in fact teenagers themselves, giving songs like this a real verisimilitude. This song isn't about being in school, but the cry of release after finally being done with it. I certainly remember my graduation day as being one of the most satisfying of my life, to finally be free from a place where I never felt at home.The Ramones, "Rock and Roll High School"
1979 gave birth to the two all time classic dirtbag high school movies, Rock and Roll High School and the scarier and more serious Over the Edge. Both had good soundtracks, but only the former had the Ramones. This is one of the best examples of how their love of classic 1950s rock translated into punk.
This might be the best of the 70s era dirtbag high school songs. However, as a teacher playing it in September rather than June it just seems like a cruel joke. Used to amazing effect in Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused.
No band carried the spirit of the aforementioned Ramones and Runaways like The Donnas. Great punk energy on this one.
Just as Berry basically invented rock guitar, he also invented the high school dirtbag rock genre. I can't imagine how subversive this was in the context of the 1950s.