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Best Songs About School: 10 Classics That Come Top Of The Class
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List & Guides

Best Songs About School: 10 Classics That Come Top Of The Class

Think learning’s for nerds? These best songs about school will teach you a thing or two about scoring top marks in rock’n’roll rebellion.


The time we spend at school divides opinion. It’s a big part of the formative years of our lives, but while some kids love learning, others simply can’t wait to leave school. Unsurprisingly, rock and pop has had plenty to say on the subject over the years… So now all the homework’s in, we give A grades to the best songs about school.

Best Songs About School: 10 Classics That Come Top Of The Class

10: The Stranglers: School Mam (1977)

The final track on The Stranglers’ second album, No More Heroes, the menacing, bass-heavy School Mam was inspired by frontman Hugh Cornwell’s time working as a supply teacher while the band were first getting off the ground – time well spent, as it resulted in one of the punk era’s best songs about school. The track’s character was based on the college’s tyrannical principal (“She was a complete ogress – when you went into her office, the chair you’d sit in had been sawn off at the legs, so that you were lower and had to look up at her,” Cornwell recalled in Jim Drury’s The Stranglers: Song By Song), but the track itself was a fantasy scenario influenced by the equally dark and hypnotic song The Gift by The Velvet Underground.

9: XTC: Playground (2000)

One of many sublime pop songs from XTC’s final studio album, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2), the angular Playground examines whether or not school days really are the happiest days of our lives. Evocative without ever being didactic, Andy Partridge’s spot-on lyric suggests that kids never completely grow up even when they become adults, with the astute final couplet suggesting, “You may leave school, but it never leaves you.”

8: Deftones: Back To School (Mini Maggit) (2000)

Deftones have made no secret of their love-hate relationship with Back To School (Mini Maggit). Frontman Chino Moreno even called it “a calculated song, that had been built up with only one aim in mind – it should be a single”. Nonetheless, the song blazed a trail, cracking the Top 40 of Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart and, with help from a suitably anarchic video, it significantly raised the band’s profile. Even at the time it was nifty enough, but two decades later, this enduringly angsty anthem remains one of the very best songs about school.

7: The Police: Don’t Stand So Close To Me (1980)

Before joining The Police, Sting spent time as an English teacher, though he later stressed that Don’t Stand So Close To Me (which dealt with the fallout from an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and a student) was anything but autobiographical. Nonetheless, Sting’s vivid storyline – which namechecked Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita – and the music’s inherent tautness made for a fantastic single. It duly rewarded The Police with their third UK No.1 hit and a Grammy Award.

6: MC5: High School (1970)

MC5’s second album, Back In The USA, may have lacked the polemics of the band’s fiery debut, Kick Out The Jams, but it contained no shortage of the best MC5 songs[] and, helping the band sell overseas, was arguably the better album, too. In the sleevenotes for the MC5 compilation The Big Bang! Best Of The MC5, guitarist Wayne Kramer made it clear that that, in England, “people really liked Back In The USA – you can hear what The Clash, Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe got out of it”. That influence is highly detectable in High School: a proto-new-wave rave-up which makes all things academic seem like the best fun ever.

5: Pink Floyd: Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) (1979)

Arguably one of the most unlikely smash hits of all time, Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) was culled from a three-part suite from the band’s widely acclaimed 1979 concept album, The Wall. Taken on its own merits, however, the song was a highly accessible pop track which even tapped into the disco craze of the times.

Producer Bob Ezrin’s belief that Pink Floyd should embrace the genre initially met with some resistance (“I listened to loud, four-to-the-bar bass drums and stuff, and thought, Gawd, awful!” guitarist David Gilmour told Guitar World), but it worked perfectly when married to Roger Waters’ outspoken lyric, which railed against abusive schooling. The song’s abrasive “Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!” refrain also chimed with students everywhere, and Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) sold over four million copies, immediately joining the assembly of the best songs about school.

4: The Smiths: The Headmaster Ritual (1985)

The former Smiths frontman, Morrissey has openly admitted that he constantly lived in fear of the violent teaching staff at his alma mater, St Mary’s Secondary, in Manchester. In return, he gave those “belligerent ghouls” both barrels when he recalled his traumatic experiences for the Meat Is Murder highlight, The Headmaster Ritual. Standing among the best Smiths songs, his vivid lyrics (“Midweek on the playing fields/Sir thwacks you on the knees/Knees you in the groin”) can be appreciated by anyone who was bullied at school, but it really hit home thanks to the band’s steely backing track, with Morrissey later describing Johnny Marr’s contribution as “a live-wire spitfire guitar sound that takes on all-comers”.

3: Van Halen: Hot For Teacher (1984)

Morrissey may have despised his school, but Hot For Teacher suggests that Van Halen’s school days may just have been the best of their lives. A dynamite amalgam of glam rock and hard-headed metal, the song itself was already packed with radio-friendly pizzazz, but – with help from a few strutting supermodels – its brilliant Hollywood-style video really sold it to the masses. Based on this evidence, it seems that you may not become an academic, but you’ll certainly get an education at Van Halen High.

2: Ramones: Rock’n’Roll High School (1980)

Rock’n’Roll High School is undeniably one of the best songs about school, but it has something of a convoluted history. Ramones initially recorded it with Road To Ruin producer Ed Stasium, but that version remained unheard until the release of the group’s 1988 compilation, Ramones Mania. Stasium’s recording of Rock’n’Roll High School was instead tweaked by producer Phil Spector for the soundtrack album to Allan Arkush’s film of the same name. Spector then completely re-recorded the song for Ramones’ fifth album, End Of The Century, famously driving guitarist Johnny Ramone to distraction by repeatedly requesting he play the song’s opening chord over and over again in his quest for perfection. Nonetheless, Rock’n’High School survived to become one of the best Ramones songs of all time, and it still gives us a taste of bubblegum pop-punk at its most flavourful.

1: Alice Cooper: School’s Out (1972)

Released on 26 April 1972, as the lead single of the album of the same name, School’s Out was an instant smash for Alice Cooper, who, expecting the song to go right to the top, famously declared, “If that’s not a hit, I need to be selling shoes somewhere.”

With hindsight, there wasn’t much chance Cooper would ever end up hawking brogues. Based around a crunching riff devised by the late Glenn Buxton, School’s Out was about as barnstorming as rock anthems got – and, with sentiments such as “School’s out forever/School’s been blown to pieces!” it couldn’t fail to hit a nerve with bored and frustrated kids the world over. Accordingly, the song raced to No.7 on the Billboard charts and made Alice Cooper a star. It now pretty much writes its own entry at the top of our list of the best songs about school.

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