Ring, ring goes the bell… You know how it goes– or maybe you’ve forgotten? Refresh your memory and remember, you were young and it was your first day once too!
1. “Rock n’ Roll High School”, The Ramones
Aside from being an absolutely essential film for any demented teenager or mouse (er… and middle-aged music commentators?) 1979’s Rock n’ Roll High School also provided the vehicle for this Riff Randell-approved gem of o’ single from the punk princes o’ Queens.
2. “Straight A’s In Love”, Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash was long gone to Columbia Records when Sun impresario Sam Phillips dropped this ‘un in 1958. Typical of Cash’s (and Sun’s) sound if not necessarily his finest work, I’ve somehow always loved this one.
3.”Bust A Move”, Young MC
Stone Cold Rhymin’ was a Walkman staple (old school flat, foam-covered headphones, bruddah) as middle school and the ’80s faded out, and the video is a pop culture anthropological treasure. Another highlight from SCR is one of my all-time favorite lines from the album’s opener, “I’m comin’ off / just like the clothes on a hooker / and I can fly like Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka!”
4. “Story Of My Life”, Social Distortion
All the high school post-graduation, 20-something nostalgic angst you need in three chords. Stay in school kids– and listen to Social D.
5. “American Music”, Violent Femmes
I’ve always said that I’d never, ever (ever, ever) want to go back to high school… But for the best memories, all I need to do is put on Why Do Birds Sing? The Femmes were my Beatles.
6. “Harper Valley PTA”, Jeannie C. Reilly
Riley earned a #1 spot on top of both the country and pop charts with this 1968 Tom T. Hall penned zinger about a mother dropping the mic on a bunch of hypocrites and small-town Karens. I like to think of it as the yin to Paycheck’s “Take This Job And Shove It” yang– which, incidentally, it predates by a decade.
7. “Teacher Teacher”, Rockpile
The crush of crushes gets the superb pop treatment from the legendary Rockpile. The un-band of Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, Billy Bremner, and Terry Williams only made one official album under the banner of Rockpile, but boy, it’s a must & a treat.
8. “Charlie Brown”, The Coasters
Serious question: If you had to go back, I mean had to– like Peggy Sue and you woke up in 1960 (Google it)– would you want to end up in a John Hughes film or a Coasters song?
9. “No. 29”, Steve Earle & The Dukes
Steve’s ’87 follow-up to Guitar Town tends to get overlooked, and this lament to the supposed “best” years of your life is one of his most underrated. Of course, I call foul on that notion but leave it to the Hardcore Troubadour to make you sympathize with the knuckle dragger that used to kick the shit outta ya.
10. “Dizz Knee Land”, Dada
Back o’ the (marching) band bus sing-a-long goodness. You’re obligated to go to school, not enjoy it– and Dada’s Puzzle album from ’92 was full of cathartic rebellion.