Autumn is nigh, and with the turning season come books and classrooms and new ideas and pocket protectors. Much music on the topic of school has to do with the rebellion against it, lust, alienation or nostalgia. Below is a seasonal mix—most of the rock and roll or punk persuasion (sorry, no Van Halen)—to put you in the mood for education, be your participation willing or begrudging.
A mix of songs with academic themes
1) "Barbara" • The Modernettes • “Teen City”
An underappreciated 1980 punk classic about a high school crush from Vancouver trio The Modernettes—this song comes with a fun video.
2) "Don't Ever Change" • Bare Wires • “Don't Ever Change / Ready to Go" 7-inch
Another song about high school lust from another trio—active Oakland garage band Bare Wires. This track comes with a fun video, too.
3) "High School Confidential" • Jerry Lee Lewis • The Definitive Collection
Jerry Lee Lewis knows a thing or two about high schoolers and rebellion.
4) "Rock ‘n’ Roll High School" • Ramones • End of the Century
The theme song from Roger Corman’s eponymous 1979 feature film starring America’s greatest punk band and its blasé attitude toward scholastics.
5) "Be True to Your School" • The Beach Boys • “Be True to Your School / In My Room” 7-inch
Ernest school spirit at its sonic creepiest.
6) "Language School" • The Tours • "Language School / Foreign Girls" 7-inch
Worldly, obscure British proto-punk.
7) "Schooldays" • The Kinks • Schoolboys in Disgrace
Nostalgic balladry from Ray and Dave Davies.
8) "Thirteen" • Big Star • #1 Record
Nostalgic balladry from Memphis power pop giant Alex Chilton.
9) "One More Year to Go" • Janis Martin • Love and Kisses
The “female Elvis” is lovelorn because her high school boyfriend is graduating.
10) “The Art Teacher" • Rufus Wainwright • “Waiting for a Want"
A bittersweet, piano-based ballad about unrequited love
11) "The Headmaster Ritual" • The Smiths • Meat Is Murder
“Belligerent ghouls run Manchester schools ... .” Oh, Morrissey.
12) "Mission Irresistible" • The Rondelles • Fiction Romance Fast Machines
Albuquerque indie pop about a high school crush—made by a band that started in high school.
13) "Cool Senior High School (Fight Song)" • The Nation of Ulysses • 13-Point Program to Destroy America
A disjointed anthem from the D.C. noise punk outfit, led by the prolific Ian Svenonius.
14) “Chemistry" • Jawbreaker • Dear You
Public education alienation (”This school’s a living hell / I work and don’t get paid / I smoke a lot but can’t get laid”) from beloved proto-emo band Jawbreaker.
15) “High School” • MC5 • Back in the USA
One of the coolest bands of the ’60s/’70s warns us against high school kids.