7 defiant back to school songs

Motley Crue recommend "Smokin' in the Boys' Room" when school's getting too intense.
Motley Crue recommend "Smokin' in the Boys' Room" when school's getting too intense.

Even for those of us who are long past our days of cracking books and praying our way through quizzes, there are days where life seems to consist of nothing but school -- twisted hierarchical aspects, people who remind you of people you loathed in gym class, and so forth. It can seem like everything is school, like it's forever, like institutional learning creeped up when we were doing keg stands at the graduation party and subsumed the entire world.

Education never ends, and we never truly escape its formal strictures. But we can talk about it on our own terms -- with help from our favorite musicians! Here's to school fucking your head up permanently. It starts this week for you, or your kid, or your kid sister. Here are seven of our favorite songs about it.

7. Pink Floyd, "Another Brick In The Wall"

If you're an English instructor and on the first day of class, there's a guy wearing a The Wall t-shirt and carving swastikas into his desk in the front row, you're fucked for the year. You may as well just lay down and die. You're doomed.

6. Motley Crue, "Smoking In The Boys' Room"

Videos like this provide some insight into what made aspects of Bloom County work as a satirical 1980s period piece, but beyond that, there's no redeeming social value to watching the thing. (The star of this video is not Eric Roberts; I looked it up.) Musically, the Crue bring a skronking boogie blues to bad advice for any day in the school year, but following their lead is especially ill-advised during the first week. It's worth nothing that dudes did this at my high school when I was there, and probably still do.

5. Liz Phair, "Girls' Room"

Phair crams half a Bret Easton Ellis novel worth of first-world high school drama into a minute or two where she crowns herself the Bob Dylan of this kind of shit; it's all pretty obvious, but it's just occurred to me that "Stacy's been away, forever" can read like a dozen different ways, none of them positive.

4. Nas, "I Know I Can"

This video should be enough to make anybody a huge believer in possibility and potentiality, in all the promise lurking in developing hearts and minds everywhere. Do principals rock this at back-to-school rallies with the risque bits bleeped out? I wish they did, seriously. If you're having a bad afternoon, play "I Know I Can" at peak volume; your mood will improve incredibly.  Damn.

3. Nirvana, "School"

Think about it this way: recess is the only aspect of school where you get to trick yourself into believing that you're free within the educational structures, that you're making decisions of your own volition. So with that in mind, Kurt Cobain's bloodcurdling "no recess!" screams achieve a deeper poignancy and profundity.

2. James Brown & The Famous Flames, "Don't Be A Dropout"

The joke is that Brown himself was a dropout; things worked out reasonably well for him, of course, but part of being an icon is playing pop-culture politics, so The Hardest Working Man In Show Business kicked out a funky-enough PSA. It's no "Sex Machine," but it's not like "Sex Machine" was ever gonna get a lot of play at sock hops.

1. Ponytail, "Late For School"

Baltimore quartet Ponytail are sadly no more, but the best song on their best album (2008's Ice Cream Spiritual) doubles as a roller-coasting, roiling rout of a dream -- the kind of dream that defies logic and leaves you in total dissociated narrative free-fall, an indescribable dream -- a dream that perches you on a precipice before dissolving soberly into yet another dream where your clock radio has been blaring for an hour because the first dream was so involving, and you've got a big test in first period that you can't afford to fail. Then, bam: it occurs to you that you haven't been in school for years and years and years -- or have you?

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