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No More Teachers, No More Books: The Complete School's Out Playlist

Our picks for the best songs to celebrate the end of the school year

June 10, 2011 9:15 AM ET
Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper
Marty Temme/WireImage

If there's one thing rock & rollers love it's summer. And if there's one thing rock and rollers love almost as much as summer it's hating school. So as the clock winds down on another year of useless learning, it's the perfect time to enjoy the many great songs rooted in both of these loves – and even better, songs that celebrate both at once. Here's our playlist of the best end of school/beginning of summer jams of all time.

Listen to the School's Out playlist:

Alice Cooper, "School's Out"
In 2004, Alice Cooper received an honorary degree from Phoenix's Grand Canyon University, so his anti-school credentials have been somewhat compromised. But back in 1972, this hard-rock distillation of the last three minutes before summer starts gave us the anthem against which all homework-hating vacation-lovers must measure their work. Thanks to the end-of-school scene in Dazed and Confused, it's impossible to hear this without wanting to rip up a hastily written, mostly plagiarized final exam paper on the reasons for the Watergate crisis, throw it into the air and run out into the eternal sunshine of pools and parks department jobs and deep woods kegger freedom.

Big Star, "Thirteen"
"Won't you let me walk you home from school / Won't you let me meet you at the pool," Alex Chilton sings in one of the sweetest, gentlest ballads of all time. No song better evokes the itchy angst of that period after Memorial Day, when the fact that they're still making you go to school – even though it's already hot as balls and light until 8:30 – seems like some sort of crime against humanity.
 
Supertramp, "School"
This time of year there's nothing more infectious than a little anti-institutional rock & roll venting – Chuck Berry's "School Days," Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In the Wall," the Beasties' "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)," with its classic opening lines: "You wake up for school / Man, you don't want to go / You asked your mom 'please' but she still says 'no!'" (definitive proof that saying 'please' is a total crock). A band that laid down filigreed instrumental explorations as silly as Supertramp's had to be avidly pro-free expression, and they summed up that position nicely in this jazzy 1974 rant against the oppressive forces keeping young people down (an obvious sop to the Oppressed Young People market). "I can see you in the morning when you go to school / Don't forget your books, you know you've got to learn the golden rule," Roger Hodgson observes sarcastically. Later, when he repeatedly sings "don’t do this!/ And don't do that!" he nails one of the great droning-education-bureaucrat imitations of all time, like the Seymour Skinner of soft-rock.

Pink Floyd, "Another Brick in the Wall"
The 'Tramp weren't done thumbing their noses at the education system. Their next hit, "Bloody Well Right," contained a probing critique of the class biases inherent in the college admission process with the line, "So you think your schooling's phoney / I guess it's hard not to agree / You say it all depends on money / And who is in your family tree." Yet, while Supertramp railed staunchly against the evils of schooling, their jazzy sophistication and occasional use of large words often betrayed a little too much of it. Not so with "Another Brick In the Wall," a simple, snotty disavowel of pedagogy that puts its pro-dumbness money where its drooping mouth is – from the grammatically incorrect chorus, "We don't need no education," to the butt-simple disco groove to the fact that it's barely even a real song (producer Bob Ezrin built it out of Roger Waters' original minute-long fragment). Ezrin's image looms large in the history of school-hate rock. He first used a chorus of kids on Alice Cooper's "School's Out" and perfected the gimmick here, bringing in a couple dozen students from a school near the recording studio and multi-tracking their voices until they sounded like hundreds. Those youngsters must've been coming from an especially rough afternoon studying the Corn Laws or the axiomatic frameworks for geometry or whatever it is they cram into English childrens' heads all day, because they nailed the droning Orwellian malaise that makes this song burn deeper than a wedgie from the meanest kid in class.

Radiohead, "Bishop's Robes"
Britain really has excelled in the field of teacher bashing. And it's no wonder: The English have their own special set of reasons to hate school. For one, their schools are actually good, which makes them even lamer than ours. Secondly, they seem to ship all their future rock geniuses off to oppressive private boarding academies where they endure routine physical abuse at the hands of their instructors and bizarre hazing rituals at the hands of their fellow students. Who better than Thom Yorke to write an austerely creepy song about this austerely creepy tradition? "Dressed in bishop's robes bastard headmaster / I am not going back," he sings over a molasses-paced melody, looking back on the end of a still-haunting experience. Most end-of-school songs surge with the promise of fun in the sun. This one forecasts a lifetime of expensive shame therapy sessions.

Britny Fox, "Girlschool"
But let’s return for a moment to that whole go to school/golden rule line. Whoever invented language was really looking out for future generations of lazy rock songwriters when they made "school" rhyme with not only "rule," but "fool" and "cool" as well. How fitting that just about any moron can come up with a serviceable anti-school song. Morons like Britny Fox, for instance. These Eighties poodle-metal fluff'tards probably wrote "Girlschool" for the sole purpose of stocking the video with tower-haired vixens in Catholic school outfits, but they also managed to knock out a pretty great glam-rock banger in the process. Singer Tommy Paris shrieks like a Hyena who just got burned by a crimping iron as he salutes his parochially educated baby – she broke all the rules, acting real cool, at the girls' school! Let's hope for the sake of her future, she'll stop shakin' her ass in the back of the class and go off to college and get a little knowledge.

Mogwai, "I Love You, I'm Going to Blow Up Your School"
And what better way to show that special someone how much you care? For seven minutes the Scottish noise-rock monks of Mogwai ride a slow fuse from somber restraint to explosive chaos, adding their own unique contribution to rock's rich canon of school-as-murderous-hellhole songs – from Hüsker Dü's "Guns At My School" to the Dead Milkman's "Violent School" to the Boomtown Rats' school-shooting lament "I Don't Like Mondays."   

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