Back to school songs

Classes have started and reading assignments may already be piling up, so here are ten school-related songs from across many genres to help you to get back into the routine.

1. We’re Going to Be Friends – The White Stripes

Singing from the point of view of a school child, Jack White takes listeners back to a more naÏve time with this track from The White Stripes’ breakthrough album, White Blood Cells. It explores everything from the joys of new sneakers to digging up worms in the school yard with a friend, and We’re Going to Be Friends is likely to take you back to your own grade school experiences. There’s a good reason why Jack Johnson covered it for his soundtrack to the movie Curious George in 2006.

2. Hot for Teacher – Van Halen

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Van Halen makes an argument that sometimes all you need are loud guitars and a really hot teacher to make your days at school interesting. This ’80s favourite holds up surprisingly well 26 years later, thanks in part to its delightfully campy accompanying music video.

3. U-Mass – Pixies

Boston native Black Francis name-checks his alma mater on this typically noisy Pixies track. The song is off Trompe la Monde, their much-ignored final album from 1991, and this song alone makes a strong case against the idea that the band lost their touch after their second or third album. Francis seems to sing everything with a sneer, and it’s not hard to spot the mockery in his voice as he takes aim at the impressionable young minds on his campus: “We got ideas to us that’s dear, / like capitalist, like communist, / like lots of things you’ve heard about.”

4. Another Brick in the Wall – Pink Floyd

For those who are feeling slightly less friendly towards the education system, Pink Floyd’s iconic rallying cry might be worth yet another listen.

Nothing says academic unrest like a chorus of chanting children.

5. The Art Teacher – Rufus Wainwright

While Van Halen goes and makes their lustful thoughts quite clear, singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright takes a decidedly more tender approach to academic infatuation with The Art Teacher. Wainwright writes from the perspective of a young girl in this wistful ballad, and although he says that life goes on, the ending suggests that you never truly forget those crushes from your early years at school.

6. School – Nirvana

Kurt Cobain wrote songs that rallied against his father, against the residents of his hometown, and against Nirvana’s own fans, so it’s hardly surprising that he might have had some negative things to say about his experiences at school. It’s simple and to the point, and School speaks to the mundane daily routine that most people who’ve spent time in high school can probably relate to.

7. Campus – Vampire Weekend

Considering that the members of Vampire Weekend met as students at Columbia University, it makes sense that they’d write their own song about college relationships. The song appears on their 2008 self-titled debut album, and it features their signature wordplay and world music influences.

8. (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!) – Beastie Boys

The Beastie Boys again take a lighter approach to life and enforce their right to party in a song where they cut class, skip homework, and fight their mother tooth-and-nail on every one of her nitpickings. Some Beastie Boys songs have failed the test of time, but after 23 years, this song is still just as fun and quotable as it ever was.

9. Campaign of Hate – The Libertines

Pete Doherty and Carl Barat have had their well-publicized differences, but at their best, the co-frontmen of The Libertines created some impressive garage-rock gems. (The band broke up soon after the release of their second album in 2004, but recently reformed to play a few live shows.) Like several other songs on this list, Campaign of Hate examines intolerant peers, this time embodied by the “campaign of hate waiting at the school gates”.

10. Rock ‘n’ Roll High School – Ramones

These New York punks wrote a lot of songs that seemed to be about teenage unrest (Teenage Lobotomy being the most obvious), and Rock ’n’ Roll High School was so popular that it spawned a movie of the same name—starring the band, no less. It’s your classic teen anthem: fast, loud, and rebellious.

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