This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #236: School’s Out by Alice Cooper.
I remember watching a video once of a one-hit wonder band. They had been performing at a festival in England. They had burned through their set of lesser known songs and had now started playing the opening notes of their one big hit. The crowd roared their approval in anticipation of their favourite song starting. The lead vocalist chimed in and said, “If this is the only song we are remembered by, I’m alright with that because it really is quite a song.” The band leaned into the tune, the crowd jumped for joy and everyone was joyously happy for the next five or six minutes. Such is life when you have crafted a perfect song.
Now, when it comes to “Alice Cooper”, that band has more than one hit song. They have plenty, actually. Everything from, “I’m Eighteen”, to “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, “Billion Dollar Babies” and a whole host more. But, their biggest selling and charting hit is a song that is so perfectly crafted as to have become synonymous with that collectively happy time known as the start of summer. That song is, “School’s Out”. Because of how totally and completely engrained, “School’s Out” has become in our collective subconscious at that time of year, Alice Cooper will never die. He has earned a sort of immortality that is all the more ironic considering that for most of his career, he has made his fortune by dealing with the deathly and the macabre.
In order to understand the story of “School’s Out”, we must first understand the story of the band itself. First of all, the name, Alice Cooper was the name of the band. The lead singer that we have all come to know as Alice Cooper was born, Vince Furnier. After success came to the band, Vince Furnier legally changed his name to Alice Cooper, too. The hits mentioned above, including “School’s Out” came when Alice Cooper was a full band. After the mid-1970s, the band, Alice Cooper split up but, the newly-minted man now known as Alice Cooper kept performing as a solo artist. For the purposes of this post, when I mention Alice Cooper, I am referring to the band that existed in the early 1970s and not, the man with the solo career who still tours today.
Alice Cooper formed in high school. Even though only two of the five guys in the band knew how to play their instruments, The Earwigs, as they were known then, still managed to win the talent show prize. This win gave them the confidence to form a band for real. While everyone was honing their musical skills, they made a fateful decision that came to define their career. That decision was to mask their musical inexperience by putting on an overtly theatrical show. Part of their show centred upon the use of live animals, like snakes and birds, as props. Elaborate scenarios were enacted that drew in the audience into their world. Death and danger seemed imminent all throughout their shows. After playing local shows in Los Angeles for awhile, they decided to change their name to something innocuous and innocent sounding so, they picked the name, Alice Cooper. Not long after that, they were spotted by Frank Zappa and signed to his record label. A few albums later, the song “I’m Eighteen” became a minor hit. The revenue generated from that song helped finance even more elaborate theatrics during their shows.
The band moved to Detroit at this moment in their career and found an audience that was cutting its teeth on bands like Iggy and the Stooges, who were setting the stage for the launch of the Punk Rock movement. Alice Cooper began working with well-known producer, Bob Ezrin, and developed a more rock n’ roll edge to their songs. Soon, they found the perfect meshing of song stylings with an audience eager to join in the fun of their live shows and Alice Cooper, the band, soared to enormous heights of success.
The song, “School’s Out” comes from the album of the same name. The inspiration for the song came from a movie series that played back in the day called, “The Bowery Boys”. The phrase, “School’s Out!” was said by one of the characters all of the time as a way of saying, “Smarten up!”. Anyway, the Alice Cooper’s take on this phrase was to apply it to a time in the lives of all young people when the shackles of conformity are thrown off and we are all free to do as we please.
“No more pencils! No more books! No more Teacher’s dirty looks!” is a sentiment that has universal appeal. “School’s Out” taps into that sentiment perfectly and, as such, has become one of the very first songs anyone thinks of as the school year winds down and summer’s freedom beckons. For that reason alone, Alice Cooper will remain forever alive in the minds of those who yearn for summer.
So, without further delay, here is the band, Alice Cooper with one of the most iconic rock songs of all-time, “School’s Out”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Alice Cooper, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.