|Day 155: Alice Cooper (School's Out)
June 18, 2022
In 1989, the West Virginia University Libraries promoted an "Educating All The People: Public Schools In West Virginia" for West Virginia Day Celebrations with a poster featuring a picture of a one-room schoolhouse (Mr. W.H. Gorman's class) from around 1918. That one-room schoolhouse would be where I would eventually go for 5th and 6th grade (Chestnut Ridge School in Morgantown). I keep a copy of the poster in my office as a reminder of humble beginnings.
I attended Chestnut Ridge from 1972-1974. Late April 1972 was also when Alice Cooper released the single, "School's Out," brilliantly (if calculated as such) released the last week of April so that it was racing up the charts in early June right as kids all across the country were getting out of school. All summer long all of us across the country were singing "school's out for summer/school's out forever."
Even though this was the summer when I was transitioning from the Flatt's Elementary school where we went for 3rd grade to Chestnut Ridge for 4th, whenever I hear that song, I think of racing out of Chestnut Ridge (basically a 4-room schoolhouse in 1972 and 1973) and running across the field that provided a short cut to my parents' house singing "school's out for summer." It certainly helped that every last day of school after 1972 (and probably into perpetuity), the local DJ played the song, so that kids could chuckle that "we got no class/we got no princip(als/les)."
I like to think the kids in this old picture would appreciate the sentiment of "School's Out." Certainly the older kids in the back look fed up and itchy to play hooky. If we slipped the album in front of them, they probably loved the cover's image of an old school wooden school desk slathered with graffiti and initials of the band members. I hope those kids would be appreciative of "and, we got no innocence/we can't even think of a word that rhymes," one of those lines that reminds us how funny rock lyrics can (and should) be.
However, I wonder what they'd think of the delivery: the slashing guitar, the snarling screaming instead of singing. (I picture the little kids in the front holding their ears in terror, Prince Louis' style--boy, is that reference going to be date in awhile?) Would the little anarchists in them all rise up when they hear the shout of the chorus' final line, "school's blown to pieces."
Then, what would they do with a band blessed with the name of a woman (legend saying the name was pulled from an Ouija board) fronted by a man (Vincent Furnier) using the band's name, wearing makeup and performing onstage with a snake? How about when they learn, perhaps seen via grainy footage, similar to their photograph, of Alice (the singer, not the band) hanging himself, electrocuting himself, or beheading himself in the name of musical theater? Let alone whatever bizarre costume he wore for a show (my favorite, the spider)? Is there anything in 1918 that allows these kids to process all of that? At times it was tough for those of us in the 1970s to process all of that. It didn't help that even before I escaped Chestnut Ridge for Suncrest Junior High that Alice Cooper as band no longer existed, and we simply had the solo Alice welcoming us to his nightmare.
I have a feeling that young boy front and center in the photograph would be praying for Vincent Furnier's sole.
Don't worry, little dude. That crazy Alice guy ended up being a pretty good golfer. Not all is lost. He also played King Herod in a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar (oh wait, that too requires a lot more explanation). Alice Cooper led many of us to see a world beyond the singer-songwriters, sitting placidly on the stage and emoting heart-on-the-sleeves' lyrics.
And for every kid post April 1972, Alice (man or band) was our favorite artist at least one day a year, as we shoved books and pencils into our overflowing bags, crashing into each other through the halls, singing in unison "out for summer/out 'til Fall/we might not come back at all." Knowing teachers, Mr. Gorman might have whispered the same thing under his breath.
Alice Cooper. "School's Out." School's Out. Warner Brothers, 1972. Link here.
Day 154: Tones On Tail. "Twist."
Day 156: Sinead O'Connor "Black Boys On Mopeds."
Unfinished list here.