Ramones – Rock ‘n’ Roll High School

This song was the title song for the movie The Ramones made in 1980. I got a VHS copy of this movie in the early 80s and loved it.

The Ramones first recorded this song with producer Ed Stasium, who produced their previous album Road to Ruin. The band started working with Phil Spector soon after, and Spector remixed this song for the film. This is the version that was released as a single and included on the film’s soundtrack.

This song has a fifties sound to it and it does sound commercial for the Ramones but it never made it into the Billboard 100 but it did manage to get to #67 in the UK in 1979. It was not the hit they were hoping to have.

The song clocked in at a little over 2 minutes…true Ramones fashion. This is one band I regret never getting to see live.

From Songfacts

The Ramones wrote this song for the movie Rock ‘N’ Roll High School, which is about a student who leads a rock rebellion against the school administration. In the film, the student, Riff Randell (played by P. J. Soles), writes the song in her songwriting class (somehow this school she found so stifling offered a songwriting class and a means for her to work up a professional demo) and plays it to her classmates during gym class.

Determined to get the song to her favorite band, the Ramones, she is thwarted by the principal and stages a protest in retaliation, taking over the school with her fellow students. In the final scene, she leads the students out of the school in apparent surrender, but then introduces the Ramones, who have joined them to perform the song. While they play, Riff hits the plunger and blows up the building as the horrified teachers look on.

The film is campy in the tradition of Animal House, and it captured the punk attitude of rebellion with a heaping of humor. It was released independently, so it was never big at the box office, but Rock ‘N’ Roll High School earned an excellent review from the influential movie critics Siskel & Ebert, and quickly gained a cult following.

Rock ‘N’ Roll High School director Allan Arkush was a big Ramones fan, and pushed to make them the band in the movie. When he met with the band’s manager, Danny Fields, Arkush pitched him the story of the band playing while the school blows up. Fields was sold.

Much of the Ramones brand of punk rock was influenced by early rock and roll.

When Spector produced the Ramones End of the Century album, he had them record a new version, employing his “wall of sound” technique. While the original begins with eight seconds of drums, this rendition opens with the sounds of students mulling about at school, a class bell, and a sustained guitar note played by Johnny Ramone.

This guitar note became the stuff of legend when tales were told of Specter making Johnny play it over and over for eight hours. When Johnny walked out, Spector ordered him back in, and Johnny retorted, “What you going to do, shoot me?” (this exchange is captured on tape).

Spector is often said to have brandished a gun either at this point or at another point in the session, but Marky Ramone tells us that this is overblown – Spector carried a gun but never threatened them with it.

The album took about six months to make, which was an eternity by Ramones standards, although most of that time was Spector working without the band. The album was a modest success, going to #44 US and outselling previous Ramones efforts, but it left the band divided – Joey and Marky loved it, but Dee Dee and Johnny felt traumatized by the experience.

If the Ramones were ever going to score a hit single, this would have been it. The song was the title track to a movie, and the renown hitmaker Phil Spector had his hands on it. It was not to be: the song didn’t crack the American charts and the Ramones never did have a commercial breakthrough.

A video was made for this song using the 1980 End of the Century release. The video is based on the movie, with most of the band in detention and Marky dressed like a woman, playing the role of the principal in the film, Miss Togar. When MTV launched in 1981, it got some spins, but the Ramones never became video stars.

The version sung in the movie by P.J. Soles was also included on the soundtrack album.

According to Joey Ramone, the movie was going to be called Disco High School, since disco was big at the time. Director Allan Arkush managed to make it a rock movie starring the Ramones.

Joey says that when they blew up the high school at the end, they were really destroying the school and the explosions were frightening. The band was under strict instructions not to turn around until cameras stopped rolling. When they did, they saw the school up in flames.

Imploding the set did more than just create a great visual: it made it impossible to do re-shoots, ensuring that it couldn’t be reverted to Disco High.

The End Of The Century album cover was shot by Mick Rock, whose famous clients include David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. He was warned before the shoot that the Ramones did not like photographers, but the session went well and resulted in one of the more memorable images of the band, with them wearing colorful T-shirts and no leather.

“It only took about an hour,” Rock told Songfacts. “They came, I did some Polaroids. They didn’t really comment much, but at least they liked them enough for one to appear on the album cover.”

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School

Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school

Well I don’t care about history
Rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school
‘Cause that’s not where I wanna be
Rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school
I just wanna have some kicks
I just wanna get some chicks
Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school

Well, the girls out there knock me out, you know
Rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school
Cruisin’ around in my GTO
Rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school
I hate the teachers and the principal
Don’t wanna be taught to be no fool
Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school
Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school

Fun fun, rock ‘n’ roll high school
Fun fun, rock ‘n’ roll high school
Fun fun, rock ‘n’ roll high school
Fun fun, oh baby
Fun fun, oh baby
Fun, fun, fun, fun
Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school
Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school
Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school

I don’t care about history
Rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school
‘Cause that’s not where I wanna be
Rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school
I just wanna have some kicks
I just wanna get some chicks
Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school
Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school

Fun fun, rock ‘n’ roll high school
Fun fun, rock ‘n’ roll high school
Fun fun, rock ‘n’ roll high school
Fun fun, oh baby
Fun fun, oh baby
Fun, fun, fun, fun
Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school
Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school
Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school
Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

24 thoughts on “Ramones – Rock ‘n’ Roll High School”

  1. Almost titled ‘Disco High’, yikes. I started watching this movie again recently, but got distracted. I need go back and watch from start to the end. I’ve completely forgotten the story. I can’t even imagine what working with Specter was like.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, which sounds like the Beach Boys on steroids! 🙂

    The Ramones were a cool band. And 1-2-3-4, they were also very efficient. Since each of their songs was barely 2 and a half minutes, their gigs were under an hour, even if they played 20 tunes! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You know…I was going to post that one but then I ran across the movie again. My favorite by them is I Wanna Be Sedated….

      Like

  3. Well if you’re going to be a one trick pony, make it a good trick at least. The Ramones were that – simple and repetitive, but the music was pretty likable. This might be their quintessential single I’d think.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I just vaguely remember this. I was never much of a Ramones fan. In fact, I’ve never encountered anyone (personally) that was a Ramones fan or, if they were, they never mentioned it.

    Ah…P.J. Soles. Carrie, Halloween, Stripes… There is an actual album called “What happened to P.J. Soles?” by Local H. She had some iconic roles.

    Those clips were funny. I’d heard about the supposed “gun incident” with Spector but, didn’t know it happened for this movie.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yea she was married to Dennie Quaid I believe…I don’t know how that popped into my head.
      Lennon talked about Spector carrying a gun…finally John said f$#k this and didn’t work with him again.

      Like

      1. Thank Goodness…

        I just heard some sad news…Tom Lester died…he was Eb off of Green Acres. He is the last one that was alive.

        Like

      2. They’ve been playing on MeTV. In fact, that station has been playing all kinds of old stuff…TZ, Hitchcock, Invaders, Perry Mason, Mannix, Cannon, Barnaby Jones, MASH, Flintstones, Andy Griffith, Gomer Pyle, Green Acres, Hogan, Carol Burnett, Dragnet, Highway Patrol, My Three Sons, Beaver…
        https://www.metv.com/

        Liked by 1 person

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