Friday, June 7, 2013

Ramones -- "Rock 'n' Roll High School" (1979)

I just want to have some kicks!
I just want to get some chicks!
Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock 'n' roll high school!

I have a very specific memory of watching a videotape of the movie Rock 'n' Roll High School 29 years ago while sitting on the floor in front of our TV with my oldest child in my lap.  (He was seven or eight months old at the time.)

When the Ramones kicked into this song, I picked him up and positioned him on his feet, facing me -- holding his hands over his head to keep him upright, and bouncing him up and down to simulate dancing.  I loved it . . . he loved it . . . and if he gives me a grandchild before I croak, I'm sure said grandchild will love it when I do the same thing with him/her.

The Ramones
2 or 3 lines has featured over 500 songs since it came into being on November 1, 2009.  But not one of those songs has been a Ramones song.  That's just wrong . . . but better late than never (as the Roman historian Livy wrote well over 2000 years ago).

Everything about Rock 'n' Roll High School (the movie) is wonderful -- especially the cast and the soundtrack (which was heavy on Ramones songs).

P. J. Soles (as the bad girl)
The movie stars P. J. Soles as the adorable bad girl Riff Randell, who lives for rock and roll.  (P. J. debuted in my favorite soap opera of all time, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, but you no doubt remember her for her roles in Carrie, Private Benjamin, and Stripes -- where she played a female M.P. who became Bill Murray's girlfriend.) 

Dey Young (as the good girl)
Dey Young plays Riff's best friend, the adorable good girl Kate Rambeau -- a goody-two-shoes who finally loosens up and lets herself go.  (Dey's older sister, Leigh Taylor-Young, was once married to her Peyton Place co-star, Ryan O'Neal.)  

For some reason Dey never became a big star.  Here she is today:

Dey Young at age 55.  (Gasp.)
The cast also included Vince Van Patten (Dick's son, who was a successful pro tennis player -- a couple of years after appearing in the movie, he defeated John McEnroe on his way to winning a big tournament in Tokyo), Mary Woronov (an Andy Warhol protégé who appeared in a number of cult movies), Paul Bartel (who appeared in 17 movies with Woronov), and -- last but certainly not least -- Clint Howard.

Clint Howard with "Gentle Ben."
Clint Howard is the younger brother of Ron "Opie" Howard.  He starred in the TV series Gentle Ben when he was a child.  (The title character was a 650-pound bear who was Clint's pal.)  I always thought Clint was perhaps the least appealing child star of his generation.  But he was really unappealing at age 20 when he played Eaglebauer in Rock 'n' Roll High School.

Clint Howard (as Eaglebauer)
Of course, Clint Howard was Brad Pitt compared to the late Joey Ramone (real name: Jeffry Ross Hyman), the frontman of the Ramones, who were the real stars of the movie.

Joey Ramone
Rock 'n' Roll High School (which cost only about $300,000 to make) was produced by the legendary low-budget producer, Roger Corman.  Corman is best know for directing a series of eight films based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe in the early sixties.  (All but one starred Vincent Price.)  He also directed a bunch of biker and psychedelic-trip movies aimed at the youth market and usually shown at drive-ins.

Roger Corman, who directed
The Pit and the Pendulum
Many notable directors -- including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, James Cameron, and Ron Howard -- worked with Corman early in their careers.  (Six of Corman's protégés won "Best Director" Oscars.)  

The actors who got started in Corman movies include Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Robert DeNiro, David Carradine, and Dennis Hopper.  (There were plenty of roles for really weird dudes in Corman flicks.)

The Terror was a 1963
Roger Corman film
My second favorite Corman movie was 1975's Death Race 2000, a dystopian movie in which the United States has become a latter-day Roman Empire whose government keeps the citizenry entertained with gory sporting-event spectacles.  (Think NFL, NASCAR, and WWE.)  

The "death race" of the title is a coast-to-coast automobile race where the drivers -- who include Sly Stallone, David Carradine, Mary Woronov, and Fred Grandy (who later played "Gopher" on The Love Boat and eventually was elected to four terms in Congress) -- can score bonus points by running over pedestrians and spectators.  

As good as Death Race 2000 was, Rock 'n' Roll High School was even better.  Let's face it -- I'm just a sucker for high-school movies . . . especially high-school movies featuring girls' gym-class scenes:

(By the way, that piano piece that Riff scorns at the beginning of that clip is "Alley Cat," by Danish composer and pianist Bent Fabric, which was a top ten single in 1962.  I still have the sheet music to "Alley Cat.")

The musical highlight of the movies is a five-song Ramones concert medley.  (Yes, that is a guy in a giant white-rat costume in the audience.)

The movie's climactic scene features Riff Randell blowing up the school as the Ramones perform "Rock 'n' Roll High School."  (The film was shot on the campus of a defunct Los Angeles high school that actually was blown up for the movie.)

Here's a link you can use to buy the movie from Amazon:

1 comment:

  1. Where to begin? First of all, I've never been to Roackaway Beach NY, but did ride a train to Rockaway Beach OR. And I first heard the song when the Chaos Band covered it for a Sounds of Summer show near Sacramento CA. Then there's "Rock 'n' Roll High School", of which there are two or three versions, one of which was produced by Phil Spector and included in a documentary on the Wall of Sound master. And Clint Howard is known to Star Trek fans as Balok, the alien that Capt. Kirk fooled in "The Corbomite Manuever."
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