School Days - Chuck Berry

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"School Days" - Chuck Berry (1957)

Released in March 1957, Chuck Berry’s “School Days” is considered one of the very first rock and roll anthems.

Chuck Berry’s third highest ranking hit- it peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number one on the R&B charts.

The last verse of the song contains the lyrics “Hail, hail rock and roll/Deliver me from the days of old.” Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll became the title of a 1987 documentary and concert film about him.

Chuck Berry had a tendency to make songs that were the same, or sounded extremely similar as well as this composition’s musical arrangement which would later be reused by him in 1964 on “No Particular Place to Go“ and on the very rare “Big Ben Blues.”

Packed into one track, “School Days” illustrates teenage rock and roll lifestyles and desires in the 1950s. Teenagers were the target audience for most rock music in that era, and Berry knew that he could sell a lot of records by appealing to this crowd.

The song is a manual for the teen lifestyle- get up- go to school- and once that’s done- then head over to the malt shop and dance to the music on the juke box. When you have rock and roll in your life- you don’t need much else. As with most of Chuck Berry’s song- the story is told using a dose of relevant poetry accompanied by his trademark sound of blues, country and R&B morphed into a rock and roll setting.

According to music critic Herb Bowie, “School Days” is a direct expression of rock’s grand theme of liberation. The first two verses describe the oppression of the school day: being subject to authority, working hard at the study of subjects that seem to have no intrinsic interest, the regimented schedule of classes with no more than a brief interlude for lunch, the competition with the jostling crowd at the school.

The track pays direct homage to rock music as a liberating force, saying that, by being “loud and bold,” the music can “deliver us from the days of old.” And what are we being liberated to? “The feeling is there, body and soul.”

Bowie suggests:

“The track encapsulates the mission of rock music as a liberating force, freeing a generation from a value system that places structure, discipline and rote learning at the top of its pyramid, and releasing it to a new world dominated by passion and feeling. Put another way, the movement is from an experience based primarily on the ‘head,’ to a ‘whole body’ experience that includes the heart and soul, as well as the mind. The lyrics are an act of conscious creation expressing a unique artistic vision belonging to a particular individual.”

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