“Up in the morning and off to school, the teacher is teaching the golden rule” are the opening words of a Chuck Berry song. It bounces along. It is about a schoolgirl who, once she lays down her schoolwork, she can really live. The first part of the day is like living in exile from the real schoolgirl’s aspirations. She wants to get to the jukebox and play records until she’s exhausted but then has to go home and do the stuff that adults expect of you.
Since that song was released in the late ’50s, probably three generations of schoolgirls have grown up to become mothers. And each one of them will have had to get their girls to concentrate on school, often against their will. Why? Because school is a kind of block to personal desire.
Other songs similarly celebrate the contradiction between dancing and music-making, and serious stuff like schoolwork. Sam Cooke’s What a Wonderful World does the same, throwing up the idea that school is secondary to living. And living is enjoyment. The singer declares he is thick, doesn’t know what a slide rule is for but knows that he loves the object of his dreams and desires.
He knows that, in a way, love is superior to whatever skills you may pick up in a classroom.
But is not all pop just crooners who swoon over love and joy? Shakespeare is full of men and women who only have time for love and moping about not having it. You will note though that the mopers also have money and retainers, and people to run round and do things for them. Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Henry IV, Part 1, etc, etc. In one Shakespeare play a member of the prince’s staff, Iago, is so annoyed at all of this love stuff he decides to kill it and, by so doing causes murderous jealousy, as if to simply stir up the world; as if to say: “Get real, Othello!”
You will note also that nothing really happens in Beatles songs, other than someone gets laid, or doesn’t, or is kissed, or not kissed. Later, of course, under the influence of their own brand of surrealism, they do talk about things other than penetration and its preparation. It’s all fun. Good fun for a while.