Retro spin: “Rock School” by Heaven

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Music Television, it can be argued, had a classic period from 1981 to 1983. In those first two years of the network’s existence, audiences would have been exposed to a number of bands. Pop and rock groups from all over the world were represented. The number of bands was probably difficult to track. More importantly, there were performers whose signature songs stood out. And even if the songs weren’t played on smaller market radio stations, avid fans could count on Music Television to play lesser known bands. One such band was Heaven. The Australian rock band had a single called “Rock School” that played up the idea of authority figures falling to understand youth, and ways to rebel to get what a person wants out of life.

Heaven and the sound of the early 1980s

The band Heaven formed in Adelaide in 1980. Their look was no-frills and they added to their hard-driving sound a brassy saxophone on “Rock School.”

Heaven’s credibility as a heavy metal band was cemented in both the band’s sound and their look. A denim and leather outfit, the group’s approach to metal was classic big drums, big guitars. This was not terribly different from other bands of the era.

During the early years of Music Television, hard rock, glam metal and heavy metal (and all variants of those genres) were the most popular in America. The clothing styles favored by bands on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles showed up in mall stores in slightly altered forms for everyday people, especially teens. The look was supposed to come with a taste for heavy metal.

Heaven, though popular when bands known for their hairstyles and guitar solos were ruling Music Television rotations, were not necessarily glam themselves, and had more in common with the hard rock look and sound of the previous decade.

In 1983, Heaven released their album, “Where Angels Fear to Tread.” One single from that recording that is probably the most memorable is “Rock School.” In some ways, the song has a great deal in common with the themes of Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” Still, Heaven remains unique in their approach to heavy metal.

The sound of “Rock School” by Heaven

One of the side effects of an interesting song fading into obscurity, is listeners forgetting what it actually sounded like. In memory, “Rock School” is remembered by the quick and heavy guitar lashings that permeate the chorus. What is completely obliterated in the passing of time is the saxophone detail.

“Rock School” isn’t one of those rock ‘n’ roll masterpieces marked by an obvious virtuoso in the instrumentation. Instead, the song succeeds on the virtues of its attitude. Even without watching the video, the pumped energy can be felt. In the video, watching lead singer, Allan Fryer, the rest of the band, and the characters that populate the classroom scenes pump their fists and bang their heads, marks the song as an early 1980s product, but no less fun.

The video shows the band as rebels against a school system that teaches subjects that they are not interested in. Whenever students are gathered, they can be wound up into the fist pumping, head banging antics that reminds viewers what was popular at the time- – not that headbanging has completely gone out of vogue for some audiences.

In addition, in the video, the school’s rebels (the band Heaven) takes on some football players on school grounds. There is something culturally resonant about this, as it calls to mind Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

With the passage of time and the many personnel changes, Heaven faded from the public eye. From most accounts, the band was not active after 2012. With the passing of Fryer in 2015 of cancer, it comes as no surprise that the band has not carried on. However, the band Heaven, and their singular contribution to the classic era of Music Television should not be forgotten, either.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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