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Rock ‘n’ Roll High School

Image credit New World Pictures, Rock 'n' Roll High School, 1979

Image credit New World Pictures, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, 1979

It’s that time of year again- the kids are going back to school, teachers are saying goodbye to their summer freedom, and the countdown to Thanksgiving break has officially started. What a perfect time to watch a great high school movie. I was reminded of this week’s film Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (DVD) by a Cinema Sips fan, and the only thing I remembered about it from a viewing years earlier was that it had some REALLY bad acting, and some REALLY great music. After watching it again this week, I still stand by that opinion. Truly, it feels like one absurd concert film for The Ramones, much in the same way as Help! was for The Beatles. The plot is ridiculous (though thankfully, we’re spared the terror of seeing Ringo Starr try to remove a gaudy ring), but the music will leave you humming I Wanna Be Sedated long into the night.

The story of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is relatively simple. Administrators at Vince Lombardi High School are cracking down on students listening to rock ‘n roll music. PJ Soles plays #1 Ramones fan Riff Randall, who enjoys rocking out to punk music in the parking lot of her high school, and looks like she’s pushing 30. She’s on a quest to give The Ramones a song that she’s written for them, and of course in the end, the ugliest rockers in history fight for the musical freedom of the students. There are some forgettable subplots involving Clint Howard as a high school Yenta, but really I want to just fast-forward to any scenes with The Ramones. They’re not actors, they’re barely humans, but I can’t take my eyes off of them. Crazy-talented Joey Ramone lopes across the screen while singing songs like Sheena is a Punk Rocker and Teenage Lobotomy, and I kinda swoon. Is this fine cinema? Please- it’s a Roger Corman production. Is this tons of fun? Absolutely!

When I put this movie on, I tried to think of a drink I might have ordered in the old CBGB, waiting for The Ramones to take the stage. To me, nothing says punk rock like Jack Daniels. I picture Sid Vicious swinging a half-empty bottle around on stage as he screams incomprehensible lyrics into a microphone and sweats more than a jogger in Death Valley. My drink this week may be a little low-brow, but so is this film. When watching Rock ‘n Roll High School, I recommend mixing up a Jack ‘n’ Coke.

Jack ‘n’ Coke

1 oz Jack Daniels whiskey

3 oz Coca-Cola (the more sugar, the better)

Mix the whiskey and Coka-Cola in a glass over ice. That’s it.


This is a pretty simple drink, which will leave you with more time for dancing around the living room (which you WILL want to do when the Ramones start playing). It’s bittersweet to watch this now, knowing that all of the founding members have died- most recently drummer Tommy Ramone (though he had already been replaced by Marky Ramone by the time this film was made in 1979). However, I still enjoy watching them in their heyday, sporting skin-tight jeans, thick bangs, and bored expressions. Because I rarely consume Jack Daniels, I opted to buy a tiny airplane bottle for this drink, which incidentally is the perfect size for one’s backpack, if you are headed back to school and can’t face another pep rally sober. Not that I know from experience…..   Cheers!

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