The Kids are Alright
April 2, 2008 5:07 PM   Subscribe

Are you sick and tired of telling those darn kids to "get off your lawn" because their "favorite band sucks?" Next time, instead of handing out snark, hand them a brochure for the Paul Green School of Rock Music! Before you know it, you'll be wishing that you had a bigger lawn.

Since Paul Green founded the school in Philadelphia in 1998, kids ages 7 to 17 in cities all over the USA have been invited to live out their parents' dreams: to be in a rock band.

Paul Green's story has spawned a documentary (which explores the bi-polar nature of his teaching style), and has inspired a popular movie (directed by Richard Linklater and starring Jack Black).

The curriculum draws from a variety of rock styles, from the ubiquitous Led Zeppelin to the Damned, Captain and Tenielle to Devo, System of a Down to Nena, RATM to P-Funk. I've selected the following examples from the massive amount of footage available on YouTube to illustrate the variety of styles taught and performed, the different levels of talent, and the overall spirit of the whole she'bop. (Plus, seeing kids sing inappropriate lyrics they may not fully understand is a kick, too.)

This is the summer camp I only wish my parents could have sent me to.

Led Zeppelin - Travelling Riverside Blues
(My favorite clip)
Parliament/Funkadelic - Maggot Brain (My second favorite clip. The rest are in no particular order.)
The Vapors - Turning Japanese
House of Pain - Jump Around
Oingo Boingo - Dead Man's Party
Soft Cell - Tainted Love
Black Sabbath - National Acrobat
B-52's - Rock Lobster
Prince - Let's Go Crazy
Rage Against the Machine - Killing In The Name Of
Frank Zappa - Keep it Greasy
Lou Reed - Walk on the Wild Side
Slayer - Reign in Blood
David Bowie - Moonage Daydream
Van Halen - Hot for Teacher
Average White Band - Cut the Cake
Sex Pistols - Pretty Vacant
Chris Isaak - Wicked Game
AC/DC - Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
King Diamond - A Mansion in Darkness
Devo - Whip It | Sloppy (not to be confused with Devo 2.0)
Parliament/Funkadelic - Tear the Roof Off
Nena - 99 Red Balloons
Eagles - Hotel California
System of a Down - Aerials
Herbie Hancock - Chameleon
The Damned - New Rose
King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King
The Captain and Tenielle - Love Will Keep Us Together
The Knack - My Sharona
Steely Dan - FM
posted by not_on_display (22 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Frankly, this gives me hope for the future during these otherwise increasingly dark, bleak times.
posted by stenseng at 5:39 PM on April 2, 2008

Damn I wish I was a rock star.

Cool post, some of these kids are pretty good.
posted by WalterMitty at 6:07 PM on April 2, 2008

Or you could just get together with your friends in the garage and make your own music.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:09 PM on April 2, 2008

I've had to cover a few of the school's gigs over the past few years. My review of thier performance at CBGBs.
Photo, Photo, Photo.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:19 PM on April 2, 2008

Absofuckinglutely the kids are 'awrite.

My nephew [keyboards] attended Camp Jam. Great performance and the lead singer totally got Jim Morrison. A shy, talented guitarist, sang because the group's lead singer got sick.
The nephew has picked up the Bass lately and bought his own amplifier [500 Watt], at 15, they know much more than I did in those days. Not so damned innocent, believe me.

They work hard at it and nephew gets together and jams in his basement, writing their own songs and dropping them to YouTube [havn't got the URL onhand], they got it going all rite. Cool. And good for them.
Sure helps to have cool parents to let you explore and grow. In your own home.
posted by alicesshoe at 6:35 PM on April 2, 2008

If you the documentary you know who Asa Spades and Tucker Collins are. Well, their mom Andrea, a mainstay in the Philly punk scene, was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer last year. She's been blogging about the experience of being terminally ill since last year; it's a simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting read. She's a really active member with the Fishtown/Kensington Circle of Hope church, so you might want to skip the blog if the Jesus talk bothers you. It's an ultra-progressive Mennonite offshoot, though, if that mitigates things at all.
posted by The Straightener at 6:43 PM on April 2, 2008

As for the lawn, a shotgun filled with rocksalt loads is more effective.

MY kids get to go to rock and roll camp and I am frankly a bit jealous. I would trade places with them those days. "Son, that man is a boss, lick his ass, even though it smells at it will buy you several guitars. While you are doing that I will be learning some new licks on your guitar. "
posted by caddis at 7:08 PM on April 2, 2008

Adrian Belew (Zappa, Bowie, Talking Heads, King Crimson, ridiculous Japanese tv commercials) records and tours with Julie Slick (21, bass) and Eric Slick (20, drums) two graduates of PGSoR. ('Fact, Julie was one of the first students, when Green was still in college himself, if I'm not mistaken.) They are fine musicians.
posted by Herodios at 7:20 PM on April 2, 2008

Damn I wish I was a rock star. . .

posted by WalterMitty

Is that what you call eponysterical around here?
posted by Herodios at 7:23 PM on April 2, 2008

It also inspired a UK reality show with Gene Simmons in the teacher role. Rock School. It's not quite as awful as you might imagine, despite Mr. Simmons.
posted by smackfu at 8:02 PM on April 2, 2008

posted by nola at 8:43 PM on April 2, 2008

I haven't seen the documentary, but I was a substitute guitar teacher for awhile at the Paul Green school in Cherry Hill and almost took a job at the Philly school (ha -- I gave lessons to some of the kids in the linked clips). It's not a summer camp, it's just a place that offers private musical instruction with periodic band performances.

The performance aspect of it is definitely cool, although lots of music schools are doing that now. The kids that I saw there seemed to really enjoy it, and used the school as much as a social hangout as a place to learn. I probably would've enjoyed it at that age.

But they underpay their teachers, and for the most part it's not really different from other music schools. They just assign music and put the kids into bands and get them up onstage. It'd be a lot better if it weren't limited to whatever handful of 60s-80s radio rock songs Paul Green chooses. The students there don't get to learn or play jazz, or classical, or even indie rock or anything you wouldn't hear on classic rock radio. They don't learn to read music (perish the thought) and tend to be weak on fundamentals. Which is just like most kids taking guitar lessons at other schools, but that's my point.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:56 PM on April 2, 2008

^Straightener: ...Asa Spades...

Didn't know why Motorhead suddenly popped into my head; had to read twice.

^R. Mutt: Or you could just get together with your friends in the garage and make your own music.

As a kid, I was lucky enough to have a friend with a basement. But some kids live in apartments. Some kids may not have as many social opportunities to get rocking with all their other friends--if they have friends who also rock out. And, especially around here, practice space costs a bundle.

So anyway, as I'm constructing this post (it actually grew from watching Adrian Belew/King Crimson videos on YT), I'm thinking that next summer, if my kid's music bug takes him over (he asked me to teach him a song by Garbage and that song from Portal today), and he practices, I'd pop for something like this for him. It looks like some some fun.
posted by not_on_display at 10:09 PM on April 2, 2008

Ah, correction, I looked at the web site and they do have a summer camp. But for the most part it's regular after school private lessons mixed with band rehearsals.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:30 PM on April 2, 2008

"real rock concerts at real rock venues in front of real rock audiences."

Keeping it real!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:53 PM on April 2, 2008

I took guitar lessons at the Philly school when I was 24. I may possibly have been their oldest student, ever.

I remember Paul screaming at the kids pretty often. But they rather bratty, and deserved it.
posted by medeine at 11:29 PM on April 2, 2008

"they were rather bratty" ('s been a long day.)
posted by medeine at 11:31 PM on April 2, 2008

Did anyone else expect that Paul Green's Rock School was something like this?
posted by pxe2000 at 4:43 AM on April 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

Parliament/Funkadelic - Maggot Brain

OK, kids, now just imagine your mom died, but first maybe you want to take this. No, you don't want to tell your parents. No, those spiders aren't real, Jimmy. OH MY GOD BUT THAT SNAKE IS! Just kidding, Jimmy. Jimmy? Jimmy?

On topic, Ethos in Portland, OR seems really great. If I had more time I would definitely be volunteering there right now, but it will have to wait.
posted by sleepy pete at 12:30 PM on April 3, 2008

Suddenly, my senior-year talent show performance of Poison's "Every Rose Has It's Thorn", with lyrics modified as necessary to remove any mention of "sleeping" and such, seems rather insignificant.
posted by mrbill at 2:36 PM on April 3, 2008

Suddenly, my senior-year talent show performance of Poison's "Every Rose Has It's Thorn", with lyrics modified as necessary to remove any mention of "sleeping" and such, seems rather insignificant.

Hell no... and double bonus points for that song in particular. No shame: you did it on your own!

(And thanks all!)
posted by not_on_display at 5:41 PM on April 7, 2008

My daughter's already signed up for two weeks of summer camp. This will get her jazzed more than playing ROCK BAND one more time.
posted by Gucky at 6:20 PM on April 12, 2008

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