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The Movie

Marijuana is referred to as "Mary Jane," "pot," "weed," or "tea." They never say to each other, "let's smoke a marijuana cigarette." They say, "Let's 'turn on,' or "let's blast a 'joint.'"
--Police Commissioner Burroughs / Narrator (Ned Wever)

The year 1958 saw the release of this flipsville tale of a stranger who shakes things up at a high school of hep-talking teens in a town with a hidden drug menace. We're not just talking reefer here, my cats and kittens, because that's just the gateway to junk, according to the movie's PSA parental units and the local law. New kid Baker (Russ Tamblyn) moves to town with his nympho auntie Gwen (Mamie Van Doren) and he wants to make the scene, you dig?

Let me lay it on you. The soundtrack by Albert Glasser blows hard into jazz, but the pic opens with the Killer himself, Jerry Lee Lewis wailing with his Rock and Roll band in the back of a flatbed truck while teens dig the groove. We meet Baker and most of the cast, including his new classmates, Quinn (Charles Chaplin, Jr.), "Jukey" (Burt Douglas), J.I. (John Drew Barrymore-- John's kid and Drew's future estranged dad), and Steve (Michael Landon).

While fighting off the advances of his hard-drinking, sex-starved aunt, Baker falls for weed-fiend Joan (Diane Jergins) but spends suspect time with cool teacher Miss Williams (Jan Sterling). He's also trying to make a connection with the local T-man. Jackie Coogan, somewhere between The Kid and Uncle Fester, appears as the sinister "Mr. A." The riff might start sounding like Peyton Place, but the film shakes it up with some gone script noodling and a crazy twist.

Drugs, drag racing, a Lord Buckley-style retelling of the Christopher Columbus story, plus Philippa Fallon as a beat poet, and an ending to keep the squares content. John Wilson, the cat who founded the Golden Raspberry Awards calls it one of the most enjoyable bad movies ever made. That ain't jive, but Wilson undersells the goods.

HSC is the most.

Director: Jack Arnold
Writers: Robert Blees, Lewis Meltzer

The Song

Open up, a-honey, it's your lover boy me that's a-knockin'
Why don't you listen to me, sugar? All the cats are at the high school rockin'
Honey, get your boppin' shoes
'Fore the jukebox blow the fuse
--Jerry Lee Lewis and Ron Hargrave

Penned as the movie's title track, "High School Confidential" became one of the Killer's greatest hits and went on to become a Rock 'N' Roll standard. Numerous artists have covered the piece, including the Beatles. Their version formed part of the Let It Be sessions, though it was not released at that time. Jerry Lee would rerecord it sporadically throughout his career. These include an all-star 1983 rendition with Keith Richards, Mick Fleetwood, and Gary Busey, and a new version for the 1988 biopic, Great Balls of Fire!

Everybody's hoppin'
Everybody's boppin'
Boppin at the high school hop.

Samples made their way into "The Return of Jerry Lee," one of those old-time 45s that inserts snippets of pop songs into an interview. "Where did you meet your charming bride?" DJ George Klein asks Jerry Lee. "...at the high school hop...." comes the reply. How did he propose? "Open up, a-honey, it's your lover boy...'"


The Other Song

She's a cool blonde scheming bitch
She makes my body twitch
Walkin' down the corridor.
I can hear her stilettos click
I want her so much I feel sick
The Girl Can't Help It
She really can't help it now.
--Carole Pope and Kevan Staples

The 1981 breakout single from Toronto New Wave band Rough Trade's second album, Avoid Freud, it remains one of the more explicit ditties to crack the Canadian top forty. Carole Pope sings a high school tale, filled with 1950s pop-culture references, about unrequited love for "a combination Anita Ekberg/Mamie Van Doren." The object of her desire "drives a candy pink Cadillac" and dodges "teenage Brandos" in the halls:

What's her perfume? Tigress by Fabergé
It makes me cream my jeans when she comes my way.

The notoriety got Rough Trade a gig performing the song on SCTV and placed them on the edge of the pop-musical mainstream. In 2000 Pope recorded a sex-flipped version of their most famous song for Queer as Folk.

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