So in a move that is a so obviously an attempt to recreate the recent Jack Black movie School of Rock in real life, Channel 4 started a new series called Rock School. The premise is slightly different from the movie, in the movie the new teacher is struggling to find work, whilst on the show, the teacher is Gene Simmons, best known as founder member of Kiss. However it is also worth noting that, as he mentions in the programme, he actually trained as a teacher before going into music. The school involved is Christ’s Hospital, an independant boarding school in West Sussex, founded by Edward VI in 1552.
We actually started watching the show having seen the trailers, which have really played on Simmons doing his whole rock God routine, and getting the pupils to do thinks totally out of the ordinary for a school. However having watched the whole episode, these to some extent were pretty much for the cameras – although it is worth noting that his teaching methods are a lot less formal than would be expected.
The first comment I would make is that the senior management at the school really didn’t do their research, as Beth said “Didn’t they even just stick Gene Simmons into Google?” as the Deputy Head was getting concerned at his classes. Also worth noting that in this sequence the Deputy Head told the pupils off for participating, I assume as she couldn’t get anywhere having let Simmons and the film crew in in the first place!
Anyway, when he actually got down to it, despite the Rock God persona, Simmons actually seemed to have a good relationship with the pupils, and seemed to enjoy working with them. Of course as with any of these reality TV shows, it is difficult to really tell what it was like from the thirty minute show.
It is also worth bearing in mind that whether they come out of the end of the series with changed opinions over rock music, there are still a number of lessons that came out. One in particular in the first show was when he brought out a selection of posters of rock acts, right back to Elvis, and asked the pupils to comment. The important point that was picked up was that they were all different, whilst they were all successful acts, they had each taken their own style.
The real impression you get of Simmons, is that once you get beyond the rock persona he is actually a very intelligent person who knows exactly what he is trying to accomplish with that persona. Underneath he is a very shrewd businessman who has a strong understanding of his business, and what he needs to do to make money.
This is particularly bourne out at a couple of points during the episode. Firstly when he hears all the pupils in the class play their various instruments. All of them are talented classical musicians, one girl being grade 8 on her violin, and grade 6 on piano. However as Simmons tells them, musical talent is not what is needed for a rock band – people have been successful rock musicians bearly able to play two or three chords on a guitar.
The second point is at the end, when he picks the lead singer. There is one really good singer, that I have to say both Beth and I, and also most of the other pupils seemed to agree was the best, however Gene doesn’t pick him. Instead he picks Josh, probably the worst singer, one whom the other pupils fairly politely describe as a bit strange, and who Simmons spots as being the one in the class who is a bit of an outcast. In his interview at the start, Josh lists one of his interests as speaking Elvish, and comes across as generally pretty geeky. However during the episode, he is also the one who is able to drop his stiff upper lip, and actually takes on a persona when singing – even if he isn’t at all in tune.
However, perhaps one of the most interesting points is the interviews with the pupils after Josh has been picked. Most of the class are totally bemused, and some pretty annoyed that the best singer hasn’t been given the job. But the most touching moment is when they interview Josh, who is absolutely ecstatic about having got it, whilst he is usually left out, or ridiculed, here he is as the centre of attention. It is also worth noting that if you browse through the early lives of any number of well known stars, very often they are the ones who people found strange, or odd, but have found acceptance almost by taking being different to an extreme. For example take a look at this bio of Marilyn Manson.
Certainly it was a good start, and we’ll watch with interest to see if they do manage to produce a rock band by the end.
Incidentally, the show is also showing on VH1 in the USA.