Tag Archives: Rock School

Gene Simmons – Teacher or Rock Star?

Following the second episode of Rock School I speculated over the real Gene Simmons. Having seen the last two episodes of the series, I definitely think we saw much more of Gene Simmons teacher, as opposed to Gene Simmons arrogant rock star.

Over the last two episodes we again saw him going significantly out of his way with the troubled pupils, again going to see parents. We also saw him struggling with his potential rock band as they fought and argued. You also saw him calling in a number of favours from friends in the business to try and motivate the kids.

I have to say, that one of the sad themes underlying the whole of this series, and one which Gene himself expresses a number of time, is apparently how little ambition many of the children in Lowestoft seem to have. Of course I’m sure the editing has a lot to do with it, but certainly it is heart-warming to see the effect that the whole Rock School experience has had. For some it is the point where they decide what they want to do with their lives. For others it is almost like a Damascus Road experience, when they decide that they have to get out of Lowestoft. For others it is probably not the start of a glittering career, but rather something they can be proud of, to prove to themselves that they can do something. Certainly by putting together a group of young people, many of whom have problems with school, authority or whatever, rather than a group of well off, pretty privileged young people, it has produced an altogether more interesting series.

But what of Gene Simmons. I certainly get the impression that he has taken a lot more from this series too. He makes a number of interesting statements in the final minutes. Firstly he questions whether being a teacher or a rock star is more rewarding, and interestingly opts for the teacher, but adds that as a teacher he would get little thanks and acknowledgement for what he has done, certainly not compared to being a rock star. He also gives us a little of what is driving him in what he has been doing. He again comments on the lack of ambition that he believes the young people of Lowestoft have, but says that in the same way that somebody gave him a chance when he came to America, he has tried to give these young people a chance. I certainly think to some extent he has succeeded in that.

Of course the interesting question is whether Lowestoft is really as bad as is made out. I’m only too aware that editing ca make a big difference, but the question is whether if you went into a school in parts of Basingstoke or Reading, Bolton or Redruth, and took a similar group of young people, would you have exactly the same reactions and problems.

In all honesty I think you would – certainly Lowestoft is far from unique in having bored teenagers who feel disenfranchised by their lives and feel they have no future, and if there is one big negative to the show it is the fact that has come down heavily on Lowestoft when there are countless other places across the UK with similar problems. The big issue that has to be faced is that the vast majority of those places won’t be having Gene Simmons coming along to give their young people the opportunity to realise that they can change that.

Will the Real Gene Simmons Please Step Forward?

In last weeks Rock School, the housekeeper hired to look after Gene Simmons in Lowestoft speculated as to how much of an act his rock star persona really was. Certainly, some of the sequences in this weeks episode add more to the discussion as to the Gene Simmons rock star persona on show most of the time, and the Gene Simmons underneath.

What leads me to think that in particular is the way he dealt with one young person in particular, Jedda who he describes at one point as probably the most troubled teenager in the whole class. Despite his concerns, he appoints Jedda to be manager, despite him having missed sessions already, but with the caveat that he will be replaced if he fails to perform. This happens pretty quickly, as when the class is asked to come in for extra practice on a Saturday, the new manager turns up with a raging hangover. Gene shows little sympathy in front of the class, even deliberately making lots of loud noise to get a response. Pretty swiftly Jedda walks out and goes home. However, despite what has been said before, and what has happened with the class, Gene leaves the band practising, and goes to visit Jedda at home. Firstly he discusses the situation with the boys mother and grandparents, and says how much potential he believes that Jedda has. He then gives Jedda another chance!

The second chance goes down like the proverbial lead balloon with the rest of the class. As a result, when a few days later Jedda is again absent, the rest of the class take a vote to replace him as manager, and Gene doesn’t stand in their way.

However that isn’t the end of the story. When Jedda returns to school the next day, we see Gene talking to him one to one, Jedda having found out what has happened, and struggling to keep it together. Despite all the hard man talk, here Gene comes across as particularly sensitive, and primarily concerned that Jedda get the best out of the experience. Gene tells him how much potential he believes he has, and tries to persuade the boy to go in and fight for his position. The impression I very much get is that despite what Jedda has said about wanting the job, in some part he believes that he is not up to it and is going to fail. Therefore almost subconsciously sets out to prove it to himself by messing up, whether that is by drinking too much, failing to turn up or whatever. Some of the other young people express this directly, saying that they see the band as their only chance to make something of themselves.

Gene, with both Jedda and the other young people seems to take that view, that whatever their circumstances they have the potential to succeed. Whilst he is tough on them a lot of the time, ultimately it seems it is because he believes that by channelling their anger and frustration towards the fact that he is never happy with them that will give them the motivation to prove him wrong.

Whilst I enjoyed the first series of the show, series two of Rock School is definitely shaping up to be a lot more interesting, and in terms of Gene’s relationship with the young people, gives an awful lot more to think about. Whilst it could be argued that everything he is doing is to try and ensure the best band possible, to me it seems that he went an awful lot further than someone who was only interested in the band would go. As Beth commented during the first series, whatever has happened since, you can see why it was that he trained as a teacher.

Rock School

School of Rock [2004]

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.