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In the 1992 Saved By The Bell episode School Song, the Saved By the Bell gang compete with each other to write Bayside High’s new school song. Slater and Tori write a dreary, earnest, bit of piano soft-rock which Zack rightfully sabotages. Screech plagiarises Home On The Range and also pulls this face:
This is one of the mysterious episodes that Jesse and Kelly were missing from so we can only imagine what they might have produced. Probably something like this
Zack Morris, meanwhile, chooses to rock out, in a Marty McFly at the Enchantment Under The Sea dance kind of way, with Cool School. As far as I can tell, there’s no readily available copy of Zack’s original version of Cool School online, just the version he tries to sing with a mouthful of lemon juice at the end of the episode, so you’ll have to take my word for what it’s like. Without further ado, HeadStuff proudly presents the annotated lyrics to Cool School.
Cool School by Zack Morris
Bayside is the school that’s cool and you know that it’s true.
Zack is suggesting that there is only one school that is cool (one school in the county? The state? The country? The world? The text is unclear on this point) and that is Bayside High, coincidentally the very school that Zack attends. He then goes on to assert that you know that it’s true, making the listener feel foolish if they didn’t already know that it’s true. This is a good way to get the weak-willed to agree with the song’s thesis.
The girls are the cutest and the guys are the hippest too. Ooh ooh ooh.
Zack goes on to list the reasons why we should consider Bayside to be the school that’s cool, namely cute girls and hip guys. As someone who harboured an intense Kelly Kapowski crush from 1991-94, I can confirm that Bayside did indeed have the cutest girls. The idea that Bayside had the hippest guys requires closer analysis though.
Consider the male students in Saved By The Bell; not just our three male leads but all of the male students at Bayside High. Let’s be charitable and say that Zack is hip. Now let’s use Zack Morris as our standard of hiposity. Is AC Slater hip? For: Quite a good dancer, sits on chairs backwards. Against: Amateur wrestler, does terrible puns, chauvinist pig (according to Jesse Spano and anyone even remotely woke). So Slater is maybe 20% hip. What about Screech though? Screech isn’t hip, don’t waste my fucking time.
So far, the only evidence for the guys being hip rests on Morris’s own dubious hipness. Let’s move on to the supporting men. Every male student in Bayside High besides Zack and Slater is either a jock or part of the nerd/geek/dweeb continuum. None of these people are hip* so the song’s claim that the guys are the hippest too just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Ooh ooh ooh.
Other schools try to touch us, but you know that they don’t have a clue.
As we head towards our triumphant finish, Zack is now claiming that other schools try to touch ‘us’. It’s hard to tell if ‘us’ means individual students or if ‘us’ is a synecdoche for the entire school apparatus: the building, the students, Mr. Belding, the teachers, that duck that got covered in oil that one time. What is clear from the song is that even though the other schools are trying to do this, they don’t have a clue as to how to go about achieving it. Perhaps they’re unclear as to what it is they’re trying to touch as well. As we all know, there’s nothing worse than being touched cluelessly and high school students are particularly prone to clueless touching. Even though this lyric is unclear (and it’s worth reiterating that it could be unclear because the schools themselves are unclear about what they’re doing or why they’re doing it), its theme of clueless teenage touching strikes home even twenty-four years after it was originally written. Incidentally, Cool School was released more than a year after Smells Like Teen Spirit exploded into the public consciousness and reinvented rock music. I’m docking Zack thirty Hip Points for writing a 1950s rock ‘n’ roll song during the cultural peak of grunge.
Now rockin’ and a rollin’ from the morning till the day is through.
I’m docking Zack a further thirty points because he’d clearly given up by this point. This is supposed to be your school song Zack, your gift to eternity. When people think about Zack Morris, do you really want them to think “rockin’ and a rollin’ from the morning till the day is through”??? Of course not, nobody in their right mind would want that. And yet this is what you’ve given us. I’m glad that Slater and Tori spiked your drink with industrial grade lemon syrup. You didn’t deserve to win. Neither did Screech. The compromise song that Slater and Tori wrote was also bad. What I’m saying is that Zack Writes Smells Like Teen Spirit, Invents Grunge would have been a great way to finish the original run of Saved By The Bell. Cool School is not. Before we leave, let’s enjoy the Lemon Drizzle remix of Cool School.