Throwing Down the Gauntlet...or Don't Tell Me Catholic School Girls Aren't in Rock Songs

10:45 PM 1 Comments A+ a-

This morning, I was listening in the car to the Billy Joel classic, "Only the Good Die Young," and it struck me, what are the songs that have Catholic School girls in them?  There must be a decent number, because any girl (like me) who has actually been a teenager walking around in a Catholic school uniform can relate how many obscene statements men and boys make toward you.  The myth of the "wild" Catholic school girl is embedded in the American heterosexual male psyche, much to our dismay.

Because it was about music, I said something to my husband, Icarus P. Anybody, who had just written a post about all his favorite songs that are about the radio, and he had the audacity to SCOFF at me saying he couldn't think of any references to Catholic school girls besides the Billy Joel song.  I hate it when he scoffs, so I decided to do a little research to see if I was entirely deluded.  Plus, I had my reputation of a Catholic school survivor, the last four years all-girls at Immaculate Conception High School in Lodi, New Jersey, to defend.  

I suppose it's nice to know that the idea is inspirational for artists, even if we are just talking about musicians and writers of a certain film genre.  Billy Joel definitely counts as an artist who I can admire (at least for his work, I don't know him well-enough personally), and he clearly had the hots for a Catholic school girl at some point.  Take a look at some of the lyrics of "Only the Good Die Young" which came off his 1977 album, The Stranger.

Come out Virginia, don't let me wait
You Catholic girls start much too late
aw But sooner or later it comes down to fate
I might as well be the one

well, They showed you a statue, told you to pray
They built you a temple and locked you away
Aw, but they never told you the price that you pay
For things that you might have done.....

I'm guessing that the choice of "Virginia" for her name works at the syllable level as well as the symbolic one since we're all clear on what he's looking for (shame on you, Billy!).  The only aspect of the song that worries me is trying to figure out how old Virginia is.  I mean, read them yourself.

You got a nice white dress and a party on your confirmation
You got a brand new soul
mmmm, And a cross of gold
But Virginia they didn't give you quite enough information
You didn't count on me
When you were counting on your rosary
(oh woah woah)

They say there's a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it's better but I say it ain't
I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
the sinners are much more fun...

Was the confirmation recent?!  That happens in middle school.  Let's hope he's referring to a few years before his relentless courtship of poor Virginia.  I'd feel a lot more comfortable if she was at least a junior, after all.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are another group fascinated with the sexuality of the girl in a plaid skirt.  Their song, "Catholic School Girls Rule" of the Freaky Styley album (1985) is extremely risque.  Some of the tamer lyrics (which still manage to convey the gist of the song) are:

From the cross she's raised her head
This is what the sister said
Give no love until you're wed
Live no life until you're dead

The good books says we must suppress
The good books says we must confess
But who cares what the good books says
Cause now she's taking off her dress

Is she taking off her dress?  Really Chili Peppers?  In your fantasies, possibly, but it sounds a little like you're complaining about religion thwarting your adolescent desires if you don't mind my saying so.  There is no way that I'm linking to the video - it manages to be both bad and obscene simultaneously and no one needs that mental image.

Frank Zappa, also not known for his highbrow culture or finesse although respected by many as a musician, published his Catholic school girl tribute "Catholic Girls" on his compilation album, You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 6, which is a two-disc set of live performances recorded between 1970 and 1988. Here's is the least raunchy stanza in the whole song:

In a little white dress
Catholic girls
They never confess
Catholic girls
I got one for a cousin
I love how they go
So send me a dozen
Catholic girls
Catholic girls

I can't speak for who is in heaven, but I guarantee you that whereever Frank Zappa is, he is not accompanied by a dozen Catholic girls right now.  Let's hope he grew out of this particular fetish.

One of my favorite videos featuring a Catholic school girl (which I've always thought of as quite romantic) is the 80s power ballad, "Sister Christian," by the band Night Ranger.  Originally published on their 1984 album, Midnight Madness, the song was actually written by drummer Kelly Keagy for his sister, which is probably why it's actually lovely and not obscene.  "Sister Christian" has actually been named one of the top 100 songs of the 1980s by VH1 and it's theme about making choices when you are young is universal.  It holds up well today.

Sister Christian
Oh the time has come
And you know that you're the only one
To say O.K.
Where you going
What you looking for
You know those boys
Don't want to play no more with you
It's true

While the lyrics don't mention Catholic school girls explicitly, no one can forget the video of the Bon Jovi classic, "Runaway," from their debut album Bon Jovi released in 1984. I think the choice of having the protagonist of the song come from a Catholic school background was clearly to contrast with her present situation, namely drugs and prostitution, which is inferred by the lyrics and her nightmare dream sequence. Warning: the hair is REALLY big in this video and I am sadly not just talking about the actress/model playing the runaway.

I think it's interesting that people have commented on the fact that the school uniforms in "Sister Christian" and "Runaway" are actually authentically long, not the tarted up miniskirts (that would have gotten me a smack and instant penance from the nuns) that say "Catholic uniform" to most video producers. The Bon Jovi video still makes the actress soaking wet, for no apparent reason other than to turn her blouse see-through, so I'm not saying that it's high art, but I think it's worth noting.

A well-known video featuring Catholic school girls (although not in the lyrics) is in the early 1990s "Crazy" by Aerosmith video. One of the reasons it's so well-known is because it stars two later famous actresses, Alicia Silverstone (of Clueless and Batgirl fame) and Liv Tyler (LOTR, anyone?), who happens to be Steve Tyler's daughter (which wasn't known to the casting director when he asked her to do the video). One again, the uniform seems to be more to confirm the stereotype of wild Catholic girls, while offering contrast to their girls naughty choices along their journey. Tsk, tsk, ladies.

 While it's not necessary identified as a Catholic school, most younger people today would probably remember the famous Brittany Spears video, "...Baby, One More Time" as embodying the sex appeal of the school uniform.  With neither nuns or teachers to enforce the dress code in this video, it's hardly shocking that all the students have taken liberties with their uniforms, tying off shirts and wearing skirts waaaayyyy too high (do you know how uncomfortable that is sitting on cold chair in the winter?).  This is from 1998, but I find myself shocked at how unbelievably young Spears looks.  I want to give her a hug and a long talk about doing her homework.

With the exception of "Baby, One More Time" all of the songs and videos on this list came out during my middle school/high school/college years, so I guess it's only right I would have been a little more aware than the average person about the role Catholic school girls play in the rock scene.  It's been quite a little trip down memory lane.

Thanks, Icarus P. Anybody, and BTW, you might want to not throw down a gauntlet to your librarian wife next time. The research thing comes pretty easy, after all.  *kisses*