that high school feeling
October 20, 2010 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Songs that evoke high school nostalgia?

It's that time again! I'm close to starting my fourth novel, and that means composing a playlist with metafilter's help.

This book is a dark contemporary young adult book, set in the sort of central/southern California setting where I grew up. Not in summer, but in fall or winter, with overcast skies and oaks and eucalyptus trees and strawberry fields and shivering at beach bonfires and grimy coffee shops.

I listen to the same long playlist every time I sit down to write a book. For this book, I'm looking for songs that convey a sense of high school nostalgia. Songs that re-evoke that excitement, fear, wistfulness, longing, confusion from your teenage years. Maybe they're songs from a pivotal time in your life. Maybe they were just hugely popular back then. Ideally, music you love; "Hit Me Baby One More Time" takes me back but it's not exactly conducive to writing. (Or listening.) I prefer rock of any kind, from indie to folk to punk to grunge -- I'm sure the subgenre depends on when you were in high school. But I'm also looking for newer songs that evoke that thrill/terror of being a teenager. The lyrics don't necessarily have to fit, but of course it's extra cool if they do.

For me, some of them are "1979" by The Smashing Pumpkins (and the video!), "Glycerine" by Bush, "High and Dry" by Radiohead, etc.; songs not from my high school years, but that still evoke that feeling are "Don't Change" by INXS, "Re: Stacks" by Bon Iver, "The Last Word" by Chris Flew, "Slow Show" by The National (but that song makes me nostalgic for all times, including now). There's a definite genre theme there, but really I'd love to know your choices whatever the genre.

Thanks!!! You have no idea how much this helps me write -- Metafilter's definitely going in the acknowledgments of my next book(s).
posted by changeling to Media & Arts (56 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
The pixies doolittle got me through high school.
posted by TheBones at 10:54 AM on October 20, 2010

As someone who went to hs in SoCal in the 90's, I'd have to say Ska. Lots and lots of Ska. And some surfer punk stuff. Reel big fish, No Doubt, Squirrel Nut Zippers, The Ziggens, Sublime, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Aquabats, etc.
posted by Arbac at 10:55 AM on October 20, 2010

Simple Minds - Don't You Forget About Me for the 80's
posted by Sukey Says at 10:57 AM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

I think the Violent Femmes' eponymous first album is the sound of being sixteen, but then, I grew up in the late 80s and early 90s. Their songs' being vulgar and somewhat transgressive is what I think contributes that just fits with the sense of teenagers always wanting to be older than they are.
posted by jocelmeow at 10:57 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Popular by Nada Surf
Freshman by The Verve Pipe
posted by zoomorphic at 10:57 AM on October 20, 2010

the freshmen -- the verve pipe
spiderwebs -- no doubt
banditos -- the refreshments
just -- radiohead

& anything from the clueless soundtrack
posted by crawfo at 10:58 AM on October 20, 2010

Dropout by Urge Overkill
posted by kimdog at 11:00 AM on October 20, 2010

And now, with more link!

Dropout by Urge Overkill
posted by kimdog at 11:01 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I went to high school in the 90s too. Some of my old favorites that evoke that high school feeling:

- The Verve: The Freshmen (on preview, nthing this one)
- Red Hot Chili Peppers: Under the Bridge
- No Doubt: Don't Speak
- Pearl Jam: Black
- Candlebox: Far Behind
- Violent Femmes: Kiss Off
posted by spinto at 11:01 AM on October 20, 2010

The Fun Boy Three version of Our Lips Are Sealed has always had a really school/teenage sort of feeling for me. oh my god look at terry hall's hair

Also Blur's Boys And Girls and Pulp's Mis-Shapes from my teenage Britpop years. And more recently, The Long Blondes' Once And Never Again.
posted by permafrost at 11:02 AM on October 20, 2010

Also went to high school in Southern California. 2nding Sublime, although it reminds me of summer, not fall.

Definitely Weezer, I'd say anything on The Blue Album.

3rd eye blind and Matchbox 20 always remind me of high school (but I don't think I'd want them on a playlist, ever).

Neko Case "That Teenage Feeling" gives me a good nostalgic feeling.

Also: The Violent Femmes, Elliot Smith, Jeff Buckley, Fiona Apple, 311, Incubus... The Romeo and Juliet Soundtrack.

Bands from my older brother's ipod (who still listens to all the same music we listened to in high school): Radiohead, Nada Surf, Everclear, Hey Stroker, MxPx...

I'll try to come back with more. And please post your playlist when you're done!!!

On preview: Yes to Red Hot Chili Peppers
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 11:05 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some songs at the nostalgic and/or wistful end of the spectrum that have that effect on me (was a teenager during the mid-1990s in the UK): David's Last Summer by Pulp; The Summer House by the Divine Comedy; Wake Up Boo by the Boo Radleys; Lost Myself by the Longpigs; Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm by the Crash Test Dummies; Today by the Smashing Pumpkins.
posted by greycap at 11:06 AM on October 20, 2010

Pop A Top by Jim Ed Brown

I am OLD
posted by raildr at 11:07 AM on October 20, 2010

For me it would be U2's first album, Boy. Lots of songs about growing up, being a teenager, being confused about the world. Classic Edge guitar. Very 80s. Also the song Boy/Girl, off their first EP. I wore out a cassette I made with every B-Side up through the Joshua Tree.

Along those lines The Alarm had a lot of songs about believing in yourself and other crap like that. 68 Guns, Knife Edge, Where Were You Hiding (When the storm broke), Strength. More great 80s guitar.
posted by bondcliff at 11:09 AM on October 20, 2010

Psychedelic Furs, Love My Way
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:19 AM on October 20, 2010

Seconding Weezer - Pinkerton and the Green Album in particular
posted by aintthattheway at 11:22 AM on October 20, 2010

It came out twenty years before I graduated high school (and that was almost twenty years ago), but there might not be a song more evocative of high school in general than Big Star's "Thirteen". The first time I heard it I was just blown away by how perfect it felt, and despite its vintage it couldn't sound fresher if it were written yesterday and recorded this morning.

For me personally--the Cure's "Disintegration" album. "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Metallica's black album, which reminds me of dirty dark desert parties.
posted by padraigin at 11:23 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Green Day - Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)
Eve 6 - Here's to the Night
posted by morganannie at 11:23 AM on October 20, 2010

November Rain by Guns 'N Roses.
posted by Sassyfras at 11:24 AM on October 20, 2010

Catch 22 - Kristina She Don't Know I Exist
posted by namewithoutwords at 11:40 AM on October 20, 2010

Led Zeppelin, pretty much anything by them. I remember watching The Song Remains The Same and that was the soundtrack for my high school years. KISS was big then too. This was prior to 1982.
posted by JJ86 at 11:47 AM on October 20, 2010

Guster's "One Man Wrecking Machine" and "Homecoming King" are on the looking-back-on-high-school end of things, but I'd say very appropriate.

A lot of Jimmy Eat World songs capture all the high school emotions for me. "The Middle" was big just before I entered high school, and "Your House," "Authority Song," and "Kill" are very good at evoking the self-conscious uncertainty of having a crush on someone and worrying about every single thing you do around them because what if you look like an idiot, and what if they don't like you back, is everyone looking at me, and all that drama.

Finally, this may just be because these guys are from the same town as I am, but "Madeline" by Tickle Me Pink vividly conjures up memories from my high school days.
posted by lilac girl at 11:48 AM on October 20, 2010

Pearl Jam - Jeremy and Daughter both remind me of high school
posted by yawper at 11:49 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Songs that re-evoke that...wistfulness, longing

These aren't necessarily songs that you would strongly associate with high school, but they definitely evoke wistfulness and longing for something that has passed.

The Moody Blues - Your Wildest Dreams
Lou Reed - Perfect Day
posted by jedicus at 11:50 AM on October 20, 2010

For me that song is San Dimas High School Football Rules, by The Ataris.
posted by just_ducky at 11:51 AM on October 20, 2010

American Music - Violent Femmes
Story of My Life - Social Distortion
Surf Wax America - Weezer
Waiting Room - Fugazi
3 Days - Jane's Addiction
Pepper - Butthole Surfers
What's Up? - 4 Non Blondes
Bad Town - Operation Ivy
Punk Rock Girl - Dead Milkmen
#1 Crush - Garbage
Everybody Knows - Leonard Cohen
Jerry Was a Racecar Driver - Primus
Here Comes Your Man - Pixies
Tuesday Morning - the Pogues
posted by iamkimiam at 11:55 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Concrete Blonde - Tomorrow Wendy, Joey
Ben Folds Five - Brick
Sinead O'Connor - Nothing Compares 2 U
U2 - With or Without You

And not rap, but the lyrics are all about high school: John Mayer - No Such Thing. I am a Mayer fan, but I hate this song. However, for wistful and longing, try Something's Missing. It's much better.
posted by yawper at 12:00 PM on October 20, 2010

"Linger" by The Cranberries.
posted by Lucinda at 12:00 PM on October 20, 2010

You want Losing My Religion by REM. I would want the first Counting Crows album, maybe some Gin Blossoms. If you were cooler than that in high school (and it sounds it), I think you want the Smiths.
posted by clavicle at 12:03 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Anything by Rush or Boston immediately brings me back to an old van filled with hockey players. (On the way back from practice, you dirty birds.) My boyfriend (both basketball player and card-carrying member of the AV club) was super into Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, too. Which is funny because this was the mid-'90s in Wisconsin, and I couldn't tell you why they were all about the classic rock.

I remember this one time at orchestra camp (even better than band camp!) one of my friends was just hanging out in the courtyard playing "Basketcase" by Green Day on the guitar. (He's a member of about eight popular bands now, including a cover band.) It was one of those perfect moments, when you see someone playing a song that's not too new and not too old and he knows it by heart and you are thisclose to singing along.

I think everybody has a phase when SOMEONE around them discovers The Cure.
posted by Madamina at 12:11 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Night Swimming by REM
posted by WeekendJen at 12:11 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Broken Social Scene "Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl"
Brand New "Soco Amaretto Lime"
The Dandy Warhols "We Used to Be Friends" (association with being the Veronica Mars theme song)
Beck "Loser"
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:14 PM on October 20, 2010

Matt Kresling's Seventeen

Not from the time period, but a newer song and great video that brought a ton of memories swelling right up.
posted by oldefortran at 12:20 PM on October 20, 2010

"Knights in White Satin," by the Moody Blues was played at every high school dance I ever attended. That and "Stairway to Heaven" by Zep.

And there'd be a long line of boys leaning against back of the gym wall, watching and listening, but too shy to ask a girl to dance to a slow song.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:25 PM on October 20, 2010

Not sure if this is quite what you're looking for, but Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" is pretty much the quintessential song ABOUT high school nostalgia.
posted by sparrow89 at 12:55 PM on October 20, 2010

Bittersweet Symphony - The Verve. It gets bonus points because it's featured in a film about high school.
posted by tryniti at 12:56 PM on October 20, 2010

Travis - "20". I can only find live versions because it was a hidden bonus track on their album. Pretty great version of it though.
posted by cali59 at 1:20 PM on October 20, 2010

Maybe it says something about my high school experience, but Greetings in Braille by the Elected nails high school for me like no other song.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:23 PM on October 20, 2010

Oh, also, a few years ago I was on one of those Birthright trips to Israel, and everyone from my group was sitting around a campfire in the middle of the desert, singing "Wonderwall" by Oasis, with camels watching us. I had the weird experience of walking off to use the bathroom, and passing another group playing the exact same song, even though they were out of earshot. I've decided that if there's one song that defines people my age (26ish) and that everyone from my generation knows from adolescence, it's "Wonderwall."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:39 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bittersweet autumn wouldn't be complete without Bob Seger's "Night Moves." It's someone else's youth--the recycled memories of another generation that crowded the airwaves of my own teenage years--but the longing and the nostalgia speak to me, remind me of how I felt with my high school boyfriend. It moves me still, despite watching him marry and age and parent on Facebook.

"I awoke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off I sat and wondered
Started humming a song from 1962
Ain't it funny how the night moves
When you just don't seem to have as much to lose
Strange how the night moves
With autumn closing in..."
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:57 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I grew up in L.A. in the 80's and would also vote for:

*Anything by the Go-Go's
*Anything by the Beastie Boys
*Anything by the Cure
*Anything by Siouxie and the Banshees/The Creatures

*Don't you forget about me - Simple Minds
*Obsession - Animotion
*Nemesis - Shriekback
posted by Sophie1 at 2:24 PM on October 20, 2010

The Smiths, of course.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:57 PM on October 20, 2010

I can't believe I'm seriously recommending anything by Berry Manilow, but his The Kid Inside fits your theme.
posted by zachlipton at 4:04 PM on October 20, 2010

Hayden- Everything I Long For
Eric's Trip- Love Tara
Portishead- Dummy
posted by to recite so charmingly at 4:47 PM on October 20, 2010

The Odelay album by Beck was great to listen to in high school. As was Weezer's Blue album. And I think the Beach Boys just have an overall nostalgic feel--not necessarily high school, but a longing for the past. "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" may be brilliantly suited for you right now.
posted by shortyJBot at 4:54 PM on October 20, 2010

KMFDM - The Problem
posted by Godwin Interjection at 7:48 PM on October 20, 2010

Oh my god, this thread. It's got me right back there, going to awkward parties, hanging out in coffeeshop parking lots, and thinking, yeah, I should try out for the school play! I'm not sure I can add anything new, but I'll try.

No Doubt - Tragic Kingdom
Poe - Hello
Tori Amos - Any of her first three
Green Day - Dookie
They Might Be Giants - Flood
Soul Coughing - Ruby Vroom or Irresistible Bliss
Squirrel Nut Zippers - Hot
Sunny Day Real Estate - Their first two records, I forget the names
Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes
Beck - Odelay
Weezer - Blue Album
Ben Folds Five - Their first two records
Eels - Beautiful Freak or Electro-Shock Blues
Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie or earlier
Eric's Trip - Anything by them
Fountains of Wayne - their debut album, maybe Utopia Parkway as well
Nirvana - Nevermind and later
Alanis Morisette - Jagged Little Pill (seriously!)

You've got Bush and Radiohead covered, but don't forget Stone Temple Pilots, Live, or any of those other similar groups. (Also, the suggestion upthread about ska is spot on.) I'd also try and brainstorm the music that arty high schoolers get into because they see it as a step more literary than their usual tastes, like stuff by Leonard Cohen, "The Butcher's Tale" by The Zombies, or, jesus, anything using a string quartet, really.

(Also, hey, your debut is out in March? Good luck!)
posted by greenland at 10:43 PM on October 20, 2010

I graduated from high school in 2000 and have strong musical associations with 1998-1999.

Blink-182 - Dammit
Blink-182 - All The Small Things
Garbage - When I Grow Up
Nerf Herder - New Jersey Girl
Dashboard Confessional - Again I Go Unnoticed
Lit - My Own Worst Enemy
DMX - Party Up
Blessid Union of Souls - Hey Leonardo(She Likes Me)
Backstreet Boys - anything (I didn't say I LIKED these...)
Green Day - Good Riddance
Fatboy Slim - The Rockafeller Skank
Beastie Boys - Intergalactic
Barenaked Ladies - One Week
posted by knile at 6:09 AM on October 21, 2010

Response by poster: oh my goodness, this thread is fantastic. thank you so, so much for all the fantastic recs, everyone! to be clear, the book doesn't actually take place WHEN I grew up, so much as WHERE -- teens are typically uninterested in YA novels set past decades, unless they're far back enough to be considered historical (which nowadays includes the 60s!). but music from my high school era (97-01) totally takes me back, and that's the feeling I'll be seeking as I write this, so, awesome! though I love the other eras represented in the thread, too.

and seriously, some of these songs... time to stare off into the middle distance misty-eyed or something.

(and thanks, greenland -- yes, March! eek!)
posted by changeling at 7:47 AM on October 21, 2010

Thurston Moore's (or Cat Power's cover of) "Psychic Hearts" (starts at 0:45).
posted by ifjuly at 10:12 AM on October 21, 2010

Ohoh, and Sleater-Kinney's "Surf Song" which includes Carrie reciting a letter she wrote Corin in high school. "You Ain't It" comes to mind too, for that feeling you get as a teenage girl in HS/college when all the too-cool musician guys you hang with kind of make you want to roll your eyes (Liz Phair has songs about that too).

And for my money, no song encapsulates better the kind of flipped out claustophobia that happens when you're a teenager struggling with not fitting in because of unorthodox gender performance, feminism, queer identity, etc. than "Call the Doctor". "Taking Me Home" and "I'm Not Waiting" evokes a certain confused-and-upset era of girl-to-ladyhood too. And there's always "Youth Decay".
posted by ifjuly at 10:22 AM on October 21, 2010

Thought of more this evening. (In part, you can totally tell I had an angsty girlysounds-type adolescence...)

Team Dresch - "Growing Up in Springfield", "D.A. Don't Care"
the Butchies - "Mandy"
Bikini Kill - "I Hate Danger"
Heavens to Betsy - "My Red Self"
Sleater-Kinney (yet again!) - "Lora's Song" mostly 'cause there's something about the singing style that reminds me of being a 14 year old girl so well...
posted by ifjuly at 5:04 PM on October 21, 2010

The Mountain Goats - Palmcorder Yajna & This Year
Placebo - Every You Every Me
The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony
Third Eye Blind - Motorcycle Drive By

and why the hell not...

Harvey Danger - Flagpole Sitta
posted by clearly at 6:36 AM on October 22, 2010

I didn't go to school in California, but if I had to pick 3 works to describe The Shins' Oh, Inverted World, I would pick California, High School and Autumn/Fall.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:06 PM on October 29, 2010

A friend reminded me of this, uh, gem:
Vertical Horizon - Everything You Want

Some angst:
Poe - Hey Pretty (Drive-By 2001 Mix)
Tracy Bonham - Mother Mother
Marcy Playground - Sex and Candy

Billboard charts from the 90s will ruin my productivity this morning.
posted by knile at 1:43 AM on December 3, 2010

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