Four decades ago this month, Alice Cooper released the song that would help define his career — and become an annual staple on rock radio, not to mention graduation playlists, for years to come. We’re talking about ‘School’s Out,’ of course, and Cooper helped celebrate his signature work’s latest anniversary with a Huffington Post editorial titled ‘A Rock Star’s Guide to Coping After Not Getting Your Grades at School.’

“Out of the 14 Top 40 songs we’ve had, ‘School’s Out’ was the only song I was ever sure of,” Cooper reflected. “I said ‘If this isn’t a hit, I don’t belong in this business.’ It had every element — it was released right when school was letting out, it was a summer song, it had that hook, it had the lyric and I would have been shocked if that wasn’t a hit.”

Like any hit, ‘School’s Out’ had some help on its journey to the top of the charts — most notably, the efforts of British public decency campaigner Mary Whitehouse to have the song banned from the airwaves. “Mary Whitehouse banning us was publicity we couldn’t buy,” said Cooper. “All we could do was send flowers! At first we were worried we couldn’t come to England — but then we realized it was the best thing that ever happened to us and they couldn’t print enough tickets. It was perfect!”

What’s ironic about the whole thing is that Cooper actually loved school. “Essentially I was Ferris Bueller, and I basically ran the school,” he remembered in his essay. “We had girlfriends doing our homework, and the teachers loved us because we made them laugh. So school was like a piece of cake for me. Not that I ever did anything, I was just the class clown. When I wrote the song, I was like, ‘Jeez, this doesn’t apply to me at all! I love high school, I’d spend the rest of my life here!’”

Cooper realizes students graduating today may wish they could stay in school, too — but for different reasons. Saying he knows how hard the job market is because his own son is struggling in it — after graduating college with honors — Cooper parted with some words of wisdom for young fans. “Start wherever you can and be the best you can be,” he advised. Cautioning that specialized skills are more valuable than general knowledge, he suggested, “Make yourself indispensable … If you’re in the general work pool, you’re gonna get lost — even if you’ve got a degree. You have to be the guy/gal.

“One final thought,” offered Cooper. “Make some noise, will ya? Someone I once knew used to say ‘The squeaky wheel gets the oil.’”

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