We had a teacher at our high school who used to blast music from his classroom so loud that the entire quad could hear it. The bell would ring, you would shuffle from your Pre-Calculus class to World History, belly rumbling from that teenage hunger that never seemed to be satiated, mind racing with spaced out hormonal rage and lust, back hunched from $500 worth of hard bound books. Angry. Tired. Confused. And then you would hear the opening riff to “Jump” and you would smile.
Or later, after you met the man, the myth, the legend that is Mr. Lenz, you’d think, “Mr. Lenz is insane.”
And he is. He governed the class by giving out millions of points (like, you would take a test in his class and it would be worth 10 million points, or if you were 5 minutes late he would charge you 2 millions points). And the “Bell Work” (the short piece of work you do right when the bell rings) would be to write down all the lyrics to The Doors or The Beatles or some other song as it played. What a way to start a class!
He loved music, and even taught a music appreciation class (that I took), and he played us many, many songs in class. But between classes, when he pumped up the volume and turned the knob to 11, he only played two songs:
"Jump" and "Panama" by Van Halen, both songs on the seminal 1984 album that turns 30 today. He played them with bravado and chutzpah, rebelling both against the kids who thought Van Halen was music your dad listened to, and the administration who disagreed with his party animal antics (he would later be relegated by his puritanical academic foes to a portable classroom on the edge of the campus, playing Van Halen tunes mainly only heard by the nearby Frisbee Golf course, a more appropriate audience I suppose, consisting of middle aged men drinking 12 packs in the middle of a weekday while shooting discs into baskets). I was disappointed when he went to the outskirts of Del Campo High School, but he wasn’t. It’s hard to be disappointed when you have a daily dose of David Lee.
I often wondered why he only played those songs only between classes. Clearly he liked a lot of other stuff, but I think maybe to him, they are the only songs that matter. And maybe they really are?
That’s my 1984 story. This guy from the Village Voice’s write up is even better: