Rough Trade – High School Confidential

This new wave tune was a top 40 hit in 1980. It shares the name of the Jerry Lee Lewis song and 1958 film.

The song seems to be about a female high school student pining for a promiscuous fellow classmate, also female. This object of attraction could be having sex as a minor with adults and the school principal.

Singer Carol Pope from this Toronto band has a unique, deep, throaty voice, even masculine, and the lyrics do not reveal the sex of the narrator in the song. This could mean the protagonist ogling the girl is male. However Pope, who often performed wearing bondage apparel, is a lesbian. She has been cited as one of the first “out of the closet” lesbian entertainers. Her memoirs detail a romance with singer Dusty Springfield.

The subject matter of this song makes it groundbreaking in its frank treatment of sexuality, especially for the Canadian airwaves at the time.

It has long been Canadian government policy to subsidize the arts and regulate radio to increase opportunities for domestic musicians. The rationale is to give Canadian artists some help with steep competition south of the border in the USA. However, the output in part engendered by this state support has not always been the saccharine Anne of Green Gables type piffle Canadian culture is stereotypically known for (thinking also of the films of directors David Cronenburg and Atom Egoyan). Years later, the Canadian government took issue with a punk band’s tongue-in-cheek critique of Christianity, also detailed here by this blog.

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