|Created by||RDF Media|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||2|
|No. of episodes||10|
|Running time||30 minutes* (Series 1)
1 hour* (Series 2)
|Original network||Channel 4|
|Original release||19 August 2005 – 19 February 2006|
Rock School (also known as Gene Simmons' Rock School) was a British reality television series starring Gene Simmons from the rock band Kiss, in which he had a short time to turn a class of school children into a fully fledged rock band, at the end of which they must perform in a supporting slot for a leading rock band.
Rock School was made by British production company RDF Media and has been shown on Channel 4 in the UK, RTL 7 in the Netherlands, Channel Ten and Channel V in Australia, TVNZ's TV2 in New Zealand, VH-1 in the United States and Latin America, TV2 Zebra in Norway, Nelonen in Finland, TV4 in Sweden, Much Music in Canada, Vitaya in Belgium and ORF1 in Austria.
A comedy film with a similar theme, starring Jack Black, called School of Rock, was released in 2003, before the first series began although the creative team and Simmons insisted that they did not make the show because of that film, and that the show had been in the works since 2002.
Since series 2, Simmons seems not to be planning any more series yet due to commitments with KISS.
The first series was broadcast in the autumn of 2005 and took place at Christ's Hospital, a co-educational boarding school near Horsham, West Sussex, which is famous for its strong musical tradition. The chosen class of Year 9 students were all classically trained and it was insinuated that they had no interest in rock music.
The band consisted of Josh Bell (also known as "The Emperor") as lead singer, Dudley Beal ("Dudders") as drummer, Jesse Newton ("Bagpuss") as guitarist, Kwamé Asiedu ("Mr. Cool") on keyboards and bassist Camilla Biggs (who refused to have a "rock name"). Stylists were Fiona Musson ("FiFi") and Frances Scott ("Francis"), while the stage managers were Lucian and Richard White ("Mr White"). On 21 October, the manager, Rodney Serunjogi ("Rods"), revealed the band's name to be "The Class". After an initially difficult start the band successfully played to a crowd of Motörhead fans at the Hammersmith Apollo, and in the final episode of the series The Class got an all-expenses paid trip to the city of Los Angeles, United States of America, where all the members came together to perform a special tribute of "God gave rock 'n roll to you" for Simmons in a local venue.
The highlight of the programme was arguably Josh, "Emperor", so named because of his love of the game Warhammer. The 13-year-old sparked plenty of controversy among his classmates as his weird antics made him an outsider. A fluent speaker of Quenya and learning Klingon by the end of the series, Josh was completely tone deaf but was chosen by Simmons for his determination and perseverance. Simmons confessed that he saw something of himself in Josh, as he had faced similar adversity as an outsider when growing up in New York City, USA. Completely transformed by the experience, Josh saw himself as a rock god by the end of filming and had even grown his hair in homage to Queen guitarist Brian May; however this new personna irritated his classmates as they thought his arrogance had got the better of him.
Series one controversies
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The first series of Rock School was received with mixed response from students at Christ's Hospital. Many pupils objected to the manner in which the programme was cast and edited. It was alleged that RDF had specifically overlooked pupils who auditioned who were already in rock bands in favour of those who better fitted the stereotype of boarding school pupils. As a result, the programme did not give an accurate portrayal of pupils at the school. The programme repeatedly claimed that pupils at the school had no interest in rock music, going as far as suggesting that pupils actively hated it. Many pupils considered this to be a lie given the annual rock concert and talent shows at the school, as well as weekly discos and the large amounts of pupils in bands of their own, with some going on to be signed by major labels. Gene Simmons was also poorly viewed by pupils, at one point throwing fish at the face of another pupil.
Despite Gene Simmons insisting that the show had not been made because of the success of the movie School of Rock, "Mr. Cool" is the name of the keyboard player in both shows - though at no point did the band watch the film, and the rock names were chosen before the band membership was assigned.
Following strong international sales for the first series, a second series began filming in October 2005 at Kirkley Community High School in Lowestoft, Suffolk (now East Point Academy) and began airing on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom on Sunday 29 January 2006. A new twist to this series was that instead of classically trained musicians, Simmons was working with students from a comprehensive school. Unlike the first series the pupils were from year 11 rather than year 9. Their task at the end of the series would be to open for Judas Priest, Rob Zombie, and Anthrax in Long Beach.
In the first episode we meet Chris Hardman, also known as "Lil' Chris" (due to his diminutive stature), who can sing, play guitar, drum, and write songs. At the end of the first episode he goes on holiday with his family, causing Simmons to appoint Ellie Chapman as the replacement vocalist. The band, then "No Comment" and consisting of Ellie Chapman (vocals), Samanie Warren (guitar), Lindsey Rose (bass), Jess (keyboards) and Sammi Reeve (drums) spend the second episode preparing for their first gig, where they played to an audience of predominantly old age pensioners at a local bowls club, as well as worrying about their positions in the band upon Chris's return. Episode two also features Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, who was brought in by Simmons to inspire the group. Rob Batch and Lewis were managers
In the third episode, the band hold auditions for a backup drummer in light of Sammi's volatile temper and tendency to walk out on them. These auditions were open to both class members and select non-members as well. Simmons chooses an outsider Lauren Pashley, raising the suspicion that he was looking to form an all-girl band. They go on tour with Chris and Ellie taking turns on vocals, but neither impresses Simmons, putting both of their positions into doubt. On the second show of the tour, the band were promised they would get to play "My Generation" as an encore with Ellie singing, but Simmons felt they had not sufficiently impressed the crowd and did not warrant the encore. Suzi Quatro also features in episode three, showing Lindsey some techniques on the bass guitar. As part of their final preparations the band gave a live performance in Golden Cross, Coventry.
In the final episode Simmons reveals the final line-up of the band, dropping an obviously devastated Ellie and opting for Chris, who he felt was more charismatic. He also renamed the band "Hoax UK", inspired by a slogan on Chris's cap. They successfully played their opening slot with their song "Kicking Off", written by Chris and classmate Rob:
- I want to learn to fly, I want to climb so high, It's kicking off
Bought a ticket out this hole, Play my rock and roll, We're kicking off
Gonna take my life, Take My life to new levels, Going to shake it all up until my heart rate trebles
The lyrics may have been prophetic, as a week after the performance Chris was contacted by record producers Ray Hedges and Nigel Butler, who appeared in the show to help the class with songwriting. They worked with him on a song called "Checkin' It Out". The song was released as a single in September 2006 and reached at #3 in the UK Singles Chart. Chris went on to release an album in December 2006. The female members of the band, including Samanie, Ellie and Lauren formed a band of their own known as The Upraw. Lauren and Lily left the band, but have been replaced by two new members; Toni (Drums) and Katie (keyboard). They released a single called "Make My Way" in May 2006.. According to the Upraw's website, Ellie and Katie have now left, with the three remaining members functioning as a three piece.
Chris Hardman died in March 2015, aged 24.
Series two controversies
- Although not mentioned in the programme, three members of rock band The Darkness attended Kirkley High School (the location of the second series). Allegedly, the band did not want to be associated with the programme as they felt it would portray the school negatively and in unfavorable contrast with the school shown in the first series.
- The school and the production company (RDF Media) clashed over filming methods.
- Children at the school were given the opportunity to prevent their faces being shown on television. However, the form was not distributed to the members of the 6th form at the school, which took students from two other local schools.