Bobby Bird's "I Hate School"

The story behind one of Bobby Bird's iconic album covers.

            You often here people talk with delighted surprise about some “improvisation” by a guitar player during a song's recording, or by an actor during a Hollywood movie’s filming.  This is totally unworthy of surprise because literally all art is improvised. No matter how long it takes to the artist to extract it from themself, it’s always made on the fly, feeling like it comes from the GBN (Great Bold Nowhere). That’s just the process.  Where else could it come from? A list of instructions printed out by a computer?

            Now, sometimes the act of improvisation yields greatness, and other times it yields an album cover such as this:

Being bonafide professionals, we went into the making of this album cover with a real solid plan for an pretty epic album cover. We were supposed to be shooting with the entire first grade class of Burbank Elementary, which was just a block east of the photographer’s studio.  And we'd gone about it all legit, got all the permission slips from all parents and legal guardians, and even lied to the ol' cotton-haired principal and told him the album was gonna be called, "Fun School Songs" or some shit.

            Over at the photo studio we had racks and racks of puppy costumes and all the kids were going to dress up in them and roll around in a bunch of scraps of newspaper. And I was going to be dressed as a truant office/dog catcher with a monocle who was trying to catch the puppy kids with one of those giant butterfly nets. The whole thing was a big allegory for how kids feel when they're in school. Like dogs in a dog pound. Like something in a trap.

            Long story short, morning of the shoot, some puckered and sexless alarmist went to the principal’s office wielding a copy of my album “Up In It.” In the metaphorical sense, “Up In It” is about just getting up there in life and living it with love and fearlessness. In the literal sense it’s about the joys of having sex while standing up, and from behind. The cover of that album, featuring myself and a professional bikini model, makes this meaning explicity clear. Seeing that sexual album cover, principal wipes the sweat off his brow, calls my manager, and tells him he's torn up all the puppy-dog permission slips and that we're on our own.

            Now, my manager Seth loves to overschedule my ass, so we’ve got two hours before we’re supposed to catch a flight to Borneo for this reason or that. The album cover has got to photographed and photographed NOW. This is where the improvisation comes in. Me and Seth and the photographer’s assistants all go to the Armenian liqour store next door to the photography studio and start snatching up anything and everything that kids like.  We were like, “Spaghetti! Candy! Kids love that shit!” And as we’re buying Chicle Tabs and Chef Boyardee, Seth spots a bubble-pipe behind the counter. The icing on the cake.

            We go back to the studio, dump spaghetti and gum all over my head, and I blow bubbles. The photographer snaps a couple pics, some photo-retoucher airbrushes the erotic tattoo off my neck, and there you have it. A servicable little album cover for the squirts. Ten toe-tappers for the tots.

The. End.

            Also, as a side note, “Rat Stinking” was something I heard my mom yelling at one of her boyfriends as she was driving him out of the house with a barrage of his two bit possesions. Nailed him in the chest with a boot, “Rat stinking” An autographed baseball, a half dozen belt buckles, a mechanical black-head remover. “Rat stinking! Rat stinking! Rat stinking!” I asked her what that meant the next morning, and she peeped up at me with one red eye and said, “Rat stink. The stink of a rat.”

            When I first picked the little song on my guitar it was all about that rat stinking son of a bitch, but to make it suitable for "I Hate School,” I changed all the verses to make it from  the point of view of a cat (which I still find quite clever).