Originally a series of articles written by Cameron Crowe for Rolling Stone Magazine. Crowe went back to high school undercover, after graduating college, and wrote about the kids. Actually, he had attended the University of San Diego High School, which was a boring Catholic school, so when he arranged to return to school for this project, he selected Clairmont High, a nearby public school that seemed like a lot more fun. The principal at Clairmont was sceptical of Crowe's plans, but was persuaded of his skills and importance as a journalist when Crowe revealed that he had travelled on tour with Kris Kristofferson, of whom the principal was a fan.
Crowe's articles (and the book in which they were later compiled) was made into a classic teen movie by Amy Heckerling, which launched the careers of a generation of 1980s movie stars, including Phoebe Cates, Forrest Whittaker, Judge Reinhold, and others.
Trivia that might win you a beer: the character of Mark "the Rat" Ratner in the book and movie was based on a fellow named Andy "the Rat" Rathbone. Rathbone later went on to found the "For Dummies" series of books.