Posts Tagged ‘The Rolling Stones’

When I moved to Seattle in 1980 I lived in the Jensen Block on Eastlake Avenue, in a neighborhood of aging wooden houses, aging people, and industries that made things that few people wanted anymore, like rubber stamps that said JOB COMPLETED, READY TO BILL and kits to install your own seatbelts. The building was brick and flat-topped and even today, decked out with shiny glass storefronts at curbside, it looks tired. The Jensen Block has been standing at the corner of Eastlake and Mercer, downhill from the freeway, since before there was a freeway. Or cars. It needs time off.

I dwelled with my typewriter and books in a furnished room with a shared bath above a tavern. The Store Room? I can’t send away to the 1980s for an answer. They had a jukebox, but I could only hear the bass lines of the songs. I couldn’t tell what the songs were. The shifting, muffled thump was the background to my life in that building, where people came and went but a hard core of hard-luck cases lived on year after year.

On Friday and Saturday nights the bar stayed open until 2am, with plenty of people and music, all of which sounded like a roomful of bass players to the guy upstairs pounding out another science fiction story on his Smith Corona typewriter. I usually fell into bed, exhausted, around 1am. Around 2:30, after half an hour of silence, the jukebox came on again. It was louder than before, possibly because the music was no longer being soaked up by all those drinkers. The jukebox played one song. Someone, probably the guy who’d been hired to swab out the place and was in there alone, yelled “Whooooooh!” about 20 seconds in. The bass and the “Whooooooh!” always woke me up. Five minutes later, the song ended, silence reigned, and I went back to sleep. It was comforting, I guess because I’d embarked on a new life and this was one of my few routines. Whatever “it” was.

One night the tavern closed at 2am and when it did the music was over. Like those of us who could, the cleaning man had moved on. Soon I did too. Although I made some friends there, I don’t know where anyone went or what happened to the people who stayed until the ’90s when the building was closed and remodeled and reopened. I’d like to know more about the men who formed a band that summer and called themselves The Mars Dodgers. They all wore baseball jerseys. I never heard them play.

A year or two later, at a dance, the dj put a record on the table and a familiar bass line spilled into the room and I was so surprised that I laughed: The cleaning man’s favorite song was “Emotional Rescue” by The Rolling Stones. I hadn’t known that Mick had a speaking part near the end. I hadn’t known anything at all except that the beat went one-two, THREE-four, five-six, SEVEN-eight. When I mentioned this song in my post last week, the Jensen Block came back to me. I’m happy I don’t live on that treeless street anymore.

If there’s any point to this story, it’s that time travel is not a theory and that music is a vehicle. Or maybe the point is just that I can sleep through anything.

I’ll be your savior, steadfast and true
I’ll come to your emotional rescue

“Emotional Rescue” – the only song in the English language that includes the words “pet Pekingese.”

Random Pick of the Day
The Clash, London Calling (1980)
In 1980, I thought The Clash were going to replace the Stones. I also thought that Microsoft was a bizarre office-supply company that had gotten lost in the woods beyond Lake Washington.

The Clash obviously didn’t replace the Stones, and after this album they stage-dived into the dumpster of history (with a last gasp at Combat Rock), but London Calling is one of the few albums that can give the Stones of Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street a run for their money. A phenomenal record from a bunch of heroin addicts.

Random Pan of the Day
Joni Mitchell, Shadows and Light (1980)
Joni Mitchell is the John Updike of pop music. Both made big splashes early on, were prolific and experimental, and both seem to have faded from view. We should erect statues to these people! Joni pioneered the role of the confessional singer-songwriter. She achieved commercial success with Court and Spark (1974), plunged into world music 10 years before Paul Simon discovered it, experimented extensively with jazz, and played with artists as divergent as Charles Mingus and Billy FN Idol. Mick Jagger could only dream of being as perceptive and literate. Plus she posed naked (from behind) on the inside cover of For the Roses, which, if you were a teenage boy in 1972, was significant.

The ONLY reason this record gets a Pan instead of a Pick is because these are live versions of her studio albums and the studio albums are superior, especially The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975).

 

1999
Prince
1982

Is there a better way to open a prom, a wedding, a bar mitzvah, an election, a Supreme Court hearing, the Ring cycle, or yet another Christmas production of the Messiah than with “1999”? You’re smiling just thinking about it, just like you do when you hear The Rolling Stones start up “Start Me Up.” We humans have been wired to be happy when we hear “1999.” How can we not? The first words on the record are spoken by God! That’s a God I can get behind.

“1999” is going to be huge forever, but I predict a surge in 2099. In case I don’t make it that far, I want one of you to grab your personal anti-grav fanny pack and hit the dance floor in my memory.

Prince names his third album in a row after the opening track and each time the opener gets better. How do you follow an overture like “1999”? Before we answer that question, let’s take up another: What makes Prince’s records sexy? I have a theory, which I will illustrate by comparing him with two of his peers, Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson.

My theory, which is mine: Why Prince is so Lovesexy
1. Funny guy who makes fun of himself: Prince yes, Mick says who, Michael no.
2. Really wants to have sex with you: Prince yes, Mick yes, Michael not applicable.
3. Really wants you to enjoy it: Prince yes, Mick says what, Michael not applicable.
4. Willing to be vulnerable: Prince yes, Mick just left with a groupie, Michael yes*.

* When he was younger. Way younger.

The first half of 1999 is the house party
“Little Red Corvette” gives us a breather after “1999.” The macho narrator at the song’s conclusion who wants to tame your “little red love machine” started far short of that:

I guess I should’ve closed my eyes
When you drove me to the place where your horses run free
’Cause I felt a little ill when I saw all the pictures
Of the jockeys that were there before me

The sweet-sounding “Delirious” comes next, with plenty more car imagery. “1999” is my favorite Prince song, but so is “Delirious,” and also the next one, “Let’s Pretend We’re Married.” It takes almost a minute for that one to get going because the man knows he’s got us.

The second half of 1999 is the private-club rave
Five and six tracks in and we’re still smoking. “D.M.S.R.” (dance, music, sex, romance) and “Automatic” are some of the best funk ever recorded, but these songs are long – 17 minutes together. (“Let’s Pretend We’re Married” runs seven minutes but feels shorter.) After the headrush of the first four songs, they bog things down.

“D.M.S.R.” is an amalgam of Johnnie Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love,” Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’Till You Get Enough” (without the string section), everything by Ohio Players, and of course Prince. The synthesizers are the stars, but everyone’s playing them in the ’80s, including The Rolling Stones – listen to what they do the following year on “Undercover of the Night.”

“Automatic” takes on the computer-chipped Gary Numan at his own frigid game. David Bowie of the Station to Station/Low/Heroes period would’ve killed to write a dance groove like this one – but Bowie would never have let it run loose for 9 minutes.

A pause while we consider a sex act
Could it be that Prince was writing 8- to 9-minute rhythmic dance songs because he wanted to create a soundtrack for the average length of intercourse? Or what men think is the average length of intercourse?

Now stop considering a sex act
The air leaks out of this album with “Something in the Water (Does Not Compute),” which is like a serious version of The B-52s, which is like a terrible idea, and “Free,” which offers no surprises, which for Prince is a surprise. Teddy Pendergrass, Rod Stewart, and even Supertramp could’ve recorded “Free” while they were walking from their car to the front door of the studio.

Prince tries to seal the leak but gets mixed results with the final three tracks. “Lady Cab Driver” (this being a Prince album, you know how the ride went) rocks, but not over the entire 8 minutes. “All the Critics Love You in New York” is a dues song; at least he held off for five albums before birthing one. But “International Lover” is a strong finish. The spoken word ending, which includes the title of this post, is funnier and sexier than Mick Jagger’s knight-in-shining-armor shtick at the end of “Emotional Rescue” (1980).

Wanna be startin’ something
1999 was released just one month before Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the biggest-selling record since the invention of the sackbut. I said a while back that I’d take Prince over Michael for career performance and Michael over Prince for peak performance. Thriller is Michael’s peak, and it’s Mount Everest. Prince has to settle for Mount Rainier. No shame in that; Rainer has many neighbors and dwarfs all of them.

1999 is my favorite of the two, but Thriller is the better album.

Rolling Stone’s best albums of 1982:

Winner (tie):
Nebraska – Bruce Springsteen
Shoot Out the Lights – Richard and Linda Thompson

Runners-up:
Imperial Bedroom – Elvis Costello
1999 – Prince
The Blue Mask – Lou Reed
Marshall Crenshaw – Marshall Crenshaw

Random Pick of the Day
The Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers (1971)
The Beatles are #1. The Rolling Stones are #2. Why is this? Because The Beatles were original. The Rolling Stones are not. The Stones excel at other people’s genres (including disco but excluding punk). They didn’t invent hard rock, but Sticky Fingers is the best hard-rock album this side of Paradise. It’s easily worth the entire Pearl Jam catalog. Take away “You Got to Move,” a blues cover (oddly, for them, it’s not a good one), and this record is almost perfect.

Random Pan of the Day
The Rolling Stones, Undercover (1983)
By this point the Stones were well on their way to becoming the Christmas fruitcake of popular music. The only salvageable song on Undercover is “Undercover of the Night.” It would’ve fit well on their last good album, Some Girls (1978). The rest is crap.

A few years ago, I set out to listen to every Rolling Stones record in chronological order. After I listened to Undercover I was so annoyed that I dropped the project.

Compensation: If you type in “Undercover” on Rhapsody, you also get an electronic dance trio by that name. They play dancified covers of big ’70s pop hits, including Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street,” Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” and Foreigner’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” They’re not bad. They’re better than Foreigner!

 

My people! The cash has been rolling in since I launched this blog on November 4, 2010. PolitiFact rates this assertion as Pants on Fire. I haven’t made a penny, but I have listened to Johnny Cash at San Quentin (what a record) and anyway blogging is fun and a relief from the cruel indifference of a world that has yet to form a cult around me. (I’ve also listened to Love by The Cult. Imagine if AC/DC got religion, but not one that anyone would recognize.)

I indexed the first year of Run-DMSteve in November of 2011. You can find it over there on the left in the Blogroll. (The Rolling Stones, Now! – A look back at the band as they moved from covering their American blues idols to writing their own songs. They’re barely a year away from incandescence.) The end of 2012 was kind of busy and I didn’t index the second year until January 2013. With that precedent in mind, I present the official authorized index to the third year!

Thanks as always for being there, reading this stuff or pretending to read this stuff and making appropriate or inappropriate comments. I couldn’t do it without you, Special D, WordPress, and the weekend of classes I took at the International House of Critics. (J. Geils Band, Full House vs. House of Pain, House of Pain. J. Geils wins!)

Bands
999

Bikini Machine

Kid Rock

Ray Parker, Jr.

The Pretenders

Paul Simon

Siouxsie & The Banshees

Talking Heads

2013 Clarion West Write-a-thon
Introducing the whole thing

It’s all about to happen

The Write-a-thon finally starts (Day 1)

The Write-a-thon finally ends, thank God (Day 41)

The summing up

Dogs
Teddy Ballgame

“Let Me Count the Ways” Week
I start reviewing every band with a number in its name

I run out of every band with a number in its name (or so I thought)

Misc.
A tale of two miracles

Baby Boomers Social Club

Ask Run-DMSteve asks Run-DMSteve

Round-up of albums released at Christmas 2013 but are not about Christmas in 2013 or any other year

Good Dog Happy Man

Random Pick of the Day
Bill Frisell, Good Dog, Happy Man (1999)
A guitar album of considerable skill, yet somehow with little to stick to your memory or disturb your concentration. For example, the title track – it’s pretty, and it floats away while you’re listening to it. I think that would make Good Dog, Happy Man a good listen when you’re out for a spin. Totally excellent cover art.

This is about as primeval as I get these days. At around 2pm we were sitting on a ridge in the Cascades under a clear blue dome of a sky, eating steak leftovers, cholla, apples, and a red pepper. We could see Mount Jefferson to the south, Hood looming above us on the west, and running across our northern horizon the flat-topped St. Helens, the ghostly Rainier, and Adams, which could easily play Rainier’s stunt double. And this gorgeous spot wasn’t even two miles from the trailhead!

Now it’s almost lights out. I’ve put in my Write-a-thon hour, packed my lunch, and lined up my music for the work week (the first 12 Dave Clark Five albums). I’ve been practicing phrases that might prove useful with my new co-workers:

“Oh, was that your lunch?”
“Stop spamming me.”
“I did not visit that site!”

Tomorrow morning, my first day, will no doubt begin with the usual sacred ceremonies: The Ritual Bestowal of the Temporary Passwords, the Pilgrimage to the Blessed Network Server, and the Holy Resetting of the Temporary Passwords. Then we get down to business. This is going to be a good week.

Wait! It’s the last week of the Write-a-thon!
This is going to be a good week with some crowded evenings. No music reviews this week. I gotta concentrate.

Mick Jagger just turned 70
This is freaking me out. In fact, I’m super-freaking. I distinctly remember in the spring of 1973, when I was in junior high, discussing Mick Jagger’s impending 30th birthday with a friend in the school library. I had just started reading Rolling Stone and one of their writers said that Jagger would no longer be relevant. I parroted this to my friend who scornfully asked, Why not?

I couldn’t answer him. This taught me not to parrot whatever I read in Rolling Stone or anywhere else, but that writer wasn’t far off. After Exile on Main Street (1972), things went downhill for the Stones (with one last hurrah in 1978 with Some Girls).

Happy birthday, Mick! You are seriously freaking me out.

Box score
– I’ve written 30 days out of 36
– 38 total hours
– Word count: 22,000. FWIW, I have a 5,000-word file of dialog, scenes, and notes on characters that will all (or mostly?) find their way into the book as I get to them.
– This was my first post on the Write-a-thon

My sponsors (all hail):
– Karen G. Anderson
– Laurel Sercombe
– Mitch Katz

 

“I am what I am. Thank God.” – Jimi Hendrix, “Message to Love”

A co-worker entered my humble cubicle one day late in 2012 and said, “Flashback!” He was looking at the two shelves above my desk, which held a row of CDs, a display of old postcards, and the Pets.com Sock Puppet Spokesthing. While he gushed about these ancient cultural artifacts, I saw my possessions through his eyes. I realized that I could’ve decorated my space the same way at the job I had in 2000. In fact, I know I did.

I’m stuck in time!

In an email later that morning to this co-worker, after stating that I didn’t care what he thought of me, I wrote without even thinking “I’m through being cool!” and hit Send. Then I thought, Oh no, it’s Devo! I’m really stuck in time.

Rather than consider what all this says about me, let’s use it as an excuse to go back to the future. Welcome to 1986 Week, commemorating that stellar year when, as Paul Simon sang on Graceland, “I was single/and life was great!”*

Most of the artists I loved in the ’80s released nothing new in 1986. Echo & The Bunnymen, The Psychedelic Furs, The Cure, U2, Prince, and Bruce Springsteen held off until 1987 (when Prince gave us Sign ’O’ the Times, his equivalent of The White Album, and U2 gave us their masterpiece, The Unforgettable Fire**).

The B-52s didn’t record again until 1989, but in 1986 The Rolling Stones dressed up just like them.

Dirty Work

By 1986 Romeo Void had broken up. David Bowie and Michael Jackson had left the bulk of their best work behind. Gary Numan had left all of his best work behind. Robert Cray debuted with Strong Persuader, though I prefer what he did later. Duran Duran released Notorious, which was notorious for being awful. I refuse to listen to Madonna’s True Blue or Boston’s Third Stage. I can’t decide which is funnier, The Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill or Metallica’s Master of Puppets. I’ll get to Depeche Mode, The Pretenders, Paul Simon, Talking Heads, and Siouxsie & The Banshees as 1986 Week progresses.

What was the best song of 1986? Yo, pretty ladies around the world: Put your hands in the air like you just don’t care for Cameo’s “Word Up!”

Don’t expect 1986 Week to last all week. Don’t expect a comprehensive survey. Don’t get all army-foldy on me, either.

As we used to say in the peculiar slang we employed back in 1986: See you tomorrow!

* Special D is fond of quoting that line to me. Hey doll: “I sure do love you/let’s get that straight.”
** A tip of the critic’s pointy hat to my friend and fellow softball player Donald Keller, who put “mantlepiece” in my head whenever I want to say “masterpiece.” 

Random 1986 Pick of the Day
The Chills, Kaleidoscope World
1986 gave us albums from The Chills, The Cramps, and The Creeps. This reminds me of an evening I spent at Fenway Park in 1979 when we had three pitchers on hand named Clear, Frost, and Rainey.

I don’t know a thing about Kaleidoscope World; I just needed a Chills album from 1986 to fit my theme. The album I have heard is Submarine Bells (1990), which has two lovely pop songs, “Singing in My Sleep” and “Heavenly Pop Hit” (nice try, boys).

Random 1986 Pan of the Day
Stan Ridgway, The Big Heat
I must honor this man for rhyming “Tijuana” with “barbecued iguana” in Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio.” Sadly, on his solo debut he sounds like The B-52s’ Fred Schneider with really bad hair.

When I reported that I’d found a job, I threw together a list of 19 songs about work to celebrate. Thanks to the educational efforts of Accused of Lurking, spinflipmag, Tttwitchy, Jerry Kaufman, mikenr, Special D, Mr. Seaside, Number 9, and further research by all of us here at the Bureau, I have expanded this list to 37 songs with some reference to working for a living in the title. And what a long strange trip it’s been.

The primary thing I’ve learned about songs about work is that almost no one who writes songs about work actually likes work. The secondary thing I’ve learned about songs about work is that work is usually a jumping-off point for something else. Heading the list: sex, parties, emotional misundertandings (see “sex”), and striving for a better life (“a better life” meaning a life that doesn’t include work).

I could easily have hit 40, but I had to draw the line somewhere, and that somewhere was anything that came too close to David Allan Coe’s “Take This Job and Shove It” (a hit for Johnny Paycheck). For example, I didn’t include Sam Cooke’s “Working on a Chain Gang” because, well, chain gang. “Work Song” isn’t any better, as it involves chain gangs whether it’s performed by Nina Simone or Paul Butterfield. I like my new job. Chain gangs are right out.

“The Working Man” by Creedence Clearwater Revival found itself in the no-fly zone, as the spare lyrics hold enough hurt for a lifetime. Ditto “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford. (Why does Tennessee Ernie Ford always sound like he’s lecturing me? If ever a singer needed to be backed by bongos or an accordion, it was him.) “Working for the Man” by Roy Orbison stopped me with this line about the boss: “I oughta kill him but it wouldn’t be right.”

These were tough choices. I love Sam Cooke, Nina Simone, Paul Butterfield, CCR, and especially Roy Orbison. But I get paid to make the tough choices. OK, I don’t get paid. Only Domino’s gets paid when they stick their stupid pizza ads in my blog. But I still gotta be tough.

Here we go:

“9 to 5,” Dolly Parton
I didn’t want to include country, but this one is obvious. “You’re just a step on the boss man’s ladder,” Ms. Parton wails in that voice that makes me want to push her off one.

“5 O’Clock World,” The Vogues
“Tradin’ my time for the pay I get/livin’ on money that I ain’t made yet.” The narrator is not on a promising career path. Fortunately for him, when he gets home “there’s a long-haired girl who waits, I know/to ease my troubled mind.” I can totally relate. Bowling for Soup does a good Smithereens-style cover of “5 O’Clock World.” You can avoid T-Pain’s similarly named “5 O’Clock.”

“A Day in the Life,” The Beatles
More about commuting than working. My commute is not as dreamy. Possibly the second-greatest song ever recorded, after “Rock Lobster.”

“Birth, School, Work, Death,” The Godfathers

“Business Time,” Flight of the Conchords
It’s about sex, not work, but too bad.

“Career Opportunities,” The Clash
“Career opportunities are the ones that never knock.” I’m not sure these boys ever had a job. They certainly take a dim view of employment.

“Clockout,” Devo
“Clockout” is code for sex. Starts in an office, at least.

“Dirty Work,” The Rolling Stones, Halestorm, Steely Dan, and probably others
The only thing notable about the Stones’ version is the photograph on the cover of the Dirty Work album (1986). They’re dressed up like they think they’re The B-52s. Halestorm’s “Dirty Work” is melodic hard rock with a tough woman singer. I hate to say anything good about Steely Dan, but their “Dirty Work” is by far the most mature song with this title. However, none are about actual work.

“Don’t Bug Me When I’m Working,” Little Village
One of the perks of writing a music blog is that people tell you about music you never knew about. Little Village was Ry Cooder, John Hiatt, Nick Lowe, and Jim Keltner. Not a bad start! Their only album, Little Village (1992), is a bit reminiscent of Los Lobos, though Little Village doesn’t play at that level. Sill, they were a respectable unit and this album has some fun rock ’n’ roll moments. “Don’t Bug Me When I’m Working” is about a man who keeps bugging the narrator while he’s working, sleeping, and when he’s with his baby. Probably somebody calling from the Romney campaign. Also on Little Village we have a pretty stiff anti-work song, the Hawaiian-flavored “Do You Want My Job?”, which features this classic rhyme: “I hump the stuff, I take the cash/So my kids can wear Adidas.”

“Factory,” Band of Horses
For people who thought the film Up in the Air wasn’t sad enough. I like the line “It’s temporary, this place I’m in/I permanently won’t do this again.” The song sounds like it could’ve been recorded by Badfinger if they had stayed together for 40 years and gotten really slow. No factory, though.

“Factory,” Bruce Springsteen
The usual Springsteen concerns of the ’70s: Early morning, Daddy going to work, death.

“Factory Girl,” The Rolling Stones
One of the weaker songs on Beggars Banquet (1968), and that’s not a slam. Songs on this galactic landmark appear weak or strong only when compared to each other. Compared to most other songs, they spontaneously ignite. The singer on this one is waiting for his factory girl to come home, from work or from something more sinister, we don’t know. Bonus: Congas!

“Finest Worksong,” R.E.M.
R.E.M. gets on my nerves. I like this stirring call to arms, though in accordance with the R.E.M. tradition you don’t know what they’re calling you to. Plus Michael Stipe and his colleagues prove yet again that they don’t quite understand their native language (“Another chance has been engaged”). Anyway, “Finest Worksong” is not the sound of the men working on the chain gang.

“Found a Job,” Talking Heads 

“Happy Work Song,” Enchanted soundtrack
I’ve been informed by my alert readership that “Happy Work Song” is a parody of “Whistle While You Work”:

Trill a cheery tune in the tub
As we scrub a stubborn mildew stain
Lug a hair ball from the shower drain
To the gay refrain of a happy working song

I like Amy Adams, but on this number she sounds as if she’s gone running for the shelter of her mother’s little helper. I like my Stepford wives to be rebellious rather than snarky.

“Hard Work,” John Handy
The only words in this jazz tune are “hard” and “work.” It’s a souvenir of the jazz-fusion movement of the ’70s. “Fusion” as a critical term means nothing now, but “Hard Work” is a fine stretch of jazz.

“Heigh Ho,” Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs soundtrack
The Dwarfs cheerfully dig up diamonds and rubies all day long, but “we don’t know what we dig ’em for.” They don’t know what to do with Snow White, either. Tom Waits took a shot at this, trying to turn the song into a Dickens novel of working-class horror. Nope. Louis Armstrong also tried it; he’s barely awake. No one can save this thing.

“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” composed by Frank Loesser
Though it’s plain that life in an office is like Europe on the verge of World War I, our narrator is enthusiastic and up for the challenge:

How to apply for a job
How to advance from the mail room
How to sit down on a desk
How to dictate memorandums
How to develop executive style
How to commute
In a three-button suit
With that weary executive smile.
This book
Is all what I need
How tohow to…succeed!

“I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad,” traditional
According to Wikipedia, this is several songs bashed together. All things considered, the railroad seems to be a good place to work, even though they make you rise up so early in the morn.

“Livin’ for the Weekend,” The O’Jays
“5 O’Clock World” updated for the disco era. Work sucks, but on the weekend you get to party with the people who really know how to get down.

“Manic Monday,” The Bangles
This is a song about commuting, about earning a living in tough times, about holding a job you don’t like, and about supporting your partner. So it combines most of the themes the men use plus housekeeping and maintaining an appropriate wardrobe all in one song. Bravo, ladies!

“Millworker,” James Taylor
I’m not a James Taylor fan, but I found myself moved by this song, perhaps because I’m from New England and my father worked in the mills for 30 years.

But it’s my life has been wasted
And I have been the fool
To let this manufacturer
Use my body for a tool

Kudos to Taylor for being the only person on this list who wrote his song from the point of view of the other gender.

“Minimum Wage,” They Might Be Giants and The Expendables
Does the TMBG version even qualify as a song? It only lasts 47 seconds. Someone yells “Minimum wage!” at the beginning, a whip cracks, and then we get about 40 seconds of roller-rink music. I guess we’ve all had jobs like that at one time or another. The Expendables turn in a pleasant, temporarily reggae tune with lyrics right out of the Jean-Paul Sartre playbook: “But it’s time to go to work now/Maybe I’ll call in sick/or maybe heaven will fall to earth/better make it quick.” God abandons the singer just as the song jumps into metal mode. He never does go to work.

“Money for Nothing,” Dire Straits

“Nice Work If You Can Get It,” composed by George and Ira Gershwin
This one’s about love, not work. Clever for its era, but today it’s a Republican rallying cry: “The only work that really brings enjoyment/Is the kind that is for girl and boy meant.”

“Takin’ Care of Business,” Bachman Turner Overdrive
BTO was a gang of idiots, but this song rocks. A band we knew in Seattle, The Way-Backs, turned this number into a Santana-style 10-minute slugfest. “Takin’ Care of Business” is actually a big bowl of smug from a band that was riding high when they wrote it.

“The Work Song,” Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, Cannonball Adderley, and of course Cinderella
Herb Alpert knew how to make a song swing, plus he intuitively recognized a good tune buried under dumb lyrics. Cannonball Adderley turns in a blistering 7-minute performance on Bon Voyage – Live in Paris (2012, taken from concerts in 1960 and ’61). Disney is Disney.

“The Working Song,” Richard Stepp
I don’t know who this gentleman is, but he can boogie. His voice is adequate but his guitar is superb. The song is about perfect attendance and the importance of being punctual. Also, of course, making a living. “I work to pay my bills/keep my stomach filled” doesn’t quite rhyme, but it’s fun.

“There’s No Business Like Show Business,” composed by Irving Berlin
Oh come on. There are plenty of businesses like show business. All you need are egos and large sums of money.

“Wild Sex (in the Working Class),” Oingo Boingo
There’s just one thing that keeps our hero going while he’s “greasin’ the wheels in a noisy factory,” and you guessed it from the superlative title. Musically, this is second-tier Oingo Boingo. Lyrically, the title deserved better.

“Work to Do,” Average White Band
A workaholic threatens to torpedo his relationship by coming home late every night. Can’t tell how he feels about his job – he’s mostly irritated that his mate doesn’t understand what he’s trying to do for her. An unexpectedly adult topic from one of our dumber bands.

“Working Day and Night,” Michael Jackson
This song has aged poorly, but the whole Off the Wall album (1979) has aged poorly, except for “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough,” which still rocks all night and parties every day. Poor Michael is working around the clock because his lover has figured out that’s the best way to keep him occupied while she sees her lover. Kind of a bad love deal there.

“Working for the Weekend,” Loverboy
Loverboy: The lite beer version of Def Leppard. On this track they take the thematic material of The O’Jay’s “Living for the Weekend” and eliminate all mention of a job.

“Working on the Highway,” Bruce Springsteen
Springsteen sets up a song like he’s writing a short story for The New Yorker:

Friday night’s pay night, guys fresh out of work
Talking about the weekend, scrubbing off the dirt
Some heading home to their families, some looking to get hurt
Some going down to Stovell wearing trouble on their shirts

Even though our hero’s job offers no advancement, and even though his poorly planned romantic interaction with a “pretty little miss” ends in jail time, “Working on the Highway” sounds like fun all the way through. “Darlington County,” on the same album, is similarly joyous even thought the finisher there is “Wayne handcuffed to the bumper of a state trooper’s Ford.”

“Working Man,” Rush
Working for a living ain’t easy:

I get up at seven, yeah,
And I go to work at nine.
I got no time for livin’.
Yes, I’m workin’ all the time.
It seems to me
I could live my life
A lot better than I think I am.
I guess that’s why they call me,
They call me the workin’ man.

Let’s review. The poor man has to get up at seven. Rough. He goes to work at nine and later in the song we learn that he’s home by five. That means he’s gone almost eight hours. OMFG! However, I do find this song interesting for sounding like Cream, Black Sabbath, and Alvin Lee all at once.

“Workin’ in a Coal Mine,” Devo
This song predates Devo by decades, but they had the hit. Mining coal is the most exhausting job there is, after motherhood.

“Whistle While You Work,” Snow White soundtrack
This one’s about housework – what Ursula K. LeGuin once called “the art of the infinite.” It’s not much of a song without the movie in front of it. Even then it’s still not much.

It’s Sunday. Tomorrow I go back to work, whistling or not. Found a job. Yes!

A Rush of Blood to the Head
Coldplay
2002

My three regular readers know that I use the term “Coldplay” as a handy benchmark meaning “inoffensive crap.” Is the case against Coldplay really that simple? Probably, but let’s consider it anyway.

Coldplay offers expertly crafted, atmospheric soft rock that implies other, harder, kinds of music. They’re not manipulating anyone; they’re sincere. That makes them The Monkees, minus the laughs and the bouncing-puppy energy. I’m guessing that they answer a need for people to be part of something cool created by guys who look like them. That makes them The Who, without all the philosophy. If you like to rock but you secretly enjoy music that makes you float on a cloud, Coldplay rocks just enough to give you some cover. That makes them Pearl Jam with the corners sanded off.

Coldplay is often compared to U2. I admit that both bands are insanely popular, that there are four men in each group, and that all eight of them come from islands off the coast of continental Europe. The similarities stop right there. Coldplay will never be as pretentious as U2, which is a mark in their favor, but neither will they take the chances U2 took on The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby. And Coldplay seems to have skipped their hellcat period. It’s too late now for them to clobber us with their versions of War or Under a Blood Red Sky.

“Am I/a part of the cure/Or am I part of the disease?” (Coldplay, “Clocks”)
I’ve written before about guilty pleasures. Here’s another one: Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head.

The album showcases Coldplay’s strengths: Their flair for simple-yet-dramatic musical moments and their skill at constructing relatively short, punchy pop songs. Some of them are short and punchy, anyway. Unfortunately, A Rush of Blood also showcases their weaknesses, like their habit of repeating all of their simple-yet-dramatic musical moments. You can do a lot with half a dozen keys on the piano, but must it always be the same half dozen? Then there’s Coldplay’s Yes-like tendency toward bloat, and finally we have their singer, Chris Martin. Mr. Martin’s voice is breathy, high, and at times whiny. When Bono gets worked up about another issue bedeviling the world, which is every day, his voice goes striding across the land. Martin’s goes flat. It doesn’t help that he married Gwyneth Paltrow.

But man, does this album whip up a mood! At least it does in me. Playing A Rush of Blood on my headphones has made many a task zip right along. How did Coldplay win me over? My theory is that I first heard A Rush of Blood on a temporary job where I spent much of the day feeling sorry for myself. Coldplay is the band for you if you’re feeling sorry for yourself! They are melancholy without being terminal, cathartic without making you curl into a ball. They provide a valuable public service.

My conclusion on the Coldplay question is that these boys are all in their 30s. They work hard, they love their fans, and they take care of themselves. We’d better learn to live with them because they are not going away. And that makes them The Rolling Stones without all the egos.