We're knee-deep into Depression 2.0. We're running out of jobs, and we're overwhelmed with the amount of people looking for them. You're unemployed — or if you aren't, then there's a good chance that you will be, because your job can be combined with the guy in accounting and the receptionist, and so you can head home. You're not the first, though. Musicians love writing about work — or a lack thereof. With that in mind, here's a mix (in its entirety; an abbreviated list appears in the print version this week's issue) for you to listen to while you wait for that first unemployment check to roll in:
1. "Working Class Hero" (John Lennon): It's your life story. You've worked and dedicated yourself to your job and what do you have to show for it? A box with some family photos and a retirement fund of $10,000? Oh, and all your creativity has been stripped away and pounded into the ground while "You're still fucking peasants as far as I can see." Thanks for being so positive, Mr. Lennon.
2. "Working in the Coal Mine" (Devo version): Yep, working is hard. "When my work day is over, too tired for fun." Not working is the best thing that could have happened to you. Finally, you'll have the energy to make your BlackBerry look like an iPhone so all your younger friends will think you're cool again.
3. "Career Opportunities" (The Clash): Now that you're unemployed, you're going to need to start looking for a new job. Here is a list of jobs that the Clash recommends that you DON'T get: Making tea at the BBC, cop, Army, RAF, opening letter bombs, bus driver, ambulance man, ticket inspector, making toys. So that narrows down your craigslist search, right?
4. "Sixteen Tons" (Tennessee Ernie Ford): In the ol' days, working was a lot harder. These days, if you have a hard job, eventually it's going to become a nationally acclaimed show on the Discovery Channel. Pulling sixteen tons out of the coal mine didn't get you more than deeper in debt to the company store.
5. "Maggie's Farm" (Bob Dylan): Well, this one's pretty obvious. The first line is "I ain't gonna work on Maggie's Farm no more." It's also emblematic of a few things that might make you feel a little bit better about your new situation. Your (old) job treated you like crap, and you really hated having to scrub the floor. So you know what? You didn't get "laid off"; you fucking quit. You stood up to them and told them where they could "shove it, etc."
6. “(Antichrist Television Blues)” (Arcade Fire): I think the line “Dear God will you send me a job” sums up this track well enough. But at the same time, it’s confusing, because even though Arcade Fire wants a job, they “don’t want to work in a building downtown.” I think Canada is safe, dudes, but whatever.
7. “Marie” (Townes Van Zandt): Townes Van Zandt has never been known for being a beacon of light or someone who even writes slightly positive songs. But, my goodness, if you just got fired and are looking for a reason to live, this isn’t a song you should hear. “I’m just dreaming, I ain’t got no job, and a junkyard's a pretty good wage… Unemployment says I ain’t got no more checks and showed me to the hall/My brother died in Georgia sometime ago, I got no one left to call.”
8. “Atlantic City” (Bruce Springsteen): I’m not going to lie: Picking which Bruce Springsteen song that mentions work or unemployment was difficult. But I decided on “Atlantic City” because of the lines “I’ve been looking for a job, but it's hard to find/Down here’s it's just winners and losers, and don’t get caught on the wrong side of that line.” That pretty much sums up the current market, eh?
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9. “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” (the Smiths): Not that Morrissey ever sounds too overwhelming happy, but a song title that includes the word “miserable” is sure to be a real downer. Sure enough, it kicks off with the line “I was looking for a job and then I found a job, and heaven knows I’m miserable now.” So, really, you might feel miserable after losing your job, but at least you’re not wondering, “Why do I give valuable time to people who don’t care if I live or die” anymore.
10. “Oney” (Johnny Cash): Mr. Cash dedicates this to the working man, but the recently laid off can still gather some light from “Oney.” Johnny’s dream song of beating the crap out of his boss on his last day of work exemplifies the American dream of being given the opportunity to pummel your boss in the face with a “fist full of knuckles.”
-- Thorin Klosowski