The Best Songs For Your Labor Day Cookout

29 Aug

According to the US Department of Labor, Labor Day is “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.”   In 2008, that means Americans will spend Monday firing up grills to char steroid-injected beef.  They’ll sit around on made-in-China beach chairs and drink Belgian-American Budweiser, English-American Miller, and Canadian-American Coors.  All that’s need to make the day complete is the right music: Songs that celebrate, venerate, and castigate the working world we’ve been given a one day furlough from.   

The Hangover’s Best Songs for your Labor Day Cookout: 

Working in the Coal Mine, Devo

Sure, coal mining is tough work.  Black lung.  Back-breaking labor.  Never-ending claustrophobia.  The threat of a being trapped miles below the Earth’s surface.  Forget it.  But why dwell on the negative aspects of hard labor?  Devo’s version of the song is bouncy and fun.  It will get people dancing herky-jerky around the barbecue and there’s no better way to spend your government-mandated day off than that. 

Welcome to the Working Week, Elvis Costello

Costello sings a song of welcome to those entering the working world.  The tongue in cheek lyrics slip a sucker punch in the guise of a simple new wave song.  The easy-going vocals and power pop melody belie the survival-of-the-fittest environment as Costello sings, “Oh, I know it don’t thrill you, I hope it don’t kill you.”  You know what he’s talking about. 

 The River / Better Days, Bruce Springsteen

Springsteen supplies some blue collar poetry here, but manages to rock out as he does it.  Yes, you can have songs of substance without sounding like a musician in a lab coat.  In The River, Bruce chronicles the everyman-working man: Tied into a job and a marriage, and the realization that the future doesn’t turn out like many of us imagined it.  Then in Better Days, Springsteen refuses to give up hope.  The singer takes what he has and makes the most of it.  You get both sides of the coin from Bruce.   

Luxury, The Rolling Stones

The Stones’ Luxury is a rocker with an island tint.  It’s a refinery worker’s lament; he’s trying to keep his family out of poverty and the pressure is on.  His dreams and realities exist on a permanent collision course:

I want a real fine car, fly Miami too
All the rum, I want to drink it, all the whiskey too
My woman need a new dress, my daughter got to go to school
I’m working so hard, I’m working for the company
I’m working so hard to keep you in the luxury

And you can’t call me lazy on a seven day a week
Make a million for the Texans, twenty dollar me
Yes, I want a gold ring, riding in a limousine
I’m working so hard, I’m working for the company
I’m working so hard to keep you in the luxury

 It’s only rock and roll, but it makes a definitive Labor Day statement. 

 Working Class Hero, John Lennon

Let this play when the clouds come over the deck.  John Lennon grew up a working class kid in a working class city.  He’s seen the class warfare, and while his message appears to be positive there’s more to it.  One can take pride in the ability to survive in the working world, but at what expense?  One can feel that hurt in his voice as Lennon exposes the cracks in the foundation of that belief. He ends the song: 

There’s room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like all the folks on the hill
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

It’s Not My Place (in the 9 to 5 World), The Ramones

The Ramones say it simply.  They will not be dragged down into the soul-sucking 9 to 5 world and all that it entails.  The Ramones knew who they were and what they were about.  As a tribute to their wisdom, The Hangover will be hard at work on Labor Day.   Rest assured, the hours won’t run from 9 to 5.   

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2 Responses to “The Best Songs For Your Labor Day Cookout”

  1. Booger September 2, 2008 at 7:53 pm #

    I’ll gladly take suggestions for an Oktoberfest party!

    Hope you can make it.

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