Christopher Doda

E.I. Jukebox

Late last year I joined the ranks of the unemployed and in keeping with this glorious new state of affairs, my partner and I took 20 of our friends out to celebrate what we called my E.I. Party (E.I. meaning “Employment Insurance”). After a lot of dancing and drinking we all wound up in our living room listening to music (by the way, you know your friends are writers and artists if they regard your loss of job as good news. Some may even say “welcome back”). I found myself thinking about all those “unemployment songs.” There’s a myriad of them, especially from the 1930s. And so, I present here a brief selection of tunes in praise of that most shiftless, anti-Protestant condition.

Peggy Lee, “Manana” (1950)

This is so casually and gloriously un-PC. They might as well have had Speedy Gonzales running around her feet while she was singing. You would never see this sort of thing in this day and age: a blond, blue-eyed chanteuse singing from the point of view of a lazy Mexican. Remember kids, it’s not a window, it’s a weeeeendow.

The Rolling Stones, “Hang Fire” (1982)

I’ve never been able to figure this one out. By the time Mick Jagger (that’s Sir Mick Jagger to you by the way) and Keith Richards recorded this for the Rolling Stones’ 1982 album “Tattoo You,” they’d been stars for over 20 years and presumably not short of money, so why write a terminally catchy ode to England’s welfare state? Because it was under attack by the newly minted Tory government of Margaret Thatcher?

The Stones have always had a peculiarly ambivalent attitude about money. All the way back on “Sticky Fingers,” Jagger chastises a woman for leaving him out in the cold while she’s “talking to some rich folks that you know.” As much as I love pre-1980 Rolling Stones, this affection for poverty has always rubbed me the wrong way (see also “Sittin’ on a Fence” or “Luxury”). Decadence is Jagger’s authentic pose. He’s a lot more honest on money-fuelled tunes like “Shattered” or “It’s Only Rock N Roll (But I Like It).”

For your E.I. Jukebox, this spirited version of “Bang on the Drum All Day” is essential:

Todd Rundgren, “Bang On The Drum All Day” (1983)

When I think of Todd Rundgren the last thing that comes to mind is reggae. Sure, a number of English musicians have incorporated (or appropriated depending on your politics) reggae into their sound, from Eric Clapton (“I Shot The Sherrif”) to the mish mash of reggae and punk that was The Clash (leading to ska). Todd Rundgren is however the least likely candidate to glom onto to this variety of cool…

And because it’s me, I couldn’t let you go without some heavy metal.

Mordred, “Every Day’s A Holiday” (1989)

Even in the annals of obscure metal, this is pretty obscure. In fact, you’ve probably never heard of this band unless one of these guys is your cousin. San Francisco’s Mordred positioned themselves in the brief funk-metal movement of the early 1990s, spearheaded largely by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More. They produced a couple of albums and faded into anonymity.

I like to sleep all day
Go to work? Ha, no way
I see you work so hard
To pay your credit card

I see you bust your ass
To buy a new bus pass
So you can go to work
Like every other jerk

Every day’s a holiday
Do you know what I mean?
Every day’s a holiday
Don’t you wish you were just like me?

I see you bust your ass
So I think I’d rather pass
You buy the things you need
It’s all stuff I get for free

Every day’s a holiday
Why work up a sweat?
Every day’s a holiday
Don’t you wish you were just like me?

One presumes they are now living the lifestyle they brazenly mock in this tune.

– Christopher Doda

Ryeberg Curator Bio

RSS Feed
Christopher Doda is a poet, editor, and critic living in Toronto. His poetry has appeared in many national and international journals, and he is the author of three collections, “Among Ruins,” “Aesthetics Lesson,” and "Glutton for Punishment."