Top Songs about Work (and how Crappy it is!) Happy Labor Day Long Weekend

August 29, 2008 | Lists

Labor Day is a merciful respite from the 50-hour grind.

To honor those tethered to a mouse, doing desk-side calisthenics to ward off the physically deteriorating effects of a lifestyle that is warming an increasingly large portion of seat cushion real estate, we thought we’d compile a list of our favorite 20 Songs about Work.
These songs though, rather than honoring the working man, point out what everyone who’s ever punched a clock then kicked themselves knows–work pretty much sucks, whether it’s new-found tensile strength that deflated your stress ball (meaning you’ve now graduated to circus strongman apple crushing), or the realization that unless your boss is hit by a truck, there’s about as much room for advancement in your company as there is shelf space in Oprah’s refrigerator.
Here are, in no particular order, 20 Songs about Work (and how crappy it is), painstakingly compiled by The Shark Guys on our day off so you don’t have to.
1. Take this Job and Shove it, Johnny Paycheck. Working Class Hero might be the working man anthem, but this is the other side of the slammed door equivalent.

Choice anti-work lyrics:

I’ve been workin’ in this factory
From now on fifteen years
All this time I watched my woman
Drowning in a pool of tears
And I’ve seen a lot of good folk die
Who had a lot of bills to pay
I’d give the shirt right off of my back
If I had the nerve to say

2. Takin’ Care of Business, Bachman Turner Overdrive. Along with the Hockey Night in Canada theme song, Four Strong Winds and Rockin’ in the Free World, it’s a song that would be a welcome replacement to our anemic Oh Canada National Anthem (for our list of The Most Violent National Anthems in the World, and you can be rest assured Canada is not on there, click here)

Choice anti-work lyrics:

And if your train’s on time
You can get to work by nine
And start your slaving job to get your pay

3. Workin’ in a Coal mine, Lee Dorsey. Luckily, the closest thing these days to mining is living in a crummy basement apartment. Mining is mostly a thing of the past, welcome relief and not only for the canaries.

Choice anti-work lyrics (uh, the title and everything else)

4. I Never Picked Cotton Johnny Cash. The Man in Black’s cautionary tale, before he started cashing real money endorsing ATMs.

Choice anti-work lyrics:

When I was just a baby, too little for a cotton sack…
I played in the dirt
While the others worked, ’til they couldn’t straighten up their backs
I made myself a promise, when I was big enough to run
That I’d never stay a single day In that Oklahoma sun

5. Maggie’s Farm Bob Dylan. While this might well have represented Dylan severing ties with the folk world, an equally dismal place is the working one.

Choice anti-work lyrics:

No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more.
Well, he hands you a nickel,
He hands you a dime,
He asks you with a grin
If you’re havin’ a good time

6. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now The Smiths. The Smiths were pretty much always miserable, but they nail vocational misery with this.

Choice anti-work lyrics:

I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour
But heaven knows I’m miserable now
I was looking for a job, and then i found a job
And heaven knows I’m miserable now

7. Don’t Talk to Me About Work Lou Reed. Cheery Lou’s Bukowski-esque take on the 9-5 grind. A temperamental interview subject, title could easily be ‘Don’t Talk to Me About Anything’.

Choice anti-work lyrics:

How many dollars, how many sales
How many liars, how many tales
How many insults must you take in this one life

8. I Can’t Wait to Get off Work / Jersey Girl Tom Waits. Hard to narrow it down to two from his song catalog, but we’re sure Waits completists will weigh in. It’s a tonne of work trying to please everybody.

Choice anti-work lyrics:

And I can’t wait to get off work
and see my baby
she said she’d leave the porch lite
on for me
I’m disheveled I’m disdainful
and I’m distracted and it’s painful
but this job sweeping up here is
is gainfully employing me tonight

I see you on the street and you look so tired
I know that job you got leaves you so uninspired

9. Step Into My Office Baby, Belle & Sebastian. Being in bed by 9 on the FM side, is a terrible predicament.

Choice anti-work lyrics:

I’m a slave to work
I’m only living when I walk amongst the office staff
And catch up with the office wag
I’ll be in bed by nine
My curtains drawn
My thoughts composed
I get to work on time

10. Summertime Blues Eddie Cochran. Life lesson learned. After being forcibly shunted off to summer camp and forced to make crappy elbow macaroni art, you become old enough to join the workforce, and come face to face with your worst fear: the deep fryer.

Choice anti-work lyrics:

Every time I call my baby try to get a date
my boss says ‘No dice, Son, you gotta work late’
Sometimes I wonder what I’m a gonna do
but there ain’t no cure for the Summertime Blues.

11. Bright Future in Sales Fountains of Wayne. “As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anyone want to see second prize? Second prize’s a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.”

Glengarry Glen Ross

Choice anti-work Lyrics:

I gotta do some quick reading
For the big meeting
But my head is spinning
And I can’t quite open my eyes

12. Workin’ Man Rush. The promise of a better tomorrow, unfulfilled. How sad. Remedy: Air drumming to Tom Sawyer

Choice anti-work lyrics:

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

13. Bang on the Drum Todd Rundgren. “I pound on the drum like it’s my boss’ head”.

Choice anti-work lyrics:

Every day when I get home from work
I feel so frustrated
The boss is a jerk
And I get my sticks and go out to the shed
And I pound on that drum like it was the boss’ head

14. Slave to the Wage, Placebo. A modern-day precursor to Take this Job and Shove It

Choice anti-work Lyrics:

Run away from all your boredom
Run away from all your whoredom and wave
Your worries and cares ‘Goodbye’

15. Welcome to the Working Week Elvis Costello. Words of wisdom from a guy who gets Diana Krall to sing him to sleep every night, without having to put on her CDs.

Choice anti-work lyrics:

Welcome to the workin’ week.
Oh I know it don’t thrill you, I hope it don’t kill you.
Welcome to the workin’ week.
You gotta do it till you’re through it so you better get to it.

16. Jacqueline Franz Ferdinand. Donna Summer may work hard for the money, for all we know, but it’s better not to.

Choice anti-work Lyrics:

It’s always better on holiday
So much better on holiday
That’s why we only work when
We need the money

17. It’s Not My place in a 9-5 World Ramones. Amen, ‘brothers’.

Choice anti-work Lyrics: Everything.

18. Sixteen Tons Tennessee Ernie Ford (written by Merle Travis). ‘Job 1′ quality from Ford. Ford is dead, and so is the automaker namesake so you won’t be whistling this one on the assembly line.

Choice anti-work lyrics:

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store

19. Big Boss Man Jimmy Reed. One of numerous Jimmy songs covered by fat, goateed white guys in fedoras and bowling shirts.

Choice anti-work lyrics:

Got me working, boss man, working ’round the clock
I want me a drink of water, but you won’t let Jimmy stop

20. Factory Bruce Springsteen. From big boss man to The Boss people like.

Choice anti-work Lyrics:

End of the day, factory whistle cries,
Men walk through these gates with death in their eyes.
And you just better believe, boy,
somebody’s gonna get hurt tonight

The Shark Guys are the authors of Tastes Like Human: The Shark Guys’ Book of Bitingly Funny Lists (Available at all major retailers). Also, please see our list of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs.

Buy the New E-Book Tastes Like Human


24 Responses | | Comments Feed

  1. fabulous list!! :)

  2. Great list. Nice touch with the 'Jersey Girl' mention ;)

  3. How is Spaceship by Kanye West not on here? Downright criminal!

  4. Why is Step Into My Office, Baby on here? That song is about sex. He spends the whole song talking about how he’s trying to please her. “I’ve got to change my ways/dress for business everyday/sharp suit and a kipper tie/big arrow pointing to my fly.”

  5. You forgot 9 to 5 Dolly Parton

  6. What? No “”9-5” by Dolly Parton?? C’mon!!

  7. What about Huey Lewis “Working for a Living”

    “I get my check on friday, but its already spent…working for a living (workin) Working for a living (working!) Working for a living, Living and a working..I’m taking what their given cause I’m working for a living”.

  8. I know that this is a rock based list, but it should really include “Shove this J-O-B” by Canibus and Biz Markie. It is from the office space soundtrack and is really quite funny. Although it is a rap song, it is not a hardcore rap song so all listeners should be able to appreciate its hilarity.

  9. What, no love for Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5”.

  10. You forgot Patti Smith’s!

    Piss Factory

    Sixteen and time to pay off
    I got this job in a piss factory inspecting pipe
    Forty hours thirty-six dollars a week
    But it’s a paycheck, Jack.
    It’s so hot in here, hot like Sahara
    You could faint in the heat
    But these bitches are just too lame to understand
    Too goddamned grateful to get this job
    To know they’re getting screwed up the ass
    All these women they got no teeth or gum or cranium
    And the way they suck hot sausage
    But me well I wasn’t sayin’ too much neither
    I was moral school girl hard-working asshole
    I figured I was speedo motorcycle
    I had to earn my dough, had to earn my dough

    But no you gotta, you gotta [relate, babe,]
    You gotta find the rhythm within
    Floor boss slides up to me and he says
    “Hey sister, you just movin’ too fast,
    You screwin’ up the quota,
    You doin’ your piece work too fast,
    Now you get off your mustang sally
    You ain’t goin’ nowhere, you ain’t goin’ nowhere.”
    I lay back. I get my nerve up. I take a swig of Romilar
    And walk up to hot shit Dot Hook and I say
    “Hey, hey sister it don’t matter whether I do labor fast or slow,
    There’s always more labor after.”
    She’s real Catholic, see. She fingers her cross and she says
    “There’s one reason. There’s one reason.
    You do it my way or I push your face in.
    We knee you in the john if you don’t get off your get off your mustang Sally,
    If you don’t shake it up baby.” Shake it up, baby. Twist & shout”
    Oh that I could will a radio here. James Brown singing
    “I Lost Someone” or the Jesters and the Paragons
    And Georgie Woods the guy with the goods and Guided Missiles …
    But no, I got nothin’, no diversion, no window,
    Nothing here but a porthole in the plaster, in the plaster,
    Where I look down, look at sweet Theresa’s convent
    All those nurses, all those nuns scattin’ ’round
    With their bloom hoods like cats in mourning.
    Oh to me they, you know, to me they look pretty damn free down there
    Down there not having crystal smooth
    Not having to smooth those hands against hot steel
    Not having to worry about the [inspeed] the dogma the [inspeed] of labor
    They look pretty damn free down there,
    And the way they smell, the way they smell
    And here I gotta be up here smellin’ Dot Hook’s midwife sweat
    I would rather smell the way boys smell–
    Oh those schoolboys the way their legs flap under the desks in study hall
    That odor rising roses and ammonia
    And way their dicks droop like lilacs
    Or the way they smell that forbidden acrid smell
    But no I got, I got pink clammy lady in my nostril
    Her against the wheel me against the wheel
    Oh slow motion inspection is drivin’ me insane
    In steel next to Dot Hook — oh we may look the same–
    Shoulder to shoulder sweatin’ 110 degrees
    But I will never faint, I will never faint
    They laugh and they expect me to faint but I will never faint
    I refuse to lose, I refuse to fall down
    Because you see it’s the monotony that’s got to me
    Every afternoon like the last one
    Every afternoon like a rerun next to Dot Hook
    And yeah we look the same
    Both pumpin’ steel, both sweatin’
    But you know she got nothin’ to hide
    And I got something to hide here called desire
    I got something to hide here called desire
    And I will get out of here–
    You know the fiery potion is just about to come
    In my nose is the taste of sugar
    And I got nothin’ to hide here save desire
    And I’m gonna go, I’m gonna get out of here
    I’m gonna get out of here, I’m gonna get on that train,
    I’m gonna go on that train and go to New York City
    I’m gonna be somebody, I’m gonna get on that train, go to New York City,
    I’m gonna be so bad I’m gonna be a big star and I will never return,
    Never return, no, never return, to burn out in this piss factory
    And I will travel light.
    Oh, watch me now.

  11. Superchunk’s “Slack Motherfucker” should be on the list too!

    I’m working,
    But I’m not working for you!
    You Slack Motherfucker!!

  12. What about Zombie Autopilot, by Unearth?

  13. How about “Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job”. Think it was done originally by John Thorogood and the Destoyers

  14. While the 9 to 5 crowd, may be right, IMNSHO an even better choice would be….

    The Vogues – Five O’Clock World Lyrics

    Up every mornin just to keep a job
    I gotta fight my way through the hustling mob
    Sounds of the city poundin in my brain
    While another day goes down the drain

    But its a five oclock world when the whistle blows
    No one owns a piece of my time
    And theres a five oclock me inside my clothes
    Thinkin that the world looks fine, yeah

    Tradin my time for the pay I get
    Livin on money that I aint made yet
    Ive been goin tryin to make my way
    While I live for the end of the day

    Cuz its a five oclock world when the whistle blows
    No one owns a piece of my time, and
    Theres a long-haired girl who waits, I know
    To ease my troubled mind, yeah
    oh my lady, yeah
    oh my lady, yeah
    In the shelter of her arms everythings OK
    When she talks then the world goes slippin away
    And I know the reason I can still go on
    When every other reason is gone,

    In my five oclock world she waits for me
    Nothing else matters at all
    Cuz every time my baby smiles at me
    I know thats its all worthwhile,
    yeah oh my lady,
    yeah oh my lady, yeah, fade……..

  15. You forgot Canibus, “Take This Job and Shove It” which is the BEST anti-work anthem ever.

    Yo 6 o’clock every morning you waking up yawning
    To the sound of your alarm clock alarm
    About an hour from now
    You should be at the place of employment
    Which is annoying cause it’s so boring
    Your co-workers are talking too loud for you to ignore them
    It affects your occupational performance
    You wonder why your work load is so enormous
    Because your boss just laid off three quarters of the whole office
    People get depressed, they get ulcers
    From the stress that the corporate environment causes
    Regardless of how you ultimately wanna solve this
    Seems to me like you’ve got one of four choices:
    You could take a new job offer for more chips
    Stick it out a little longer or forfeit
    But my advice to anybody that wants to quit
    It’ll feel much better if you say it like this:

    [biz markie]
    Take this job and shove it
    I ain’t workin here no more
    Take this job and shove it
    I ain’t workin here no more
    Take this job and shove it
    I ain’t workin here no more
    Take this job, take this job, take this job and shove it

    Yo, if your boss is a s-o-b
    Tell him to s-h-o-v-e the j-o-b
    Put your middle finger up slowly
    Put it close enough to his face so he can examine it closely
    Say i ain’t workin here no more
    Who do you think you are?
    Rip your apron off, throw it on the floor
    Run to the door, to the payphone
    Make a toll-free call
    Tell your spouse what happened and where you are
    So they can come and get you in the car later on
    And help you search for a new 9 to 5 job
    If the unemployment line ain’t that long
    You can take your time printin out w-9 forms
    Eventually, you’ll get on if you try hard enough
    And you’ll get money if you keep punchin your time card enough
    Maybe you hate it, maybe you love it
    But if you hate it all you gotta do is get mad and tell the boss to

    [biz markie]
    Take this job and shove it
    I ain’t workin here no more
    Take this job and shove it
    I ain’t workin here no more
    Take this job and shove it
    I ain’t workin here no more
    Take this job, take this job, take this job and shove it

    Yo, some occupations are like slave gigs
    The boss is favored and get placed in something spacious
    While the most hated get placed in some small cubicle spaces
    Or get thrown down in the basement, get your stapler confiscated
    You constantly waitin for a paycheck
    Twelve months passed by and you still ain’t get paid yet
    Here’s a optimistic motto
    If you ever late for today you could say you early for tomorrow
    Most 9 to 5’s are hard
    Cause the description in the job ain’t no picnic in the park
    People get hired
    Drink coffee to stay wired
    So they don’t get tired, sleep late, and get fired

    [biz markie]
    You came in late, you already ate,
    Nowww, you wanna take a lunch break!??!

    Ay, yo bust it, ain’t no need to discuss it
    Just take this job and shove it, right between your buttocks

    [biz markie]
    Take this job and shove it
    I ain’t workin here no more
    Take this job and shove it
    I ain’t workin here no more
    Take this job and shove it
    I ain’t workin here no more
    Take this job, take this job, take this job and shove it

    Take this job and shove it
    I ain’t workin here no more
    Ah ah ah ah ahahah ah
    I ain’t workin here no more
    Take this job and shove it
    I ain’t workin here no more
    Ay ay ay ayee ay
    I ain’t workin here no more

    Canibus and the biz
    It’s comin from canibus and the biz
    It’s comin from canibus and the biz
    From, from canibus and the biz

    I’m also nominating Bangles, “Manic Monday” –

    Have to catch an early train
    Got to be to work by nine
    And if I had an air-o-plane
    I still couldn’t make it on time
    ‘Cause it takes me so long
    Just to figure out what I’m gonna wear
    Blame it on the train
    But the boss is already there

  16. Actually,Roy Clark had a hit with”I Never Picked Cotton”,not Johnny Cash.
    Here’s a few more for the list:
    “Branded Man”by Merle Haggard.A Real Live ExCon Singing A Song About The Trials and Tribulations of An ExCon.
    “I Paid The Debt
    I Owed ‘Em,
    But Theyr’e still
    Not satisfied.

    Now I’m A
    Branded Man
    Out In The Cold”.

    “If We Make It Through December”.Another great Merle Haggard song.
    The protagonist has just gotten laid off from his job and wonders what
    he’ll do to make ends meet.
    “I Don’t Mean To’
    Hate December,
    It’s Meant To be
    The Greatest Time
    Of The Year.

    And My Little girl
    Don’t Understand,
    Why Daddy Can’t
    Afford No Christmas cheer.”.

    Loretta Lynn’s”Coal Miner’s Daughter”.
    While she loved her Daddy,she’s grateful that
    she got the If You See Kay(Tell her I said’Hi’)
    outa Butcher Holler ASAP!!

    “Detroit City”by Bobby Bare.
    Great song about a Country Boy who gave up a life
    of drudgery and hard labor on a farm in the deep south
    for a life of drudgery and hard labor workin’on the assembly
    lines making Fords;GM’s and Chryslers instead!!

    “Last Night I Went
    To Sleep in
    Detroit city.

    And I Dreamed
    About The Cotton
    Fields Back Home.

    I Dreamed About
    My Mother.
    Dear Old Papa
    Sister and Brother.

    I Dreamed About
    The Girl
    Who’s Been Waiting
    For So Long.

    I Want to
    Go Home.
    I Want To
    Go Home.

    Oh How I
    Want To
    Go Home.”.

    “The Midnight Special”.
    When Huddie Ledbetter-aka”Ledbelly”wrote this song
    in the 20’s,there were no Prisoner’s Advocacy Groups
    and/or Showbiz Types to take up your cause!!
    Instead,like the song goes
    “Well,You Wake Up
    In The Morning
    And It’s The
    Same Old Thing.

    Ain’t No Breakfast
    On the Table
    Ain’t No Dinner
    In The Pan.

    But You better
    Not Complain Boys,
    Or You’ll Get In
    Trouble With The Man”.

    But there was one sliver of hope!!
    Seems that in the 20’s and 30’s,
    The Former Southern Pacific Railroad
    Ran A Nighttime Section of the
    famed”Sunset Limited”Passenger Train
    that ran by the Sugarland Prison Farm
    in Sugarland,Texas*(*Outside of Houston)
    around 12am!!
    Rumor had it that if your cell faced
    the tracks,the lights of the locomotive might
    shine in your cell,and if it did,you’d be paroled or pardoned pretty soon!!

    Or,get your wife/girlfriend/significant other go to Austin and give Governor Ferguson some
    “Dead Presidents”and you’d get paroled and/or pardoned soon!!
    “Yonder Comes Miss Rosie
    Tell Me How do you Know.
    I Can tell By The Apron
    And The Dresses she Wore.

    Umbrella on her Shoulder
    Piece of Paper In Her Hand.
    Gonna see The Governor.
    Gonna free Her Man.”.

  17. how bout this one
    Descendents – This Place

    This Place Sucks
    I Haven’t Found A Single Thing To Call My Own
    And There’S Nothing Left For Me To Do
    Just Play The Game, Pretend To Do Work
    No My Boss Isn’T A Jerk
    It’S Just This Place
    This Place Sucks
    I Been Slinking Through The Halls Like An Unwashed Dog
    And Everybody Treats Me Like A Criminal
    Talk About Me Behind My Back
    At Least I Don’t Have A Stick Up My Ass
    Like The People In This Place
    This Place Sucks
    This Place Sucks
    This Place Sucks
    I Feel My Confidence Draining Away
    I Feel Them Laughing At Me Everyday
    I Never Thought It Would End Up This Way
    Good Thing I’m Not Going To Stay
    This Place Sucks
    I Haven’T Found A Single Friend In Three Whole Years
    Cause There’S Nobody Here But The Bible Boys
    Talking About Their White Bread Politics
    Gotta Leave The Room Cause You’re Making Me Sick
    Gotta Leave This Place
    This Place Sucks

  18. you are all a bunch of douches. did you notice that each song listed had a few lines? why would you put up entire song lyrics? who wants to read that shit?

  19. “Code Monkey” by Jonathan Coulton

    Code Monkey get up get coffee
    Code Monkey go to job
    Code Monkey have boring meeting
    With boring manager Rob
    Rob say Code Monkey very diligent
    But his output stink
    His code not “functional” or “elegant”
    What do Code Monkey think?
    Code Monkey think maybe manager want to write god damned login page himself
    Code Monkey not say it out loud
    Code Monkey not crazy, just proud

  20. Awesome song right here by POWDERFINGER which is just a great band in general! Great lines in the song about work
    Song: My Kind of Scene

    “Tell me where im
    Supposed to begin
    An unhappy life working
    Some kind of dead end job
    For everything you thought you had
    Has gone from worse to bad”

    “Lean to the side
    Whisper it quiet
    The end is in sight to working
    All night around the clock
    For everything you thought you had
    Has gone from worse to bad”

  21. Great list – really appreciate. Am making a “working” cd for friend and had several of these myself. I’d maybe add Career Opportunities by The Clash, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight by Richard/Linda Thompson, Hey Julie (another Fountains of Wayne), Welcome to the Occupation by Cold War Kids, and stretch maybe REM’s Exhuming McCarthy and A Few Good Times by Fellow Travellers. Thanks.

  22. David Cameron likes The Smiths. Shame they don’t like him LOL

  23. It’s

    I’ve been working in this factory
    For nigh on to fifteen years…

    Good job including this one and “Sixteen Tons.” It almost makes up for including overrated, untalented hacks like Springsteen and Dylan.

  24. It’s very effortless to find out any topic on net as compared
    to books, as I found this paragraph at this web site.

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