Our second update of the Rabble Rousers Playlist includes the tracks picked by Bud Smith in his interview for our inaugural issue, as well as new songs chosen by Steve Lambert, Blake Roberts, and Stacia Sanders.Thanks to everybody who has nominated a working class anthem for the playlist! And if you haven’t yet, we’d love to hear from you: send your pick with 100 words or less, prose or poetry, to firstname.lastname@example.org with the heading PLAYLIST: [Song title].
John Prine, “Pretty Good,” from the album John Prine.
I haven’t gotten too into John Prine, but I think this song sums up conversing with oddball coworkers. The small things that get said.
“pretty good, not bad, I can’t complain, pretty much everything’s about the same…”
Midlake, “King Fish Pies,” from the album Bamnan and Slivercork.
It’s a joyous song about working in a factory and being abused by the management such that you lose your hand into the pie-making machine but keep on going.
Devo, “Working In the Coalmine,” from the album New Traditionalists.
Dun-da-dun, dun dun da-dun da-dun x infinity.
Bruce Springsteen, “Used Cars,” from the album Nebraska.
This song, to me, is a kind of working-class dirge. No matter how many times I hear it, these lyrics get me: “Now mister the day the lottery I win / I ain’t ever gonna ride in no used car again.” Springsteen sums up something so real and complex here. It’s heavy with true emotion. It’s mournful and regretful and tired, but it’s also a little angry. Anyone who’s ever wanted something better than what they have knows exactly how these words taste.
Black Sabbath, “War Pigs,” from the album Paranoid.
Growing up in small town Kentucky, I knew struggle. I was an angry kid whose parents worked too hard and hurt too much to deal with their issues well. Blasting old metal was my salvation. “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath was one of the songs that gave a face to the enemy that hounded me: there was someone to blame for the mess that I and the rest of my community was in, and that was the pigs that built the damn system in the first place.
Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Simple Man,” from the album (Pronounced ‘Leh-‘nerd ‘Skin-‘nerd).
Most of our dates were spent with me sitting on a dry wall bucket watching him frame, hang, and tape sheet rock with his dad. An old, beat up stereo traveled everywhere with their equally old and beat up tool box. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” was the one they always cranked up, and his dad’s voice echoed in the empty rooms, belting out the words, Troubles will come and they will pass. Every so often, he worked by himself on weekends, and when he took a break, I would wipe dry wall dust off his lips and kiss him. He showed me how to caulk windows, spot screws, even let me try on his stilts once. The wet pasty odor of dry wall mud clings to my high school romance. May we stay satisfied.
Header Image: Creative Commons, Public Domain.