Oi Polloi

Work-based soundtracks to do your head in

Published: Wed Feb 09 2011

Maybe, like me, you’ve spent a bit of time doing shit factory jobs or schlepping round building sites in order to stay away from the breadline at some point in your miserable life.

More often that not I’ve found that during these periods of work I have also suffered some kind of mild mental imbalance, either brought on from hedonistic bingeing in my younger years or just from ‘the fear’ that doing a dead-end job in your thirties can bring.

Either way, whether packing pallets with penguin biscuits or filling skips with scrap, doing these kind of jobs tends to have a strange effect on my mind and just when I’m at my lowest ebb some bright spark goes and puts Piccadilly Gold on.

You know the kind of radio station, a DJ with a strong regional accent, longing for the Golden days of radio and still really wishing he was Tony Blackburn. So not only am I earning less money than a sweat-shop sweeper-upper, there’s also some bitter bastard on the radio reminding me that things were ace in the sixties and to illustrate that fact he’s gonna play loads of really weird, old pop records. Here’s where my mind starts proper flipping, as images of lemonade-pies, suicidal grocers and ghostly kites start to soundtrack my work-related insanity.

Here is my pick of the types of tunes played on these stations that are most likely to do my head in, though I must admit I love all of them and if I ever make a film (not that I will) most of these will be making it onto the soundtrack.

John Fred & His Playboys : Judy In Disguise

Let’s start off upbeat, this song’s only real crime is that it seems to have been written by someone who’s never taken acid but is trying a bit too hard to imagine what it’s like. But its the additional ‘..with glasses’ that follows the line ‘Judy in disguise’ that really gets me, it’s like ‘oh shit we’ve forgot to mention she’s half blind, quick mention the gigs’.

The end line also manages to turn this song from a nice piece of bubble-gum, psychedelia into a nasty play-ground bully taunt of a tune.

Seasons In The Sun : Terry Jacks

Terry well sounds like he’s been crying on this melancholic melody. My version is slightly diferrent. Goodbye Michelle, I’m going home early, please clock me out at 5.15 or I’ll tell the boss you’re a thief.

Keith West : Excerpt from a teenage opera (Grocer jack)

How passively sinister is this record? “..the little children dressed in black, don’t know what’s happened to old Jack” I know what’s happened, he’s dead, dead because he had a shit job.

David McWilliams : Pearly Spencer

Like the theme tune to a Western set in Cheadle Hulme, this is a Golden hour classic guaranteed to seriously increase your clock-watching and force you to consider running out of the fire-doors, disguised as a box. Look at David in the ‘video’ as he strums his acoustic whilst resting on some beer barrels by a shitty canal. It’s almost as if he’s sharing my pain whilst taking a quick break from bottling up in a riverside pub that smells of cigs, Old Spice and sweaty nylon. Let’s jump in together mate, our race is almost run.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young : Our House

Typically this song will come on just as you’re tipping a gorilla bucket full of plasterboard into a skip in the middle of January. The perfect soundtrack to hear as some sleet flies straight down the back of your jeans, and a lump of breeze-block, thrown from an overzealous labourer up on the scaffolding catches the back of your head. Ha ha we’ve got two cats and a fire, ha ha you’re cold and wet and got a shit job and lump on your head. Cheers Graham.

Badfinger : Come and Get it

This Paul McCartney-penned tune seems to mock me from all angles. “Pull your finger out, you should have a house by now, look at you, you’re wearing a hair-net, you dick”. It’s a little known fact that their band name came from when lead singer Tom Evans got his hand caught in a conveyor belt in a fish finger factory in Rhyl (probably).

Simon Dupree & the Big Band : Kites

Text-book, dead-end job melancholia anthem, not helped by the acid house version (by Ultraviolet) which I’d heard first. I got the shock of my life when I eventually heard the crooner version after a heavy weekend of getting shot at in Konspiracy’s nightclub in Manchester. No more gong banging Simon, I’m very, very frightened.

Richard Harris : MacArthur Park

Oh God, pass the fags, Ricky’s gone off on one. I can’t take this krisp-bread business no more, I’m going back to ma and telling her I’m through with the Scandinavian snack-bread industry and to hell with what the jobcentre says, I’m through you hear me! I’m through! As soon as I’ve wrapped this next pallet.

Gilbert O’Sullivan : Alone Again (Naturally)

jumps in front of fork-lift truck

Join me next week for my top ten call-centre ‘putting you on hold’ tunes.

Neil Summers is the co-editor of Proper Magazine. Buy their latest issue here.