Sunday, February 3, 2013

12 Classic Youth (Un)Employment Songs

I like to think of the following as coming-of-age music. They all highlight that pivotal point in our lives when we confront the impracticality of our greatest aspirations: an inevitable, albeit difficult part of growing-up. If you're in that proverbial boat, may these songs - angry yet empathetic - lend you some comfort.

“Career Opportunities,” by The Clash
Emphasizing the whole youth thing, here's the version on Sandinista!, sung by Mickey Gallagher's (the keyboardist from Ian Dury and the Blockheads) two boys.

“Ghost Town,” by The Specials
Reckless driving through deserted streets... written after a visit to Glasgow.

“Living with Unemployment,” by The Oppressed
I was first introduced to the Newtown Neurotics version of this song, but The Oppressed, an anti-fascist skinhead band, wrote it first. Both versions are excellent.

“When You’re Young,” by The Jam
"Swallow your youthful pride!" belted The Jam to a bunch of teens, live on Something Else. And then the end credits start rolling.

“The Government Administrator,” by Eggs

Indie rock song about deciding whether or not to apply for a job you don't really want, while waiting among a sea of other nervous applicants, with that demon on your shoulder reminding you that time is running out.

“To Have and Have Not,” by Billy Bragg
Leave it to Billy Bragg to powerfully-link youth unemployment with the structural defects inherent in capitalism:
"At twenty one you're on top of the scrapheap
At sixteen you were top of the class
All they taught you at school
Was how to be a good worker
The system has failed you, don't fail yourself"

“What’s Happening Brother?” by Marvin Gaye
Coming home from the Vietnam War to a country in socio-economic mailaise.

“Young, Gifted and Skint,” by New Model Army
There's probably a Nina Simone/Lorraine Hansberry reference in that title... About being fresh out of university and heavily in debt: how relatable!

“Bastards of Young,” by The Replacements
A rallying cry for anyone experiencing the various quarter-life crises, (un)employment included.

“1 in 10,” by UB40
As in, one out of ten people unemployed in the United Kingdom during the time the song was written. A testimony to the apathy with which society regards the unemployed poor. The band itself is named after a claim form for "the dole."

“Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do?),” by Wham!
George Michael sings something vaguely political, but not politically-correct (I have full confidence that you’ll detect the lyric to which I am referring…)

“Hand in Pocket,” by Alanis Morissette
We'll end this entry on a note of cautious optimism: "I'm young and I'm underpaid, I'm tired but I'm workin', yeah!"

Indeed, as Alanis consoles:
"No one's really got it figured out just yet"

1 comment:

  1. Recently posted video of public domain historical folk song, "The Asbury Park Rebellion," that recalls July 1970 revolt of unemployed youth in Asbury Park, New Jersey in USA, who demanded summer jobs, that was brutally suppressed by state and local police, at following link: