Lost In Music#2 ‘Sweet Jane & The Day Jobs’

Sweet Jane And The Day Jobs

It’s a fact of life that you don’t become rich sitting around all day in your underwear, smoking substances which don’t come with a government health warning and playing with your plectrum. Once a star you can do this, until then – well, even musicians need a little gainful employment, a day job to finance their nocturnal sonic endeavours.

Before being embraced by fame, Duke Ellington’s first job was selling peanuts at Washington Senators baseball games; loving the sport, he possibly enjoyed this much more than Charlie Parker did his stint earning $9 a week washing dishes at an establishment called Jimmie’s Chicken Shack in New York City. At least, between his chicken grease removing toils, Bird did get to watch pianist Art Tatum perform some finger-lickin’ good high speed arpeggios.

Closer to the present, Rod Stewart famously worked as a gravedigger in the early 60’s. One can imagine him coming up with the seeds of a future hit as he did his spadework –

‘If you want my body and you think I’m sexy,

Come on, sugar, let me know

If you really need me, just reach out and touch me..’

Almost half a decade after Rod was successful with the enquiry as to his sexiness, another bleached boy used his work experiences as the subject matter for his popular ditty about a schoolgirl’s crush on her teacher, ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’. Of course, by then Master Sumner of St Paul’s Middle School in Cramlington had become the less impressively monikered Sting.

About the time the Police’s vocalist was chalking his blackboard in Northumberland, Mancunian maverick Mark E Smith was following a spell in a meat factory with employment for an import-export company in Manchester, experience he’s used extensively as headman of The Fall, importing and getting rid of bandmates wholesale.

Why these ruminations on musicians day jobs? Blame Lou Reed. He started it. There I was, listening to the Velvets ‘Loaded’ for the umpteenth time as I absent-mindedly wasted time online, when Lou’s words in Sweet Jane struck me –

‘Some people, they like to go out dancing

And other people they have to work,

Just watch me now…’

Just watch me now? Why, what are you doing Lou? Or rather, what were you doing in the Atlantic Records studio that day in 1970? After instructing the other band members (and everyone else present) to watch you, what activity did you undertake which you considered work and laboured at for ooh, well it wasn’t a full shift, was it? You clocked off after, well – it wasn’t even two seconds before you continued with the ‘evil mothers’ telling you ‘that everything is just dirt’. Unless you were still working as you imparted this information, perhaps polishing your mike stand or sweeping the cigarette butts littering the studio floor into a pile of sorts with the tip of one of your shiny boots of leather. In which case the demonstration of your exertions lasted a little longer, but still can hardly have been impressive. Unlike Sweet Jane, which I’ve listened to so many times, while fully-dressed, half-clothed and, no doubt on occasion, sporting nothing more than y-fronts; but never while playing with a plectrum. Believe it or not.

The Shiny Beast presents The Kitchen Sink on Brno student radio station Radio R. His previous employment experiences include three years in a record shop, five weeks in a Dutch flower bulb factory, and one week packing onions on a farm.

This article was published in Czech in FULL MOON#19, November 2011

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~ by theshinybeast on December 20, 2011.

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