A quiet Friday morning in the office led me to thinking about how much of our non-working lives is spent accompanied by music, whether in the car, at home, or in restaurants and bars.
Why is it then, that in so many office environments music is taboo? Surely if we enjoy music outside of work it has a place in the office too? So many songs have been written with reference to our working lives, so there is no shortage of appropriate material. With that in mind I have compiled a Top 10 list of songs for the workplace. It may become apparent that I’m of a certain vintage, but we all know that most of the best music was created pre-1990, don’t we? So, in no particular order:
- Sam Cooke / ‘Chain Gang’ (1960)
Possibly the most upbeat song ever written about forced labour. Ironically, the person who shot and killed Sam Cooke at the age of 33 was never imprisoned.
- The Clash / ‘Career Opportunities’ (1977)
Sound advice from Joe Strummer and pals about which careers to avoid in the 1970’s, which bearing in mind most people didn’t have a job anyway was pretty meaningless.
- Dolly Parton / ‘9 to 5’ (1980)
No comment necessary, but when did anybody really finish work at 5? Or start at 9 for that matter.
- The Bangles / ‘Manic Monday’ (1986)
Surely resonates with all of us and eclipses The Boomtown Rats’ “I don’t like Mondays” only by virtue of the fact it avoids any reference to mass murder and lessons about how to die.
- Todd Rundgren / ‘Bang the Drum All Day’ (1983)
Not Todd’s finest hour musically but who can resist the line “I don’t want to work, I want to bang on the drum all day”?
- Elvis Costello / ‘Welcome to the Working Week’ (1977)
One for the purists and more than a hint of irony considering that after recording this young Elvis never did another traditional week’s work in his life.
- Van Morrison / ‘Cleaning Windows’ (1982)
The old curmudgeon tries (unsuccessfully) to convince us that he’d be happy with a menial day job.
- Canned Heat / ‘Let’s Work Together’ (1970)
This should be nominated as our NKD anthem – “Together we’ll stand, divided we’ll fall, come on now people let’s get on the ball”. If ever a song was written for employee engagement this is it. We love it so much that we chose it as our walk-on track when we took the stage to receive our Lotus Award last week.
- Pet Shop Boys / ‘Opportunities (Let’s make lots of money)’ (1986)
A satire of Thatcherism and conspicuous consumption in the 1980s – oh dear, one for the Finance Department?
- Johnny Paycheck / ‘Take This Job and Shove It’ (1978)
I must admit I’ve never heard this but the juxtaposition of the song title and the artist’s name make it too good to exclude from this list.
- Morrissey / ‘The More You Ignore Me the Closer I Get’ (1994)
OK – I know this was signposted as a Top 10 but no song list is complete without an offering from Moz, and this is simply one of the finest ever written (according to me anyway). And yes, I do realize it was recorded in the 90’s.
So, there you have it. Songs to accompany a working life. If nothing here fits the bill for you then a quick download of “Don’t Worry be Happy” might be what you’re looking for. For the rest of us there are plenty of songs that might relate to our working lives – or at least provide them with a backing track.
If you feel like amping up the soundtrack to your working life, have a listen to Laurence’s Top 10 (or, 11) playlist here.