Excerpt from a shit-job opera : Top Ten Golden Oldies


Maybe, like me, you’ve spent a bit of time working 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 penguins 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 Guatemalan whore, 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’ bit 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.

Manfred Mann : The Mighty Quinn

Essentially a load of nonsensical lyrics, that are basically heralding the arrival of an amazing Inuit. I doubt he’s as amazing as the bloke called ‘Spanners’ who works at McVities in Levenshulme, I doubt it very much.

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 the clock-watching and force you to consider running out of the fire-doors whilst 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 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. Its 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 Rhyll (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 and then 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


  1. Andrew Pearson

    Id like to ad Toploader – Dancing In The Moonlight. Makes me cringe just thinking about we’re I worked and the local radio station that was playing it about 10 times a shift.

  2. Pingback: Bad Trips: Ten tunes that did my head in on the way to school | Proper Magazine


    An outstanding selection. Just listening to the songs made me more and more depressed. Great work.

    P.S. Guatemalan whores can earn pretty good money you know…

  4. Wow! My post count is up to three by shit interent connection.

    *claims prize*

  5. This isn’t technically a work related incident, but it felt like a shift down the pit:

    I was once on a bus for several hours with “Abracadabra” by the Steve Miller Band on a constant loop.

    *reaches out t’ grab ya!*

  6. I was once on a bus for several hours with “Abracadabra” by the Steve Miller Band on a constant loop.

    *reaches out t’ grab ya!*

  7. spanners of levvy

    *i work in media now, didn’t you know?

    it’s green tea and ciabattas all the way nowadays darling.

  8. Wendy House

    This article is written by the bloke who appears at 1:11 on Judy in Disguise.

  9. I totally share your pain and joy. Fantastic post! Weirdly I thought I was alone in this. Working in a dead end gardening job, warehouse or paint store actually with absolutely nothing whatsoever to do half the time.
    The stock paint brush in my hand mimicking a gun (when no one was in/ nor looking) and the damp, grim warehouse walls could be doubled up as the Bronx in the 60s as I actually ‘made films’ in my mind to save my soul from dying!
    These songs that came on the radio (it was Capital Gold for my era of depression) would be the saving grace of a dead end conversation in the back of a council van with boy racers I cared not a jot for, shit banter with petrol heads with ‘Taz’ tattoos who knew nothing about me, the tunes like Pearly Spencer were the only things that kept me sane, with several great ones throughout the day, that, and knowing that life could only get better after doing this job, as it couldn’t get any fucking worse. It was bearable until some c*nt switched over to Kiss, or Galaxy then with the same eight songs on continuous loop all day, separated only by fat DJ’s voices and rubbish prank phonecalls everyone, except me, found utterly hilarious – by then only a cigarette or the contents of my lunch box were the only things of interest in my daily routine.

  10. Charlie D

    Ah… *remembers the mouse-splatting competitions at breaktime in the fish pellet factory, armed with a spade*.

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