Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday Tunes: All Hell for a Basement

This week's installment of labour themes in popular culture is Big Sugar's All Hell for a Basement. The song title refers to Kipling's description of Medicine Hat's gas fields. The lyrics, though, are about the experience of a worker facing long-term unemployment. He, like so many before him, heads off to Alberta to work in the oil-and-gas industry.

In the song, the worker struggles with his decision to up-root from (I'm told) Newfoundland and move west. I find this lyric particularly compelling but have no rela sense of what it means (thoughts anyone?): "My words are like a rope/That's wrapped around my throat". The struggles of migrant workers is a recurring theme in my summer listening this year. While notions of longing of missing family are hardly novel ground, the sheer number of popular songs on this topic speak to how pervasive this phenomenon is in Canada.

I'm a workin' man
But I ain't worked for a while
Like some old tin can
From the bottom of the pile
From the bottom of the pile

I have lost my way
But I hear a tale
About a heaven in Alberta
Where they've got all hell for a basement

My words are like a rope
That's wrapped around my throat
Wash my mouth with soap
For words unfit to quote



And now I'm free to go
But time cannot remove
The only life I know
Now only time will prove
Yes, only time will prove



-- Bob Barnetson

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