Friday, May 13, 2016
Labour & Pop Culture: Industrial Disease
This period of time was characterized by workers struggling against the state and their employers and lots of the lyrics reflect this, such as “The watchdog's got rabies the foreman's got fleas”. Workers reactions, such as sympathy strikes and spot strikes, are also present: “Some come out in sympathy some come out in spots”. Even the doctor’s diagnosis of depression has a double meaning (“He wrote me a prescription he said 'you are depressed”).
Overall, the lyrics here are evocative and deep—something you don’t see in every song about work.
Warning lights are flashing down at Quality Control
Somebody threw a spanner and they threw him in the hole
There's rumors in the loading bay and anger in the town
Somebody blew the whistle and the walls came down
There's a meeting in the boardroom they're trying to trace the smell
There's leaking in the washroom there's a sneak in personnel
Somewhere in the corridors someone was heard to sneeze
'goodness me could this be Industrial Disease?
The caretaker was crucified for sleeping at his post
They're refusing to be pacified it's him they blame the most
The watchdog's got rabies the foreman's got fleas
And everyone's concerned about Industrial Disease
There's panic on the switchboard tongues are ties in knots
Some come out in sympathy some come out in spots
Some blame the management some the employees
And everybody knows it's the Industrial Disease
The work force is disgusted downs tools and walks
Innocence is injured experience just talks
Everyone seeks damages and everyone agrees
That these are 'classic symptoms of a monetary squeeze'
On ITV and BBC they talk about the curse
Philosophy is useless theology is worse
History boils over there's an economics freeze
Sociologists invent words that mean 'Industrial Disease'
Doctor Parkinson declared 'I'm not surprised to see you here
You've got smokers cough from smoking, brewer's droop from drinking beer
I don't know how you came to get the Betty Davis knees
But worst of all young man you've got Industrial Disease'
He wrote me a prescription he said 'you are depressed
But I'm glad you came to see me to get this off your chest
Come back and see me later - next patient please
Send in another victim of Industrial Disease'
I go down to Speaker's Corner I'm thunderstruck
They got free speech, tourists, police in trucks
Two men say they're Jesus one of them must be wrong
There's a protest singer singing a protest song - he says
'they wanna have a war to keep us on our knees
They wanna have a war to keep their factories
They wanna have a war to stop us buying Japanese
They wanna have a war to stop Industrial Disease
They're pointing out the enemy to keep you deaf and blind
They wanna sap your energy incarcerate your mind
They give you Rule Brittania, gassy beer, page three
Two weeks in Espana and Sunday striptease'
Meanwhile the first Jesus says 'I'd cure it soon
Abolish monday mornings and friday afternoons'
The other one's on a hunger strike he's dying by degrees
How come Jesus gets Industrial Disease
-- Bob Barnetson