“Hard Werken Fucked Over Man/The Reckoning” (Gary Lucas)

Beginning with concert vocals and sustained by a looping, minimal blues ostinato, the trax ends with backwards guitar. Disheveling the live/studio distinction, Lucas makes clear that work pervades stage and studio. Over the ostinato, various guitar solos are deployed (from Tubescreamer-like distortion to wah pedal to tremolo bar to tape manipulation), voicing these works as just technical variations. At two separate moments, all of this is interrupted (by “The Reckoning[s],” one assumes) with its alternating low, high, and midrange repetitions of the same phrase with an open-string drone. Life figured, at its base, as perpetual work. Homespun and high-end reflect this.

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“Old Age Pension Check” (Roy Acuff)

The invention of social security “turned this country upside down.” All forms of needless striving dissolve: “drug stores will go bankrupt,” because people will feel well, and women will no longer need “cosmetics” to lure a husband. The attempt, today, to privatize the system is premised on our interest to “own” our own future; concerning this, Bush Redux says: “we’ve got to understand the power of compounding interest, the importance of savings, and the beauty of ownership in the American society” (3/1/02). But Acuff had hoped for a “second childhood” in which responsibility wasn’t premised on possession.  Otherwise, we’re all just going back to work (on our leisure).

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“Rock Around the Clock” (Bill Haley & His Comets)

When I.G. Blanchard and the Reverend Jessie H. Jones penned the most popular American labor song of the nineteenth century, “Eight Hours” (1878), they imagined a hard-working man as having “eight hours for work, eight hours for rest,” and eight hours to “feel the sunshine” and “smell the flow’rs.” But this successful demand for limitations on the length of the working day can only be deciphered from within capitalism’s prior imposition of clock time, and it’s this root cause which rock’n’roll disputes without overcoming. “Rock Around the Clock’s” surreal twenty-two hour shift (with breaks at noon and midnight) leaves no time for the great outdoors or contemplation. It’s a serious business, this constantly jumpin’ at one’s leisure.


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