If you're going to be out of work, out of money, unable to pay the rent, flipping out at food prices, cutting coupons, searching for sales, pinching for pennies, suffering service outages, scraping to get by, begging for a job, borrowing cash, and standing on the dole line, you may as well sing and dance about it.
With kudos to my friend Andrew Pendrill, here's our Recession Playlist, in no particular order:
Clarence "Frogman" Henry - "Ain't Got No Home": Straight from the city of New Orleans, this was a rousing 1956 blues number later covered by The Band. You can hear the song on the soundtrack to the film "Diner." According to Wikipedia, Henry opened up 18 North American concerts for the Beatles in 1964.
The O'Jay's - "For The Love Of Money": Philly Soul's famous ode to greed, driven by a funky major 7th bass riff which is up front and center the whole song long. Lots of flanger effects, ghostly voices, a trilling trumpet and the three O'Jay's repetitively singing: "Money, money, money, money... MONEY!"
The Kinks - "Low Budget": Brilliantly timed 1979 rock singalong from Ray Davies and the boys when the country was in a recession. "Cheap is small and not too steep/But best of all, cheap is cheap/Circumstance has forced my hand/To be a cut-price person in a low budget land."
ZZ Top - "Cheap Sunglasses": That lil' ol' band from Texas gets down and dirty with a bluesy tribute to inexpensive eyewear. From the album Deguello, this was the first time they used a keyboard in a hit song, in this case, a gritty rough electric piano.
REM - "Everybody Hurts": Something of a modern classic, lead singer Michael Stipe aches along with this ballad that basically says you're not alone, we're all suffering. "Sometimes everything is wrong/Now's the time to sing along" is a worthwhile philosophy we can all live by now.
Gwen Guthrie - "Ain't Nothin' Goin' On But The Rent": Late 80's disco diva wailing about "bill collectors at my door" so "what can you do for me?" Not your typical sugar daddy request, but a man to help her pay the rent and perhaps in return, they'll get something in return. She makes it pretty clear that there's "no romance without finance!"
Johnny Rivers - "The Poor Side of Town": Moving rock and roll aside for a soulful ballad, Rivers took out the twangy guitar to tell his girl that the rich guy she'd been dating was using her as a "plaything." His best line is "Girl, it's hard to find nice things/On the poor side of town."
ABC - "How To Be A Millionaire": Leave it to singer Martin Fry, the man who gave us the witty New Wave hits "Poison Arrow" and "The Look of Love," to open up this 1985 dancer with "I've seen the future/I can't afford it/To tell the truth, sir/Someone just bought it." Like the Guthrie song, you can dance as a poor person and hope somebody, or at least fate, can deal you some extra cash.
BB King's "Help The Poor": A blues classic from the great Gibson guitarist. Former LA Express guitarist Robben Ford did a terrific cover on his first Warner Brothers solo album, and then King joined Clapton for a version on their duet album. Is the singer looking for monetary charity or lopve from a girl gone away: "Help the poor/Won't you help poor me?/I need help from you, baby/I need it desperately."
The Beatles - "Money (That's What I Want)": A late 50's hit by Barrett Strong and co-written by Motown founder Berry Gordy, this searing rocker has been covered by the Fab Four, the Flying Lizards and even Josie and the Pussycats! That's doesn't make its sentiment any less serious. "The best things in life are free/But you can keep'em for the birds and bees!"
Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers - "We Need Some Money": Eight minutes of solid thumping go-go beat, right out of our nation's capital. With overabundant percussion, funky horns and glitchy analog synths, Brown updates the Gordy song sentiments and there's no holding back: "I'm gonna lay it right on the line/A dollar bill is a friend of mine/We need money!"