Best recession songs

I’ve been in a running conversation lately about whether the current Great Recession is worse than the recessions of the early 80s. The numbers are debatable.


Here’s what’s not debatable: The recession music of the late 1970s and early1980s was totally awesome and blows away anything in the current downturn.

The best stuff came out of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Now there was a recession! crippling unemployment, runaway inflation, an energy crisis — and a crisis of confidence!

OK, I’m 48 years old. Keep that in mind as I lay out my Top Three!

3.) Johnny 99. Bruce Springsteen, September 1982. Released the last time U.S. unemployment topped 10 percent. Pretty much every song on the album was a bummer but “Johnny 99” topped them all.

Now judge judge I had debts no honest man could pay

The bank was holdin’ my mortgage and they was takin’ my house away

Now I ain’t sayin’ that makes me an innocent man

But it was more ‘n all this that put that gun in my hand

2.) Downbound Train. Bruce Springsteen. Things weren’t so bad when “Born in the USA” was released in June 1984. Minnesota unemployment was running 6.2 percent, but an interest rate on a conventional 30 year mortgage averaged 14.42 percent.

Yikes. The economy would improve in the late 80s and start looking pretty good…until that savings and loan crisis.

I had a job, I had a girl

I had something going mister in this world

I got laid off down at the lumber yard

Our love went bad, times got hard

Now I work down at the car wash

Where all it ever does is rain

Don’t you feel like you’re a rider on a downbound train

1.) “Career Opportunities.” The Clash. Released April 1977 off the first album by The Clash. It’s a swing at the economic suffering in the UK. But it’s brilliant because it brings home the idea that even when the economy improved, the chances you might go beyond your economic caste were still pretty dim. (lyrics differ a bit from the way it was sung).

The offered me the office, offered me the shop

They said I’d better take anything they’d got

Do you wanna make tea at the BBC?

Do you wanna be, do you really wanna be a cop?

Career opportunity, the one that never knocked

Every job they offer you is to keep you out the dock

Career opportunity, the one that never knocked

Here are some of the suggestions we got this morning when we threw the question out on Twitter.

Morrissey – America Is Not The World

Greenback Dollar – The Kingston Trio;

Sixteen Tons – Tennessee Ernie Ford;

The Day After Tomorrow – Tom Waits

OK, I realize my list is kind of lame. I accept any and all derision. What’s your favorite Recession Rock song? Post below or contact us directly.

  • The Kinks Gallon of Gas:

    Who needs a car and a seven-forty-seven

    When you can’t buy a gallon of gas

    Who needs a highway, an airport or a jet

    When you can’t get a gallon of gas

    There’s no more left to buy or sell

    There’s no more oil left in the well

    A gallon of gas can’t be purchased anywhere

    For any amount of cash

    You can’t buy a gallon of gas

    Best recession song ever.