Devo – Working In A Coal Mine

Sometimes I just have to hear some Devo to break the monotony. This is Devo from back in 1981. This song peaked at #43 in the Billboard 100, #8 in New Zealand and #17 in Canada. The song was not on their album New Traditionalists which was out at this time but it came packaged as a single included with the album.

It was also on the soundtrack of Heavy Metal.

It was written by Allen Toussaint in the early 1960s. Toussaint, as a pianist, writer, and producer, was part of the second wave of New Orleans’ Jazz and Blues culture. He worked with many big names from the era including Fats Domino, Chris Kenner, Benny Spellman, and Diamond Joe.

The song was made famous by Lee Dorsey in 1966.

From Songfacts on Working In A Coal Mine

Although “Working in the Coal Mine” sounds just like a jazz standard that could have been handed down from generation to generation of the American Old South, it was actually

In the ’60s, Toussaint wrote and produced several hits for Lee Dorsey, including “Ride Your Pony,” “Get Out of My Life Woman,” “Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky,” and “Holy Cow.”

In 1965, Toussaint wrote a song for Dorsey called “Work, Work, Work,” which was appropriate since Dorsey loved working on cars as much as he loved making music – he worked at a body shop and was often seen covered in grease. When he wrote for a specific artist, Toussaint would craft the song to that artist’s personality, which he did on “Working in the Coal Mine.”

Mining is very unpleasant work, but the incessant background vocals (“Workin’ in a coal mine, oops, about to slip down”) and Dorsey’s enthusiastic delivery turned the song – about a guy who is so tired from work that he can’t even have fun on Saturday – into a campy romp. An artist who didn’t appreciate and enjoy real work couldn’t have pulled it off, but Dorsey was the right man for the job. When he left the music business, he went back to bending fenders full-time.

That backing band on this track is The Meters, who were mainstays of the New Orleans funk sound. The Meters went on to work with Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and Robert Palmer. They were also very successful recording on their own – in 1969 they hit #23 US with “Cissy Strut.”

A popular cover of this song was recorded by Devo and included on the soundtrack to the 1981 animated film Heavy Metal. Their version made #43 in the US.

In 1985, the country duo The Judds released the song on their album Rockin’ With The Rhythm.

This was recorded at J&M Studios in New Orleans, which was where just about every hit from that city was put to tape in the ’50s and ’60s. “Coal Mine” was one of the last hits recorded there, as financial problems led to its demise a few years later.

Dorsey’s label, Amy Records, commissioned a promotional film for his song (what would later be called a “music video”). The clip shows Dorsey emerging from the listening booth of a record store covered in dirt and wearing his work clothes. The clip was used to promote the song on British television shows.

You can also hear a snatch of this song in the Blaupunkt car stereo commercial of the ’90s. While we’re on the subject, we’re reminded of the fantastically popular (even record-breaking) indie video game Minecraft which has been storming the Internet gaming forums since its alpha release in 2010. Should the developers decide to create a TV advertisement, we can think of a song to recommend.

Working In A Coal Mine

Workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ on down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ on down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down

Five o’clock in the mornin’
I’m already up and gone
Lord, I’m so tired
How long can this go on?

Workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ on down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ on down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down

‘Cause I make a little money
Haulin’ coal by the ton
When Saturday rolls around
I’m too tired for havin’ fun

Workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ on down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ on down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down

Lord I’m so tired
How long can this go on?

Workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ on down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ on down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down

Five o’clock in the mornin’
I’m already up and gone
Lord, I’m so tired
How long can this go on?

Workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ on down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ on down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

12 thoughts on “Devo – Working In A Coal Mine”

    1. I was going to post Peek a Boo but it creeps some people out. I like them because they tried something different.

      This will be a fun week…all songs with Halloween related items.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. A really short story. My son was 13 years old in 2013…he had seen a lot by then but I showed him the 70s SNL show with Devo on it…he sat there with his mouth open…they still work. Nobody has gone where they did…. You are right…they have been a huge influence.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s