Music Video Of the Week


"Workin' At the Car Wash Blues," Jim Croce
This September 20 marks the forty-fifth anniversary of Jim Croce's death in a plane crash that occurred after he had given a concert at Northwestern State University's Prather Coliseum in Natchitoches, Louisiana.  He, the pilot, and four members of Croce's entourage - including guitarist Maury Muehleisen - were killed when the pilot failed to clear a tree while taking off from the airport in Natchitoches.  He was on his way to Sherman, Texas, to perform a concert at Austin College - which, ironically, would have been the last concert on what was already his last tour.  Croce had planned to quit music and concentrate on writing short stories and screenplays and devote his life to his wife and son in their adopted hometown of San Diego.
The following day, September 21, 1973, "I Got a Name," the theme song form the movie The Last American Hero, was released.  The album of that name was released that December.
We'll never know if Croce would have made good on his promise to quit music, but either way. he was already beginning to blossom  as a songwriter, and "Workin' At the Car Wash Blues," from his I Got a Name album, was indicative of that.  Croce's story songs were now invoking satire.  Croce explained that the song was about a guy who thought he should be ruling the universe, "but he is really working at a car wash."  The protagonist of "Workin' At the Car Wash Blues" has just left prison after serving a light sentence for failure to pay alimony and hopes to talk his way into a white-collar job but ends up doing menial labor.
"Workin' At the Car Wash Blues" is a great satirical take on the promise of upward mobility, poking fun at both the fact that such mobility is supposedly for anyone but is severely limited to a lucky few and making fun of blue-collar guys who overestimate their abilities to do something more than work at a car wash or at something similar.  (Working-class people like to see themselves as "frustrated millionaires.")  Croce explained that he conceived the song while in the military at Fort Jackson installing telephone cables on poles and wondering if maybe  he should be doing something else. 
But the narrator of "Workin' At the Car Wash Blues" not only aspires to a job beyond his abilities, he pines for a white-collar culture that's not so dignified or sophisticated.  he wants to join a world where businessmen sexually harass secretaries (remember, this was 1973) and smoke big, dirty, phallic cigars.  The preposterousness of the idea of a working stiff aspiring to such a world is summed up by this great lyric: "Workin' at this end of Niagara Falls is an undiscovered Howard Hughes."  "Workin' At the Car Wash Blues" was released as a single in the spring of 1974 and peaked at number 32 on the Billboard singles chart.
My Music Video Of the Week is a clip of Croce with Muehleisen performing a stripped-down version of "Workin' At the Car Wash Blues" on the BBC's pop show "The Old Grey Whistle Test" on July 27, 1973, with Croce and Muehleisen unaware that they both had only less than two months left on this earth.  Croce got his shirt from Randy Newman, as he had nothing better to wear for the program.  It;s a fine performance from Croce, and of one of his best songs.  Enjoy.