David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 313: Johnny Paycheck (Take This Job And Shove It)

December 29, 2023

The New Year is soon upon us. Everywhere, everyone is making resolutions. How many of these people are planning to quit their damn job? Given the nature of employment these days, and the willingness of people much younger than me to abandon security if they are not happy at work, there may be a lot of Johnny Paycheck-types willing to forego their paychecks for awhile.

"Take This Job And Shove It" was ubiquitous in the late 1970's. Yet, somehow, appropriately, the guy who created it doesn't get much of the credit. David Allen Coe's name remains on the song-writing credit, so I suppose he is getting it through the checks. As for Mr. Paycheck? Well, who knows what happened to him? I'm not much of a country fan, even less so a Paycheck fan, so it took a little research to find out that he hasn't released any new material since 1998. That's a long time between Paychecks.

Let's face it, I hadn't heard "Take This Job And Shove It" in at least 40 years when I started mulling it as an entry to the song series. I had heard the phrase hundreds of time, but not the song, so I found it online and listened again. I was a tad surprised. Sure, it was typical country, especially the chorus, with the key supporting detail being that the "wife done left and took all the reasons I was working for” (we have no information what happened to the dog or the truck).

So, yes, the chorus seemed to sound the same, but, boy, the song's verses . . . well, they were, in a word, underwhelming. How had I forgotten that over the years? It's not so much the subdued instrumentation and singing, but it also includes the momentary pauses between chorus and verse. The verses trickle more into Jimmy Buffett territory (is that a bongo drum I hear?) than Hank Williams territory. All these years later I imagine Paycheck in a frothy fit about how shitty his job is, flipping the middle finger while walking out the warehouse doors; but ultimately he seems more akin to a man drowning in a frothy beer in the corner of the bar, talking big but walking small. Our narrator of the song ain't really walking out the door, just dreaming about it. He ain't telling his boss and co-workers to "shove the job," just daydreaming it, probably while on the clock, perhaps posting a Bill Lumbergh meme about corporate lack-of-care.

This just goes to show how people hear what they want. Would the song have been as big as it was, been as long-lasting as it is in terms of cultural literacy, if people really realized it was all fantasy? After all, 45 years later, does anyone care to remember who, if anyone, shot J.R.?

I am sure a whole bunch of people who know me are worried about this entry, especially those who work with me and for me. Don't worry, gang, there isn't particularly a hidden, or less-than-hidden, message. Sure, one of my best friends for life retires today, and, thus, there might be just a touch of envy (along with the touch of grey) for his getting out alive. I don't think he quite reached the "and shove it" part of his retirement announcement, but doesn't that have to be at the back of everybody's mind upon retirement (or resignation) day.

Besides, I learned long ago, when working at Lowe's while going to school at WVU, to be careful of the "and shove it" message going out the door. I quit Lowe's three or four times, usually because I needed to focus on school, and crawled back, or strutted back, depending upon the circumstances, when they hired me back at a better wage (college kids who could understand their computer system in the early 1980s were a rarity; after awhile, they lured me back with pretty nice wage increases).

Maybe this is the greatest generational irony between us Gen X'ers and Millenials or Gen Z'ers. We never get past the dream to "take this job and shove it," these young'uns seem o.k. just doing it. And here all of us old-timers keep worrying about the toughness of the younger generations. We were the wimps.

Paycheck, Johnny. "Take This Job And Shove It." Take This Job And Shove It. Epic, 1977. Link here.

Day 312: The Pogues "Bottle Of Smoke"

Day 314: Icehouse "Crazy"

See complete list here.