To help promote the German book, I was asked to put together a short playlist of work-related songs for social media. Here’s the list. The German for “work songs” is apparently Arbeitslieder. Cool.

So here are five top songs about work. I’ve tried to pick some slightly less obvious stuff so you won’t see like Dolly Parton’s 9-5 on this list.

5. The Fall: Couldn’t Get Ahead. I’ve been a fan of The Fall since 2005, so I’m a relative newcomer. But as time marches on, I become more and more obsessed. This song, from their 1985 album, “This Nation’s Saving Grace,” uses the phrase “couldn’t get ahead,” which is used by managerial executive types to describe their struggle towards productivity, but the other lyrics just seem to be about spending wages, getting drunk, and falling into a bush. I used to play it at the office all the time.

4. International Noise Conspiracy: Abolish Work. This song from Swedish rock band, INC, is clearly based on “The Abolition of Work,” a 1988 essay by Anarchist intellectual Bob Black. Half of my own work rips off Bob Black too, so this record is a kindred spirit:

3. Tom Waits: Kommienezuspadt. This is from Waits’ “Alice,” album which is a soundtrack to a play of the same name. I have no idea what the play is about and I don’t care, but I’ve always assumed it to be a dark rendition of Alice Through the Looking Glass. My interpretation of this song is that it represents the White Rabbit (“And we can’t be late!”) dragging us into a mechanical, factory-like underworld, which is how I feel whenever I have to go to work. (Tom Waits also gave us Can’t Wait to Get Off Work but that is not the record I want to champion today).

2. Sparks: At Home, At Work, At Play. This song is about being busy to the point of absurdity. The lyrics make me laugh: “Time really flies when it ain’t that much time / You better shave half your face at a time / And brush the front of your teeth, leave the rest.”

1. Louis Armstrong: Lazy Bones. This old 1955 song is like a magic spell to me. If I’m ever feeling ambitious or if under the false enchantment of money or business, I put this record on. It calms me down and reminds me that you don’t need anything more than you have already and that life is better when you’re lazy.

0. Oh, go on then. Here’s Dolly:

Robert Wringham’s Das Gute Leben is a book about work and life. It was released this month by Heyne Hardcore.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

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