‘Money’s too tight to mention’ was a good 1980’s blast on the subject of poverty. Musicians tend to suffer from this more than most and so write songs about it. Some of them are quite amusing. ‘Sing a song of sixpence’ is a nursery rhyme which probably deals with important historic events, as most of them do.
I recall hearing the historic facts behind ‘Mary had a little lamb’ and it was pretty blood curdling. I think it was ‘Bloody Mary’ the fairly short-lived queen who came before Elizabeth I and who wanted to revers Henry VIII’s abolition of Catholicism as the state religion. Luckily she failed, and the Virgin Queen did a great job.
‘Money’ is the title of a well known Pink Floyd song, which I dont really like as its rather dreary, as most of Pink Floyd became after the implosion of the wonderful Syd Barrett, who turned into a sort of living vegetable after too much LSD and associated drugs. In pre-decimal days LSD was the acronym for the currency: pound, shillings and pence.
It was also the name of the country’s rarest automobile: the LSD. This car was extremely shortlived (1919-1924 and pretty hopeless as it was underpowered. It was very graceful however. Its name comes from Longbottom, Sykes and Dixon. They were respectively the designer, manufacturer and accountant involved in the firm.There is one in a museum in Huddersfield.
Mark Knopfler wrote a song about money seen from the perspective of a blue collar worker moving TVs about in a store, but hoping one day to be a star guitarist:
‘now look at them yo’yos thats the way to do it
you play the guitar on the mtv/that aint working thats the way you do it
money for nothin and chicks for free’
The Beatles ‘cant buy me love’ is a classic of the non-materialist genre:
‘I’ll give you all I got to give if you say you love me too
I may not have a lot to give but what I’ve got I’ll give to you
I dont care too much for money, money cant buy me love’
At the other end of that idealist spectrum is Madonna’s Material Girl:
‘only boys that save their pennie/make my rainy day
you know that we are living in a material world/and I am a material girl’
There’s a fine ironic line in ‘Gold Digger’ by Kanye West:
‘Now I ain’t sayin she’s a gold digger
but she ain’t messin with no broke niggaz’
Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention say ‘we’re only in it for the money’ which was more frank but not true, especially of Captain Beefheart who broke the hearts of many record companies by implying that he would do great popular music and then doing great unpopular music.
‘Money money’ by Bumcello is an example of musical money: the interest is in the hypnotic groove. It adds ‘makes people crazy’ but thats a pretty vacuaous line and not the reason anyone would listen to the song.
The fact is that most musicians are not in it for the money, but wish they were. Its not fair that a highly skilled classical musician only earns pennies for his or her craft, when much less skilled opertives in the City earn a great deal. But nobody said that life was fair. Money is where the front line lies.