Thursday, 7 June 2018

My Top Ten Roadworks Songs

These days, there are roadworks everywhere. It sometimes feels like some evil despot has traced a map of my journey to work and strategically placed mobile traffic lights at key places along every possible route. And why do they have to dig a hole and then leave it for a week, doing nothing in the meantime, before filling it in again? Why, oh why, oh why... Grumpy Old Man is moaning again.

Anyway, when I sat down to do a Top Ten songs about roadworks, I expected it to be a bit easier than it turned out to be. I may have missed some obvious ones... you'll tell me if I have, I'm sure.

Special mention to Men At Work...

10. Ether - Roadworks

The only song I can find with roadworks in the title - a forgotten speedbump on the rocky road of Britpop.

9. Bruce Hornsby - The Changes

I do like a good ivory-tickler, and Bruce is one of the best. With added smooth jazz here too!

The owner says he thinks we need some work
"Got a place for you, we got some roadwork -
Laying asphalt on the interstate."
Nobody cares, and why should they?

8. Nizlopi - JCB Song

You know when you get stuck behind a JCB on your way to work and you're cursing it? Remember - it might be Nizlopi's dad driving it.

7. Cosmo Jarvis - Road Closed

Another day, another road closure.

It seems Cosmo has closed the road on his music career lately, preferring to concentrate on acting. I hope he returns to the tunes soon.

6. Randy Newman - Potholes

God bless the potholes down on memory lane... Randy at his witty best.

5. Tom Waits - In The Neighbourhood

It appears Tom feels a similar frustration to the one I vented at the top of this post...

And there's always construction work bothering you
In the neighbourhood
And the jackhammer's diggin' up the sidewalks again
In the neighbourhood

But Tom Waits for NO roadworks!

4. Billy Bragg - From A Vauxhall Velux

Best use of the word "contraflow" in a pop song ever?

Mark E. Smith fans may choose to disagree.

3. The Beatles - A Day In The Life

You think your road is bad? Just be glad you don't live in Blackburn, Lancashire.

2. Bruce Springsteen - Working On The Highway

Take pity on the men who have to dig up our roads, particularly the ones who have no choice in the matter...
I work for the county out on 95
All day I hold a red flag and watch the traffic pass me by
In my head I keep a picture of a pretty little miss
Someday, mister, I'm gonna lead a better life than this

1. Sam Cooke - Chain Gang

Speaking of the guys working on the chain gang... here's the greatest song ever devoted to digging up roads.

All day long they work so hard
Till the sun is goin' down
Working on the highways and byways
And wearing, wearing a frown
You hear them moanin' their lives away
Then you hear somebody sa-ay
That's the sound of the men working on the chain gang

Although I could also have gone with...

The Pretenders - Back On The Chain Gang

The Raveonettes - Chain Gang Of Love

Johnny Cash - I'm Free From The Chain Gang Now

Which song hold you up on your way to work?


  1. No Roadblock from SAW? Only 9 words of lyric in the whole thing. Turns out there are a few other Roadblock songs (Stan Ridgeway for one) but perhaps not caused by roadworks, so not for this top ten.

    1. The only good use for a hole in the road would be to bury SAW in.

  2. Waylon Jennings & Johnny Cash - There Ain't No Good Chain Gang

    "Momma, don't you worry about it none though,
    Everything's gonna be alright, momma,
    They're teaching us a lot of new things in here, momma,
    Things like there ain't no good in an evil hearted woman,
    And I ain't cut out to be no Jesse James,
    And you don't go writing hot checks down in Mississippi,
    And there ain't no good chain gang..."

    1. Half of the Highwaymen too, so doubly appropriate.

  3. Would 'Hole in the Ground' by Bernard Cribbins qualify as a contender? Failing that, 'The Hot Asphalt' by Luke Kelly & The Dubliners surely should.
    'We laid it in the hollows and we laid it in the flat
    And if it doesn't last forever, sure I swear, I'll eat me hat
    I've wandered up and down the world and sure I never felt
    Any surface that was equal to the hot asphalt'

    1. Bernard Cribbins would always qualify. Will go hunt down the Hot Asphalt song.

  4. “...a forgotten speedbump on the rocky road of Britpop” is a hell of a line, Rol. Some great songs here. In particular, I have a thing for that ‘80s period of Tom Waits.

    1. Thanks, Brian. I prefer early Waits, if I have to choose, but I'm happy enough with any era.

  5. James Taylor, Steamroller?

    1. There is potentially a Top Ten steamroller songs, and that would be the obvious number one - even Elvis covered it. Got to do the Top Ten wrecking ball songs first though...

  6. Following on The Swede's post about 'The Hot Asphalt' by Luke Kelly & The Dubliners, I'd like to add another song by The Dubliners -

    "As down the glen came McAlpines men with their shovels slung behind them
    'Twas in the pub that they drank the sup and up in the spike you'll find them
    They sweated blood and they washed down mud with pints and quarts of beer
    And now we're on the road again with McAlpine's Fusiliers"


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