What rock and roll taught the world about money

MarketWatch

Getty Images Elvis had a swingin’ time in Graceland

Everything I ever needed to know about business I learned from rock and roll.

Jackson Browne framed some of my earliest lessons:

“I’m going to be a happy idiot, and struggle for the legal tender. Where the ads take aim and lay their claim on the heart and the soul of the spender.”

In 1976, he released, “The Pretender,” not too long before wage growth ended, and credit cards and home-equity lines turned America into land of the overextended.

It was a time when rock and roll was not the standard soundtrack for a TV commercial. When rock stars were considered subversives more than celebrities. And when corporate America had yet to discover that it could simply buy the rights to any cynical anthem of teenage rage, rebellion and nonconformity and use it to sell more products.

Rock and roll fans, who used to complain if their favorite band “sold out,” were only kidding themselves. It was always about the money.

Here are some lines from some of my favorite songs, which were written years ago, yet seem to be ripped from the business news headlines of today.

• “The percentage you’re paying is too high priced; while you’re living beyond all your means; and the man in the suit has just bought a new car; from the profit he’s made on your dreams.” – Traffic.

• ”New car, caviar, four-star daydream. Think I’ll buy me a football team.” – Pink Floyd.

• “There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold.” – Led Zeppelin.

• “A hustle here and a hustle there. New York City is the place where they said, ‘Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side.’” – Lou Reed.

• “One man gathers what another man spills.” – Grateful Dead.

• “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” – The Who.

• “Send lawyers, guns and money. Dad, get me out of this.” – Warren Zevon.

• “I tell the landlady I got a job, I’m gonna pay the rent. She said, ‘Yeah?’ I said, ‘Oh yeah.’ And then she was so nice; Lord, she was lovey-dovey.’” - George Thorogood.

• “Don’t follow leaders. Watch the parkin’ meters.” - Bob Dylan.

• When I’m watchin’ my TV. And that man comes on to tell me how white my shirts can be. But he can’t be a man ‘cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me. – Rolling Stones.

• “As we celebrate mediocrity, all the boys upstairs want to see; How much you’ll pay for what you used to get for free.” – Tom Petty.

• “They give you this, but you pay for that.” – Neil Young.

• “The future’s uncertain and the end is always near.” – The Doors.

• “If you’re train’s on time, you can get to work by nine; And start your slavin’ job and get your pay. If you ever get annoyed; Look at me I’m self-employed. I love to work at nothing all day.” – Bachman Turner Overdrive.

• “The king called up his jet fighters; He said you better earn your pay; Drop your bombs between the minarets; Down the casbah way.” – The Clash.

• “Billy Joe shot a man while robbing his castle. Bobbie Sue took the money and run. Go on, take the money and run.” – Steve Miller.

• “That ain’t workin’. That’s the way you do it. Money for nothin’ and chicks for free.” – Dire Straits.

• “And you may tell yourself, ‘This is not my beautiful house. And you may tell yourself, ‘This is not my beautiful wife.’” – Talking Heads.

• “She said, ‘Faster, faster. The lights are turning red.’ Life in the fast lane. Surely make you lose your mind.” – The Eagles.

• “If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street. If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat. If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat. If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.” – The Beatles.

• “Tax the rich, feed the poor, ‘til there are no rich no more.” – Alvin Lee, Ten Years After.

• “I took up all of my winnings, and I gave my little Bessie half. She tore it up and threw it in my face, just for a laugh.” – The Band.

• “And I laughed to myself at the men and the ladies who never conceived those billion dollar babies.” – Alice Cooper. • “Say, when this is all over, we’ll be in clover. We’ll go out and spend all yourblue money.” – Van Morrison.

• Left a good job in the city. Workin’ for the Man every night and day. But I never lost a minute of sleepin’, worryin’ ‘bout the way things might have been.” – Creedence Clearwater Revival.

• “To workers, I’m just another drone. To Ma Bell, I’m just another phone. I’m just another statistic on a sheet. To teachers, I’m just another child. To IRS, I’m just another file. I’m just another consensus on the street.” – Bob Seger.

• “Your papa says he knows that I don’t have any money. Oh, your daddy says he knows that I don’t have any money. Well, tell him this is his last chance to get his daughter in a fine romance. ‘Cause a record company, Rosie, just gave me a big advance.” – Bruce Springsteen.

• “Do you remember, your President Nixon? Do you remember, the bills you have to pay? Or even yesterday?” – David Bowie.

• Levon, Levon likes his money. He makes a lot they say. Spends his days counting. In a garage by the motorway.” – Elton John.

• “Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself. You say I’ve been spending my money on other women. You’ve been taking money from someone else.” – Bo Diddley.

• “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz? My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends. Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends. So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?” – Janice Joplin.

• “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone? They paved paradise. And put up a parking lot.” – Joni Mitchell.

• “Asking only workman’s wages, I come looking for a job, but I get no offers. Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue. I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome I took some comfort there.” – Simon and Garfunkel.

• “Give me a job. Give me security. Give me a chance to survive. I’m just a poor soul in the unemployment line. My God, I’m hardly alive.” - Styx.

• “With my New York brim and my gold tooth displayed, nobody give me trouble cause they know I got it made. I’m bad, I’m nationwide. Girl, I’m bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, I’m nationwide.” – ZZ Top.

• “I’m gonna have me some fun, if it costs me my very last dime. If I wind up broke up ,well I’ll always remember that I had a swingin’ time. – Elvis Presley.

• “Little pink houses for you and me.” – John Mellencamp.

• “I’ve been through diamonds. I’ve been through minks. I’ve been through it all. Love stinks.” – J. Geils Band.

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