19 September 2010

Jigsaw - Mr. Job

Jigsaw - Mr. Job

Label: Music Factory
Year of Release: 1968

One of the most popular videos on YouTube right now is the hipster-baiting "Being A Dickhead's Cool" which has now clocked up two million views (and by the time you read this may even have managed half a million more).  It's neither the first nor the last time that hipsters or Hoxtonites have been mocked, of course, but the extreme popularity of this attempt seems to point towards the fact that the trend has had its ironic 8-bit chips.  Irrespective of your personal views, once a youth movement reaches saturation point and becomes ripe for mainstream satire, the writing is on the wall.  Nobody batted an eyelid when "Nathan Barley" was first broadcast in 2005 - now things are getting almost violent, with some people reporting "hipster bashing" in bars and clubs around East London.

Whenever I'm in the presence of an older person who attended the UFO club in 1967 and start talking about these things, an interesting thing happens - I'm just told that history is repeating itself.  "Why, young man," they'll tell me, patting me on the shoulder, "it's no different.  The hippies were predominantly public school types slumming it in London, despised by the working class mods for their pretentious, facile DIY art projects and rather simplistic slogans and messages about how everything would be all right if everyone just chilled out a bit, yeah?  Hate the hipsters, and chances are you'd probably have hated the hippies too."  John Peel himself even made a similar observation about the limitations of the hippy movement, stating quite blankly that "the problem was they were trying to drop out just as everyone else was trying to drop in".

So this brings us on to "Mr. Job" here, which appears to be a single (originally composed and performed by the Alan Bown Set) mocking a working class handiman.  "Working with your hands, but I can't understand your mentality", they sneer.  "It's a waste of time!" Jigsaw sing to a man who probably has no safety net to speak of, and is just trying to get by.  However, before we bash Jigsaw about their heads with a copy of Socialist Worker, it's worth noting that the tone takes on an ambiguous nature as well, noting that the man is doing it "all for his mother" and he's "never earned a wage" and is "passing the time".  So what are they on about, then?  Is this about an inept man on a DIY mission around his mother's house, or something else entirely?  Only Alan Bown knows.  There's enough fairy dust here to shroud the whole tune in doubt, and not put it in the same category as (for example) The Plague's "Here Today Gone Tomorrow".

Whatever their intentions, musically this is a strong enough record, having a thumping jauntiness which recalls The Idle Race.  The B-side "Great Idea" is also far stronger, a feelgood little belter which swings along like a grinning Coco Pops monkey.  Jigsaw went on to have a hit single with "Sky High" in the seventies, but a lot of their sixties output was arguably stronger, and should have had the same degree of attention.


Tony at Osborne Mews said...

The song ‘Mr Job’ was written in response to a uniformed 'Jobs worth' official who bugged me by barring my entry to a civic hall type venue in Bristol where The Alan Bown were due to play that evening. I arrived separately from the band by train in the afternoon and wanted to wait inside the venue until the evening. I ended up getting drenched by a rain shower due to the obstinate official. It was "more than his job was worth" to let me enter the venue earlier than the evening functions appointed hour. I, (together with Alan Bown singer Jess Roden, later prepared some (ineffectual) revenge for the jobs-worth by knocking up the song. The song took a somewhat different twist with Jess's lyrics which evolved in to an observation about an unfortunate man with an underdeveloped mental age who obsesses with making things from wood while his life passes him by. The song does not (as interpreted above) denigrate our final Mr Job or working tradesmen. I hope this helps. Best wishes, Tony Catchpole. Co-writer of Mr Job and Alan Bown guitarist

23 Daves said...

Aha! Well that definitely clears things up. Thanks for dropping by to explain the lyrics, Tony, which have confused me for an age now.