When music becomes a sort of theme song: Styx and “Blue Collar Man”

The last few weeks, I’ve had a particular song stuck in my head.

It isn’t quite an earworm situation. It isn’t annoying by any means, and it’s not like I only have one part of it rattling around in my noggin.

No, I think I have Styx’s “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” running through my mind because I’ve been out of work, and I’m identifying with the content more than I usually would.

I’m a big Styx fan. I’ve written about the group for the St. Cloud Times a few times before. I’ve written about being a fan, even when it isn’t cool to be one. I’ve written about the modern incarnation touring earlier this year. And the group’s “Paradise Theatre” is one of my favorite albums, being the 1981 entry in a music project I did for the St. Cloud Times about favorite albums for every year of my lifetime.

It isn’t any skin off my nose if you don’t care for the band, but I love their sound, I love the energy, I love the lyrics. These guys sound like “common folks” with musical talent. My tastes run all over the place, and I’m pleased that Styx fits right in alongside Bob Dylan, My Chemical Romance, Arcade Fire and Johnny Cash. They all are welcome on my record player.

So what is it about “Blue Collar Man” that’s been bringing it to mind lately? The song’s protagonist is out of work. Boom, there it is, bases covered.

But this isn’t a tale of woe, a down-on-my-luck sympathy song. “I’ve got the power, and I’ve got the will / I’m not a charity case.” Our narrator wants to work, he’s ready to work, he just wants the opportunity.

In the last few weeks, as I’ve been applying for jobs and submitting my resume to different employers, it surprised me how often I was asked in face-to-face situations, “Have you applied online?”

I appreciate that companies put time and money into their websites, into having online applications available, and I can certainly understand how having everything submitted online keeps things tidy and organized.

Still, it’s easy for people to slip through the cracks that way, too. Maybe no one ever sees your application because they ran A-J before finding a suitable candidate, and the K-Z folks never got a shot. Or maybe something on the application didn’t allow for depth or explanation, causing you to lose out on even having a chance to interview and lay out who you are. You can learn a lot from face-to-face interviews. Maybe a perfect candidate on paper is a poor candidate in the practical, real world. Or maybe a poor candidate on paper is exactly who you are looking for when it comes to the job itself.

But I digress. I don’t want to sound like some angry young man who is just fooling himself (yup, another Styx song: “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” from 1977’s “The Grand Illusion” album). I certainly have no axes to grind with any of the businesses that have yet to reach out to me. I wish them all well, I really do. We all do better when local businesses succeed.

Besides, I have an interview set up for Tuesday with one of the area’s best companies, and I’d be tickled to work with these good people. (Wish me luck!) I’ve got plenty to be thankful for, and the possibility of a great job coming certainly puts some pep in my step.

But I do find myself relating to the “give me a job, give me security” lyric of “Blue Collar Man.” And I yearn to be able to say for myself: “Make me an offer that I can’t refuse / Make me respectable, man.” I’m sure my time will come. My fingers are crossed!

But you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. So I keep applying. I keep trying. The right job is out there, and we’ll connect. But I can’t help but feel a bit like another Styx song, the great “Too Much Time On My Hands” (from “Paradise Theatre”). I’ve been working since I was 15 years old, I’m not one for relaxing at home. I try to find things to do, but I’ve got:

“Too much time on my hands, it’s ticking away with my sanity.
“I’ve got too much time on my hands, it’s hard to believe such a calamity.
“I’ve got too much time on my hands and it’s ticking away from me.”

Please don’t think I’m complaining. It’s been wonderful to see my wife more, and I’ve definitely been getting some much-needed rest. I’ve been in closer contact with my parents the last month, and that’s always good.

I’m just ready to get back to work. I’m ready to earn some money. I’m ready to contribute. I’m ready to be a star employee for my next employer. I’m ready to hit the ground running.

I’ve already worked those long nights. I’ve already faced some impossible odds. I’m ready to move forward. I’m “keeping my mind on a better life, where happiness is only a heartbeat away.”

See? I dig Styx’s lyrics. I love the music. And their tunes just seem to fit so well, these songs have become the soundtrack of this stretch of my life.

Isn’t it wonderful how music is there for us when we need it, when we want it, no matter the occasion? What an incredible blessing.


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