Sunday, December 2, 2012

2. “Workin’ for MCA”

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Second Helping (Sounds of the South/MCA, 1974);
composed by Ed King & Ronnie Van Zant

Despite how late in the day it (really) is, some people still think I must be joking when I sing this band’s praises, but sing them I do. Skynyrd still messes with certain ironic (or “ironic”) sensibilities because their singular ways of layering contradictory meanings in their songs were so full-impact that they rarely registered as irony at all. Mastermind Ronnie Van Zant was also singular for (among many other things) the miraculous absence of two qualities in his makeup: sentiment and ressentiment. Accordingly, “Workin’ For MCA” is the single best song about record companies ever. Its adversarialism was nothing new, but only Van Zant would threaten the suits with physical violence while simultaneously demystifying their economic relationship so concisely in his title. Absent is any punkista pretension about being artists putting up with corporate parasites. Skynyrd were artists to the max – and no one knew that better than they – but no rock band ever was more aware that it had been given a job and contextualized its hostility in such real world terms. Underlining Van Zant’s concept were six musicians who had mastered their craft by playing for months inside an unventilated metal shack in the Florida heat.
Note: This is the third annual series of 25 secular essays about 25 songs, each one exactly 200 words long, appearing one per day during Advent from Dec. 1 through Dec. 25. Or so.

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