It’s Wednesday and I have the job-hunting blues, so this playlist is all about the money we wish we were making and the style we manage to put on regardless.
As I’ve written, here and elsewhere, the food we cook and eat and dream about is sometimes a reflection of our income or social position, but it might also reflect a position we aspire to. Sometimes we proudly proclaim our popular tastes; sometimes we “want to hear wine pouring,” as Rita Dove writes in this lovely poem.
Effie Smith, “Champagne Mind with a Soda Water Income”
Shout-out to the older woman shopping at the high-end grocery store where I used to work last Christmas, who looked at a few price tags and declared some variation of this idiom–I think she said she had champagne tastes and a soda-pop budget. If you can relate, then you get the gist of this catchy song.
Jeff Healey, “Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich, and You”
Shout-out to the classic come-on from the Rubaiyat: “a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.” This jazzy tune from the 1920s gives it an American spin and insists that nothing fancy is needed to accompany the pleasures of romance.
I don’t need music, lobster or wine,
Whenever your eyes look into mine.
The things I long for are simple and few,
A cup of coffee, a sandwich and you!
I chose a modern rendition because the audio is a lot clearer, but you could search for Gertrude Lawrence to hear a more original version along with some Gershwin/Porter mashups.
Tom Waits, “Eggs and Sausage (In a Cadillac With Susan Michelson)”
Shout-out to Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, referenced in the first line of this slow-swinging and sandpaper-voiced invocation of a diner late at night. In contrast with the mysterious Cadillac of the title (not referenced in the lyrics), this is a seedy scene: the food is cheap, the diamond earrings are fake, and the nighthawks at this diner have nowhere better to be. I would have loved to include a video of a live performance here, but failing that, I like this album version which is prefaced with some colorful callouts to nasty New York City diner food circa 1975.
The Ex, “The Pie”
Shout-out to my gentleman friend, who sent me this song literally years ago but it hasn’t found a home on a playlist until now. This is a song about class conflict: the powers that be versus the oppressed, the hand that throws the pie and the face that gets it. For a punk band from the Netherlands, The Ex manages to squeeze a lot of pie puns in here: they call for an “alternative flan of action,” for example, observe that “Some people say that the pie is the limit,” and include gleeful instructions for different styles of pie-throwing. I’m not sure that the pie getting thrown around here isn’t also a pun, as in “a piece of the pie,” a fair share.
Dolly Parton, “Fish Out of Water”
Shout-out to Dolly Parton, who turned 70 last month. So sorry about this weird video game playthrough attached to the song, but I couldn’t get my hands on this track separate from the album for love or money.
This is a song for a character Dolly plays in the 1992 film Straight Talk, who stumbles into wild success as a talk radio host but is bewildered by her fame; people keep expecting her to be more educated, cultured, and moneyed than she actually is. Hilariously, this song plays in the background of a scene set at a fancy fundraising gala for an aquarium, and Dolly gets a lot of mileage out of that fish metaphor:
I feel like a minnow in a sea of Moby Dicks
A small fry in a big pan
They’re caviar – I’m fish sticks
Another excellent fish joke:
But I’m just as good as they are
Why do I feel second rate
It’s like, “Sorry Charlie,
We want only tuna with good taste”