Last Wednesday night, a blue-collar hero went down in
history. Toledo, Ohio’s own Joe Wurzelbacher—aka “Joe the Plumber”—was invoked
no less than 26 times, making him more central to the third presidential
debate between John McCain and Barack Obama than anything else, including
taxes, education, the war, terrorism, the environment and energy independence.
Seeing as how a playlist about plumbers would’ve been pretty
short, today’s Current Events megamix will focus simply on great songs about
guys named Joe. Here’s to you, plumber man!
“Big Joe and Phantom 309” - Tom Waits
“Joe the Plumber” can really relate to this Tom Waits’ song about a workin’ man in a rough spot during an economic downturn (“Well you see I happened to be back on the East Coast / A few years back tryin’ to make me a buck / Like everybody else, well, you know / Times get hard and, well, I got down on my luck”) who embarks on a cross-country hitchhike home. And he wouldn’t-a made it if it weren’t for that old ghost of a truck driver, Big Joe, and his rig, Phantom 309. This one’s more Americana than the Cracker Barrel in Beckley, West Virginia.
“Hey Joe” - Jimi Hendrix
Written by Billy Roberts and popularized by Hendrix, this '60s rocker—about a man named Joe who shoots his woman down—is a classic American-as-apple-pie love-triangle murder ballad.
“Joe’s Garage” - Frank Zappa
Zappa’s ode to jammin’ at Joe’s, back in the early days, when rocking was all about love—not the money or the chicks. Kind of like being a plumber.
“Joe Tex, These Taming Blues” - Phosphorescent
Phosphorescent’s Matthew Houck sure plays all pretty and warbles all dreamy-like on this impressionistic cantina moper, a tune in which “Joe the Plumber” debates splitting town after what seems like a particularly bad breakup. Or maybe he was bitten by a dog while on a job, and that rabies lyric is literal.
“Joe Bou” - Murder By Death
In addition to “Joe the Plumber,” this song always makes me think of Joe-Buu, the voodoo idol Pedro Cerrano wants to sacrifice a live chicken to in ’80s baseball comedy Major League. Who knows, maybe that’s who Murder By Death is talking about in this song, but they were too busy shopping at Urban Outfitters to look up the real spelling.