This is not really a song but a rant set to music. Though Ewan MacColl was never afraid to insert the odd expletive in his songs, unlike the later generation of rap artists his profanity was never gratuitous and always in context, and here he strikes just the right note.
"Looking For A Job" is written from the point of a family man who has been thrown on the scraphead in the 1970s. Although obviously directed at the Conservative Government and Tory money in general - the bosses or the ruling class in left wing parlance - it appears to be directed mostly at a specific individual, though this reference will probably be missed by those who are not au fait
with contemporary British political history.
Norman Tebbit was appointed Secretary of State for Employment in the new Thatcher Government after a Cabinet reshuffle. In the Summer of 1981, riots erupted in Brixton, South London and Handsworth, Birmingham. Although the rioters were largely black, there were genuine grievances in addition to the usual contrived ones of racism
ad nauseum, and after a youthful Conservative suggested that rioting was a natural reaction to high unemployment, Tebbit made his classic faux pas
"I grew up in the '30s with an unemployed father. He didn't riot. He got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking 'til he found it."
This obviously resonated with MacColl, because in the 1930s his own father had literally got on his bike, moving to Lancashire after being blacklisted by every foundry in Scotland due to his union activism, and he too had ended up on the scrapheap. MacColl believed, probably with more than a little justification, it had sent him to an early grave, something he documented in a far more personal but equally angry song, "My Old Man".
Alexander Baron - London, England