Top 10 Songs About Bosses
Everybody (except us) hates their boss, but everyone wants to be the boss. The man at the top has been a whipping boy in music for decades, and there are plenty of nasty bosses who deserve a good thrashing in the songs below. But other songs describe bosses not just in terms of the working man, but in regards to marriage, politics, the mafia and even the music industry. Rarely popular but always powerful, bosses have inspired some of the most interesting songs around. See for yourself, in these Top 10 Songs About Bosses:
‘She’s the Boss’
There’s little question who rules the roost in the Rolling Stones. The band’s frontman is not accustomed to taking lip from anyone. But when it comes to matters of physical pleasure, Mick Jagger is suddenly more willing to be subjugated. In the final, title song on his debut solo, the legendary lothario gets fooled by flattery into his present situation. Over a funky backdrop (aided by lead guitar from Jeff Beck), Jagger sings, “She’s the boss in bed / She’s the boss in my head.” In the parlance of George Costanza, Mick has no “hand.”
‘Big Boss Man’
Bluesman Jimmy Reed first recorded this disgruntled tune and Elvis Presley made it famous before the Grateful Dead featured the song on their 1971 live album. It’s no surprise that the Dead stretch out Reed’s taut blues into steady-rolling stunner. Plus, Jerry Garcia adds some extra hedonism to the working man’s complaints: “You got me working, boss man / A-workin’ around the clock / I want a drink of whiskey / You sure won’t let me stop.” In the original tune, Reed just wanted a boss that would let him rest at night. In the Dead’s cover version, Garcia and his buddies want a boss that will let them get drunk.
‘Free Girl Now’
The Heartbreakers’ 1999 album was largely inspired by Petty’s divorce and there’s more than a hint of nastiness in the record’s lead single. With the rampaging Heartbreakers behind him, Tom Petty fires one sarcastic barb after another in the direction of his ex — as if to say that being married to the singer was the worst thing in the world. And yet, there’s still some mystery here. In the second verse, he sneers, “I remember when he was your boss / I remember him touching your butt.” Is Petty slyly calling himself her boss or could he be referencing memories of a potential extra-marital affair? It doesn’t matter anymore. Bosses be damned, she’s a free girl now.
‘The Boss of Me’
So far, these bosses have been controlling taskmasters and ripe targets for harassment lawsuits. But on this track from David Bowie‘s surprise comeback, he pays tribute to his “boss” — his wife Iman. Riding a mechanical rhythm and a wave of blood-red saxophone, Bowie sings of his devotion, praises his woman’s beauty and marvels at their happiness together. He howls, “Who’d have ever thought of it? / Who’d have ever dreamed? / That a small town girl like you / Would be the boss of me.” Getting bossed around doesn’t sound so bad.
How can you have the Top 10 Songs About Bosses without a contribution from the Boss? Over the decades, Bruce Springsteen has often empathized with the plight of the working man. I suppose he does that on this ‘Nebraska’ stunner too, only the protagonist in ‘Atlantic City’ is a man who ends up working for a mob boss. The first line of the song references “Chicken Man” Philip Testa, an actual mafia boss who died in 1981 after a bomb was planted at his house. Sometimes, it’s better not to be the boss.
Ten years after Eddie Cochran scored a hit with this ode to teen angst, Blue Cheer gained attention for their radically altered, metalicized cover. In the original version, the boss is a real drag — making Eddie work the late shift instead of letting him go out on a date. In Blue Cheer’s version, the boss is even more imposing, with the usual call-and-response replaced with call-and-thunderous-solo. The message is both loud and clear: Work sucks and bosses are even worse.
‘Feel Like a Number’
If any disgruntled teenage workers thought their boss-related struggled would be over once they grew up, Bob Seger was ready to crush their hopes. On this track from his huge ‘Stranger in Town’ album, Seger sings about his loss of humanity at a workplace where it’s like “being a spoke in a great big wheel.” His perceived insignificance is only enhanced by his boss, who can’t even remember his name. It’s enough to make anyone want to go shout at the ocean.
‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’
Pete Townshend wrote this Who epic as a cautionary tale against righteous certainty. ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ plays like a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode (with more power chords). The revolutionaries fight to topple the overlords, blood runs in the streets and new leaders take the reins. But in the end, a cruel twist presents itself: “Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss.” This famous coup de grace has caused the song to be interpreted as anti-revolution — which Townshend has dismissed. He said that his intent was to write a song about being wary of the consequences of political movements, and that the result might not be what one would predict. For all intents and purposes, you might end up working for the same boss, anyway.
After writing a good many protest songs that were celebrated by the folk movement, Bob Dylan wrote a song that seemed to protest the people who wanted him to keep writing protest songs. Standing in for the high-minded folkies were Maggie, her brother, pa and ma — four bosses that are strict, cheap, cruel and duplicitous. Dylan’s feeling inspired (“I got a head full of ideas that are drivin’ me insane”), but feels pressured to keep doing the same thing (“Well, I try my best to be just like I am / But everybody wants you to be just like them”) and he wants out. He strapped on an electric guitar, blasted his way out of ‘Maggie’s Farm’ and didn’t look back. He’s been his own boss ever since.
‘Have a Cigar’
On the No. 1 track on the Top 10 Songs About Bosses, we get to hear things from the boss’s perspective (well, sort of). Roger Waters wrote this ‘Wish You Were Here’ gem as a snarky parody of record company executives who were clueless about music and only seemed to care about cash. Waters mines the material for dark humor, especially in the second verse, in which the record boss gushes about the band before asking the oblivious question: “Which one’s Pink?” (This lyric was based in truth, as music label men had misunderstood and thought Pink Floyd was a man, not a band.) Although both Waters and David Gilmour attempted the lead vocal on this funky song, they eventually brought in folk singer Roy Harper, who dug his teeth into the portrayal of this scheming moron. The words are hollow. The greed is palpable. But that’s business, baby … or as Pink Floyd put it, “riding the gravy train.”