Then as now, the U.S. was experiencing high unemployment, and it was during those very real conditions that Gary U.S. Bonds released a new single, “Out Of Work,” in 1982. The singer-songwriter, who’d had hits with songs like “New Orleans” and “Quarter To Three” in the early ’60s, had mounted a successful comeback, creating two albums with the assistance of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
The second, On The Line, included “Out Of Work,” written by Springsteen and co-produced with E Street guitarist Steven Van Zandt. I bought the single after hearing it on the radio, but now listening back to “Out Of Work” for the first time in decades, I don’t have much of a defense for the purchase. I wasn’t even a Springsteen fan at the time. I guess I liked “Out Of Work” because it was fun to sing along with Bonds’ story, but in retrospect, the song paints a depressing picture. So not fun.
Most of America didn’t need Bonds’ reminder of unemployment lines and rising inflation, and “Out Of Work” stalled at #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 this time in 1982. Even a standard issue sax solo from Clarence Clemons can’t quite lift the spirits of the less than feel-good “Out Of Work.” The Big Man does little to mask the little man’s problems.