Adversity drives creativity like nothing else. Much of the best art, literature, and music in history has been created by tormented souls. People who experience tough times (such as the loss of a loved one, a bad breakup, or financial difficulty) create content which seems to channel an inner muse. Art created during periods of adversity often stands above anything the same people can write, paint, sculpt, sing, or create during times when they are comfortably content with life.
This week, I happened upon an article about a school district in Colorado that is eliminating Mondays. Their rationale is simple and it’s the same refrain as the four-day work week: let’s save money by fitting the academic schedule into just four days, attract and retain better employees, and cut down on peoples’ commutes.
I’m a big fan of the four-day work week (or zero day if we can figure out how to eliminate work weeks!). Friday is the normal casualty, but if they want to eliminate Mondays, they’ll have plenty of fans. The only people who don’t like it are working parents who have to find child care for an extra day. Understandable, but those same parents would be thrilled if they got an extra day off from their jobs also.
That got me thinking about a world without Mondays. If weekends are spent having fun and enjoying recreational activities with family and friends, Monday is a rude awakening. You are thrust, cold turkey, back into that work or school routine. Certainly, there are reasons to like Mondays for those who enjoy their working lives or routines. But if you took a poll, I’ll bet most people would love to eliminate Mondays. Give us a permanent three-day weekend.
1980s Nostalgia with Ready Player One
Since Ready Player One is a movie now, I’ve had a blast of 1980s nostalgia (yes, I lived through it…I’m old enough). I decided to spin myself a few 80s songs while I was writing something. Then I heard the first drumbeats and that catchy melody… Even before I heard Susanna Hoffs’ seductive voice bringing on Manic Monday, it hit me like WHAM! (an epiphany, not the band).
‘Twas then I realized that Monday was a big topic for songwriters, particularly in the 1980s. Quickly I rattled off a few and found some others online. Yes, people in the 1980s loved songs about Mondays. You had Duran Duran, Boomtown Rats, New Order, and the aforementioned Bangles. Their songs about Mondays were some of the most memorable of the decade.
Source: Ready Player One. Warner Brothers Pictures.
That’s the kind of epiphany that would point the Ready Player One hero towards a new key, but it leads me to a different conclusion. If the adversity of Mondays has spurred songwriters and bands to create some classic songs about Mondays, then wouldn’t we lose that creativity by eliminating Mondays as a work/school day?
Let’s take a look at some Mondays songs (with an emphasis on those from the 1980s) and then decide.
Bangles: Manic Monday (1986)
Manic Monday was written by Prince in 1984, but he gave it to the Bangles after hearing their debut album. Girls with guitars and incredible talent, the Bangles made Manic Monday into a top hit. Ironically, the song peaked at # 2 on the Billboard charts in the U.S. It was blocked from the # 1 spot by Kiss, a song by Prince and the Revolution. So even though he gave away what would become a mega-hit, Prince was never bested by Manic Monday. And the Bangles weren’t complaining; they also had a # 1 hit with Walk Like an Egyptian off the same album.
Manic Monday was more than a hit. For working adults or school-going kids, the song was a fun anthem of sorts for anyone struggling with Mondays. Girls thought it was cool. Cool guys couldn’t admit to liking a girl band, but plenty of them had a crush on the singer and secretly enjoyed the music. MM was part of the soundtrack of the 1980s.
Duran Duran: New Moon on Monday (1983)
Duran Duran was omnipresent in the 80s. Even before their 1990s renaissance, they were all that was cool when Music Television (MTV) launched. New Moon on Monday had lyrics that made little sense and a weird video to go along with it, so I won’t hold it up as an example of anti-Monday music. It wasn’t the band’s favorite either: “Even today, I cringe and leave the room” when anyone plays the video, one of the band’s members said later.
Boomtown Rats: I Don’t Like Mondays (1985 Live Aid Concert)
Bob Geldof, is that the grey-haired guy who limps around with U2 at all of those charity concerts? Yes, he has been a driving force behind a lot of benefit concerts. And in 1985, he didn’t look like an old guy. In fact, he was kind of a big deal back then, beginning with his band, the Boomtown Rats. They were not as popular in the U.S. as in the UK and Europe (where the band had multiple # 1 hits).
Let’s run through the checklist. Mullet, hairspray, tight dark jeans. Yup, 1980s. But it was a song that also had a deeper meaning. The title would tell you it’s a classic anti-Monday song. And many people interpreted it that way. In fact, it was written at least in part to address a school shooting in 1979; the shooter’s excuse had been that she didn’t like Mondays. So the words about the silicon chip inside her head and the Telex machine were written specifically to describe the occasion. “I Don’t Like Mondays” also became the name of a game show.
By the way, kudos to Geldof for all the work he has done throughout his career to raise money for charitable causes. The Live Aid and We Are the World concerts were an antidote to the greed of the 1980s. And as capitalism continued to leave people behind in the decades that followed, Geldof, U2, and others have not let people forget easily about the need to alleviate hunger, create relief for debt in the developing world, and more.
More recently, Geldof said that such concerts are no longer needed, since people can raise the money on social media instead.
New Order: Blue Monday (1983)
The single had an image of a 5 ¼ inch floppy drive on it; this was cutting edge stuff. Some people actually remember where they were in 1983 when they first heard this beat. Blue Monday was influential and it became the top-selling 12” single of all time. Despite the gloominess toward Mondays in the title, the synthesizer in the song was what people remembered most.
Source: Factory Records.
New wave synth-pop was not my favorite part of the 1980s, but it spread widely in the early part of that decade and led to the house beats that took off later that decade. Bands like Depeche Mode, the Human League, the Eurythmics, and many others grew quite popular adapting some form of this style. How is it that songs with Monday in the title did so well in that decade?
Let’s Not Forget Black Monday in 1987
In 1987, the stock market suffered its worst percentage decline in history. So-called Black Monday resulted in a drop of -22.6%. Yet another reason to dislike Mondays if you lived through the 1980s. Here is a short video on it.
Stormy Monday, which I’m co-opting for the 1980s because it was used in the movie of the same name (1988)
Since I wasn’t always happy with the direction the 80s took, I need to end with some great Monday music. Stormy Monday was not a 1980s song, but I’ll adopt it for the 80s because there was a movie by that name in 1988, and of course they played the title song in that film. Stormy Monday is as close to a perfect Blues song as you can get; it has everything. The mood, the lyrics, and the music simply epitomize the Blues genre in every way, not to mention the reality in the song's lyrics that the blues do not end with Monday. Call It Stormy Monday is a T-Bone Walker song from 1947, but everybody who is anybody in the Blues has covered it.
Source: Stormy Monday DVD from Arrow Video. Original film from Atlantic Entertainment (1988).
In the 1988 movie, they used the B.B. King version and he certainly did it justice. Ray Charles, Albert King, Etta James, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lou Rawls, and Eric Clapton are a few others who absolutely rocked that song in their own ways. Judging from YouTube, the Allman Brothers’ version may be the most popular and it is damned good also.
So before we get to the strictly 80s tunes, let’s begin properly with the Blues. Here is B.B. King (a decade later) giving a spirited rendition of the song they included in the 1988 movie. They called him the king for a reason. And for good measure, I'm following it here with the awesome Allman Brothers version from a 1980 concert.
Is Tuesday Just as Bad?
By now, if you were the hero in Ready Player One, you would have enough 1980s knowledge to find the Monday key. In the final analysis, I think the angst of Mondays has stimulated some creative work, in the 80s and beyond. Eliminating Mondays would endanger this creative flow, but that is not reason enough to reject a change that may improve peoples’ lives.
No, there is a better reason to resist the end of Mondays. With no Mondays, weekends would become three days and people would start hating on Tuesdays instead. Isn’t that what the lyrics from the song Stormy Monday suggest? “They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday’s just as bad.” (And the week in that song continues to get worse until Friday.)
There’s no cure for the blues at the beginning of the week. And the same quantity of work still needs to get done, whenever you choose to do it. Short of creating a 7-day weekend with no work at all, that early week angst is likely to continue on whatever day that week begins. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.
Top image is public domain.
And don't forget to pick up your slick, new Monday key on your way out. If you got this far, you've earned it.