“Hard Working Man” – Captain Beefheart / Ry Cooder / Jack Nitzche, from the film “Blue Collar” (1978) dir. Paul Schrader

The theme song from Paul Schrader’s mentally brutal 1978 working class thriller “Blue Collar.” One of the great forgotten films of the 1970s, with Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel, and Yaphet Kotto. As Kotto’s Smokey character famously asserts: “They pit the lifers against the new boys; the young against the old; the black against the white. Everything they do is to keep us in our place.”


5 thoughts on ““Hard Working Man” – Captain Beefheart / Ry Cooder / Jack Nitzche, from the film “Blue Collar” (1978) dir. Paul Schrader

  1. I recently did my top 10 movies of the 70s & Schrader’s “Taxi Driver” squeezed ahead of this great film. I loved “The Walker” (any film with Woody Harrelson in is automatically improved) & will have to find the John Holmes flick you put up earlier. So many talents worked on this movie, Pryor & Keitel hated each other, maybe it helped. It’s a pisser to see Pryor in such trashy comedies when you know he can do such good work.
    I went to see the Captain on the “Clear Spot” tour & have never been more excited about seeing a band. We sat for 3 hours before they decided the P.A. was too big for the college venue ! Some years later I finally got to see him & he was everything I had hoped.

  2. Re: “Blue Collar,” I agree that it’s a shame Pryor didn’t hold out for more serious roles. He was truly great in that film (as were Keitel and Kotto). However, to be fair to Pryor, African-American actors didn’t have the same opportunities back then as they do now. Also, as much as I love film, I think there’s a perception that film is the ultimate art and stand-up comedy is somewhat less of one. I completely disagree and I think, slowly but surely, stand-up is now being recognized as the art form it truly is. Pryor was, by and large, the greatest stand-up that ever was and in my mind, that doesn’t diminish his stature as an artist, even thought he didn’t always make the best choices as a film actor (i.e. “The Toy,” “Superman III”).

    Re: Schrader, his biopic was the Bob Crane one (“Auto Focus”), not the Holmes one (“Wonderland”), though both films are really terrific and underrated. Agree with you on “The Walker”. Harrelson is another terrific and underrated actor. I just picked up “Ramparts” cheap on Blu-Ray and can’t wait to see it.

    I really envy you for seeing Beefheart back in the day. I’m sure he was great.

  3. Ha…not the first time I have confused “Hogan’s Heroes” with 70s pornography. This time is less embarrassing ! I agree about Pryor’s standing as an artist, only Mr Hicks gets near him as a stand up. It’s just as you try & pass it on to another generation they know him from dross like “Brewster’s Millions”. My nephews love *Live & Smokin'” where he is young, high & making it up as he goes along.
    I try not to be the guy who thinks that the old stuff is better than this new stuff but it does seem that today’s U.S. stand-ups view live performance as a springboard to a sit-com or some kind of TV presence. If you can recommend anyone I should check for I will do so. In Britain we have Frankie Boyle who is almost too hot for TV & does not really care. His books can still shock someone as jaded as myself. Stewart Lee is funny too. He can overdo the navel-gazing about the process but 30 minutes on vomiting into the gaping anus of Christ is 30 minutes more than the others are doing.
    We were gonna have a “Ramparts” night recently but found a discounted copy of “Gentleman Broncos” before we got to the store…I’m a cheap date. James Ellroy is absolutely the man. I have been trying to order my thoughts on the trilogy but it always ends up as hagiography. I will see the movie before I get the Ellroy blog right I’m sure.

  4. If you like Bill Hicks, you may like Doug Stanhope, who is my current favorite stand-up. I would describe him as a cross between Hicks, Sam Kinison, and Robert Schimmel, but he’s actually better than that. I hesitate to post links to his stuff because even though I agree with a lot of what Stanhope says, he’s the only comedian that has actively made me cringe and go “Damn … did he really need to go there?” Trust me, I mean that as the highest compliment I can bestow on a stand-up. He makes Bill Hicks look like Sinbad. However, if you take away the shock of how blunt Stanhope is, he’s very similar to Hicks in terms of outlook. And while I love Hicks, some of the time, his “dark poet” persona seemed a little schticky. Not so with Stanhope. You really get the sense he is THAT guy off stage. Plus, he relates tales about his life that most people wouldn’t even tell their therapist. If you’re interested, there’s a lot of clips on YouTube of Stanhope. His TV special / album “No Refunds” is probably his best (followed by “Sicko”), but also his most extreme. If you can handle that, you can handle anything by him.

    If you’re a fan of Ellroy’s, I recommend John Gilmore. He’s mainly a non-fiction writer who has written what many consider the definitive non-fiction book about the Black Dahlia case (“Severed”). His autobiography “Laid Bare” about his years in New York and Hollywood trying to make it as an actor and later writer/director during the 1950s-1960s paints a very dark picture of show business and the famous people he knew and bumped into along the way. His anthology “LA Despair” is probably his best work, in my opinion, a 4-part book chronicling the true-crime stories of John Holmes, Spade Cooley, Barbara Payton, and Billy Cook. Very dark stuff, but also very compelling.

    Looking forward to reading your Lou Reed and Warren Zevon posts.

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