The Longest Song Wiki

An original Longest John's arrangement of two modern folks songs.

Mining For Gold is a variation on British Columbian folk singer Bill Lore's "Taku Miners" written about the Taku Polaris Gold mine in Alaska. James Gordon of Ontario, Canada is believed to have been the first to generalize the song as "Mining for Gold."

The Chemical Worker's Song, originally called "The ICI Song," was written in 1964 by Ron Angel of Cleveland, UK, one of the founding members and Organizer of the Stockton Folk Club. It was popularized by Great Big Sea on their album Up in 1995.

About the song, Ron once wrote:

"I worked in the huge ICI Chemical Plants in Teesside for 10 years (1956—66), in Terylene & Nylon Works at Wilton and making fertilizer and cyanide at Billingham. My father worked all his life at Billingham ICI, down the anhydrite mine and used to have nightmares about the dust killing him. He died at 62, a few months after being brought home sick from work. That was fifteen years ago and I still miss him. I don't know if dedications are corny or not, but if you allow them I'd like to dedicate this song to my dad, Billy Angel."

"The song was written about three years before I left ICI, through redundancy. I was experiencing ill—health and had applied to come off shift work, which I felt might be responsible; together with the fumes and excessive noise. On day work, in an office, I immediately improved. I hated every day I worked there and my redundancy, though it brought its own problems, felt like a release from prison."
Source: Sing Out! Magazine, Volume 29, Number 3 (1983), pages 52-53

Both songs deal with themes of the health and safety issues.

Factoids

Prior to the advent of modern health and safety protocols, mining was one of the most dangerous careers one could undertake. Leaving aside the risk of collapse and the back breaking manual labour, diseases of the lung were rampant resulting from the aerosolisation of minerals.

Silicosis and respiratory fibrosis were the two most common afflictions. One of the symptoms of respiratory fibrosis is "premature aging."

A slough is a spill of fragmentary rock that has fallen away from the sides of a borehole.

Oil bottles were carried by miners to serve as coolant for heavy drilling equipment.

The "lousy smell that smacks of hell" refers to Sulfur, both mined and used in the processing of minerals.

Spinners refers to the Nylon spinning machines, particular to the Wilton Site Nylon Works.

Lyrics

These lyrics are based on the version performed by the Longest Johns in their Livestreams and Youtube videos. See the original lyrics for Mining for Gold or the lyrics for Chemical Worker's Song.

{JD}
We are miners, hard rock miners,
To the shaft-house we must go,
oil bottles on our shoulders,
We are marching to the slough.

{JD, Andy}
On the line, boys, on the line, boys,
Drill your holes and stand in line,
'til the shift-boss comes and tells you
You must drill her out on top

{Chorus}
Can you feel the rock dust in your lungs
it'll cut down a miner when he is still young
Two years and the silicosis takes hold
and I feel like I'm dying from mining for gold
Yes, I feel like I'm dying for mining for gold

{Andy}
A process man am I and I'm telling you no lie.
I work and breathe among the fumes that trail across the sky,
There's thunder all around me and a poison in the air.
There's a lousy smell that smacks of hell, and dust all in me hair.

{Chorus}
And it's go, boys go,
they'll time your every breath.
And every day you're in this place,
you're two days nearer death,
but you go.

{Andy}
I've worked among the spinners and breathed in the oily smoke.
I've shoveled up the gypsum and it nigh-on makes you choke.
I've stood knee deep in cyanide, been sick with a caustic burn.
'been working rough and 'seen enough to make your stomach turn.

{Chorus}

There's overtime and bonus opportunities galore.
The young lads like their money, and they all come back for more.
but soon you're knocking on, and you look older than you should.
For every bob made on this job you pay with flesh and blood.

{Chorus til Finish}