Sydney Steel

LYRICS

Sydney Steel – John Campbelljohn & Kenneth Larocque

They worked the boats and rowed the floats and some they worked the trains,
But they always had the molten metal, flowing through their veins
They lived for something different and needed something real,
They fond it on the back shift, buddy down at Sydney Steel

They beat ‘er ’til she’s dirt red & and pound her ’til she’s blue
And did that ’til the sun came up like nothing else to do
They rolled ‘er up and strapped ‘er tight and shipped her out the door
And hoped tomorrow she’s a bridge or maybe something more

The sparks are thick as fireflies, the molten metal glows
She’ll find a way to kiss you buddy, burnin’ through your clothes
You love the work, you hate the work, your back’s against the wheel
But I never dreamed they’d lock that gate, down at Sydney Steel

My Dad would get the call tonight, the power lines are down,
And mom was home praying , that he’d come home safe and sound,
Uncle Johnny smoked his pipe, his stories were surreal
But the open hearth was all he knew , down at Sydney Steel
The sparks are thick as fireflies, the molten metal glows

She’ll find a way to kiss you buddy, burnin’ through your clothes
You love the work, you hate the work, your back’s against the wheel
But I never dreamed they’d lock that gate, down at Sydney Steel, down at Sydney Steel

For 30 years, they paid their dues
And worked with all their pride
But when they finally got the news, some just sat and cried
but there was safety in numbers and solidarity
and Charlie MacKinnon led the chorus, “Save Our Industry.”

The sparks are thick as fireflies, the molten metal glows
She’ll find a way to kiss you buddy, burnin’ through your clothes
You love the work, you hate the work, your back’s against the wheel
But I never dreamed they’d lock that gate, down at Sydney Steel
Down at Sydney Steel

Yea they took it all away,

You love the work, you hate the work, your back’s against the wheel
You love the work, you hate the work, down at Sydney Steel

 

By John CampbellJohn & Kenneth Laroque

JOHN CAMPBELLJOHN – VOCALS AND GUITAR

About John CampbellJohn

Born 1955 in Sydney, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canadian singer/slide guitarist/songwriter John Campbelljohn is a multiple award winner.

During his career John has been featured on recordings and live shows that include names like Sting, Joni Mitchell, Emmy Lou Harris, Leonard Cohen, Joe Ely, Willie Nelson, Robben Ford & Alvin Lee (Ten Years After) as well as TV productions by Sony Music Entertainment. Rich vocals and distinctive prowess on the slide guitar has made him a favourite at music festivals in eastern Canada & Europe.

Rolling Stone Germany says, “The string magic of the front man fascinates!” Blues News Germany says, “What applied to Neil Young or Joni Mitchell in former times, now applies to John Campbelljohn.” Blues Revue USA deemed him a “guitar-god-in-the-making”. John has won or been nominated for countless music awards including Maple Blues Awards, East Coast Music Awards, Real Blues Awards, Music Nova Scotia Entertainer Of The Year, Blues Recording Of The Year & Musician Of The Year.

John is both thrilled and humbled to be added to the Jim Dunlop Artist page along side such greats as ZZ Top, Buddy Guy, Eddie Van Halen, Mick Taylor of The Rolling Stones & Ricky Skaggs, just to name a few. Jim Dunlop Guitar Products is the world’s largest distributor and manufacturer of guitar products and accessories.

John’s sophisticated and progressive approach to song writing gives him a distinctive edge, mixing rock, blues, reggae, celtic & country into his signature style. The result is a sound that can pummel the audience into submission one moment, while captivating them with its subtlety the next.

www.campbelljohn.ca

Resources

This is one of the more recent songs about the Sydney steel mill by a professional songwriter, blues musician and slide guitarist John Campbelljohn. John, although born and raised in Cape Breton, has a large following of fans in Europe, especially in Germany where he tours for a couple of months every year. John knows intimately the work of  the steelworker and makes mentions of  the kinds of work involved in the plant as he grew up in a steel making family. The song is full of references to the immediacy of working in a hot , dirty place where steel is made from the  combining of limestone, coke and iron ore.  He also makes reference to the  love/hate relationship that many workers feel when  working in a  steel plant. The  difficult work  helps pays the bills  but it is extremely hot and dangerous. He also makes mention of the surprise that many felt when the mill was slated for closing. Danger is part of the work. The song brings the  listener to a family’s personal experiences:   Dan is working late as the power lines are down.  His mother is home worrying about the  son who works at the plant. There’s a reference to  older steel workers who  worked  in a particular part of the plant, the Open Hearth. There are many sections of the Steel Plant: the Open Hearth,  the Rail Mill,  the bar mill,  the blooming mill, the billet mill, the finishing mill, the rod and nail  mill,  the Domtar plant, the Coke Ovens batteries, etc.  Each had its  particular work and unique dangers. Campbelljohn makes mention of  the closing of the plant; in fact, the closing of the plant inspired these two songs by professional songwriters. The closure was a devastating blow to the community and to the 700 steelworkers and their families who still relied on the plant for their liveliehood.  There’s also a mention of Charlie MacKinnon who wrote a song  that has become a working class anthem in Cape Breton, “ Let’s Save Our Industry”, composed in 1967 when the plant’s owner, Hawker Siddley, announced they were closing the plant . 

Campbelljohn’s song ends with  a refrain of :

“You love the work, you hate the work, your back’s against the wheel

You love the work, you hate the work, your back’s against the wheel

You love the work, you hate the work, your back’s against the wheel.”

 In many ways this song  is presented from a worker’s perspective who was moved to compose a song about such a momentous occasion—the last days of steelmaking in the city of Sydney, Nova Scotia.

An interview with John Campbelljohn, Oct 23rd 2015.
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