Tyler, The Creator has been speaking about old jobs. He worked at Starbucks for two and a half years, and also spent a week and four days at Fedex, encountering “older dudes just pushing boxes, but ok with it, and it scared the living hell out of me.” Here are 28 other musicians who worked comparatively normal day jobs before becoming rich and famous.
Kurt Cobain – Janitor
Kurt was once asked to describe grunge from a janitorial perspective, “It’s a fine mixture of cleaning solvents, not to be used in the toilet. When I was a janitor I used to work with these guys Rocky and Bullwinkle. They’d clean the toilet bowls with their bare hands and then eat their lunch without washing their hands. They were very grungy.”
David Bowie – Butcher’s delivery boy
In the 60s when he was 13, David Bowie took a job as a butcher’s delivery boy to help pay for saxophone lessons with legendary sax player Ronnie Ross. Ronnie and David were reunited eleven years later when Ronnie played the solo saxophone part on Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On the Wild Side’, which was produced by David Bowie.
Noel Gallagher – Inspiral Carpets’ Roadie
“I was the best-dressed roadie in the history of music. I used to wear white jeans and never got them dirty. I was too quick for the dirt,” Noel said. He reckons without Oasis, he’d be a roadie now, “I would have been out there now in an ill-fitting black T-shirt with a tattoo and scruffy Converse trainers. Because that is what they all wear.”
Ozzy Osbourne – Abattoir
Before he became the prince of darkness, Ozzy Osbourne used to work in an abattoir. “I had to slice open the cow carcasses and get all the gunk out of their stomachs. I used to vomit every day; the smell was something else.” Nice.
Kele Okereke – Cinema attendant
Although ‘Silent Alarm’ was voted NME’s album of the year back in 2005, it wasn’t enough to pay Kele Okereke’s bills: the Bloc Party frontman sold popcorn and snacks at the Curzon cinema in Soho until the album was released.
Brandon Flowers – Bellboy
Brandon Flowers worked as a bellboy at the Gold Coast Casino in Las Vegas. A huge Morrissey fan, Brandon once went through a bag which belonged to Morrissey’s guitarist, Boz Boorer. “I shouldn’t have done it, and I still feel bad, but I went through one of them. I just wanted to see what Boz was listening to.”
Mick Jagger – Hospital porter
Jagger worked part time as a porter in Bexley Psychiatric Hospital when he was 18. An unlikely place for romance, legendary lothario Mick actually lost his virginity in the hospital to a nurse in a store cupboard.
Darlia – Toilet cleaners
Future Libertine supports Darlia weren’t always so lucky: they used to clean toilets for a living. David and Nathan describe themselves as “Chuckle Brothers” when they look back at their past job.
Colin Meloy of The Decemberists – Author
Winning the award for ‘hipster back up job’ of the year, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists is also a published author. Back in 2010, the frontman inked a three-book deal with HarperCollins for Wildwood Chronicles, a young adult adventure series set in Portland, Oregon. A perfect extension of his band’s folklore influence.
Debbie Harry – Playboy Bunny
In the early 70s Debbie Harry worked as a Playboy bunny at New York’s legendary Playboy club. Whilst she was there she developed a novel way of dealing with the dirty old men: “I fooled around with drugs and was consequently often half-asleep.”
Freddie Mercury – Market stall owner
Freddy Mercury owned and ran a stall in Kensington Market, which opened in the summer of ’69. Freddy sold his own artwork as well as second hand clothes. Helping him on the stall was Queen drummer Roger Taylor. Freddy kept up the running of the stall, even after Queen released their first album.
Jarvis Cocker – Fishmonger
A self-described ‘shrinking violet’ as a teen, Jarvis Cocker’s mum sent him off to work at a fishmonger’s in the hope that the “rough lads” who worked there would offer some character building. Jarvis’s main job was scrubbing the crabs.
Jay Z – Drug dealer
During the 80s, Jay worked as a drug dealer on the streets of New York selling crack cocaine. He said that selling drugs on the street helped him to succeed in later life, “I know about budgets. I was a drug dealer. To be in a drug deal, you need to know what you can spend, what you need to re-up.”
Rod Stewart – Gravedigger
Rod Stewart served a brief stint as a gravedigger at the Highgate Cemetery in London. Although, according to his autobiography, his main job was to mark out plots rather than actually dig the graves himself. He also worked in a funeral parlour in North Finchley.
Kanye West – Gap sales assistant
In his teens, Kanye West worked at Gap. He raps about his experience of working there on ‘Spaceship’. “Let’s go back, back to the Gap, Look at my check, wasn’t no scratch… Oh now they love Kanye, let’s put him all in the front of the store, Saw him on break next to the ‘No Smoking’ sign with a blunt and a Mall… So I quit, y’all welcome.”
Patti Smith – Toy factory worker
Patti Smith used to work in a toy factory, fixing boxes and testing toys. She didn’t seem to have had the best time there: “The stuff those women did to me in that factory was horrible. They’d gang up on me and stick my head in a toilet full of piss.”
Keith Richards – Ballboy
From the ages of 8 to 13 Keith Richards would watch his dad play tennis. Gradually, Keith got roped in to act as ball boy and eventually worked for a while at his local tennis club fetching balls for players at weekends.
Kelis – Bartender
Kelis worked as a bartender in the late 90s to help her through performing arts high school. Presumably the bar sold plenty of milkshakes.
Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker – Law clerk
Before Parker became a musician he was working as a law clerk in Perth, Australia. He actually wrote some of his first songs whilst bored and travelling around for work delivering court documents. When music began to take over and his work began to slack, he was threatened with being fired and quit instead.
Morrissey – Inland Revenue worker
Steven Morrissey worked briefly for the Inland Revenue. During this time he wrote many letters to the NME, with one particular letter ending in: “PS: I work for the Inland Revenue – am I still allowed to be a punk?”
Courtney Love – Stripper
Courtney Love used stripping to fund her music, and danced at Jumbo’s Clown Room in Hollywood. “Stripping funded my band. There was a lot of temptation in terms of drugs back then. I was like, OK, when I make a million dollars, then I’ll do all the drugs I want. Which I did, by the way.”
Tom Waits – Pizza house cook
In the mid ‘60s Tom Waits got a dishwashing job in Napoleone Pizza House in San Diego, and was promptly promoted to pizza cook. Waits penned ‘The Ghosts of Saturday Night (After Hours at Napoleone’s Pizza House)’ about his experience of working there.
Jack White – Upholsterer
After training as an apprentice, Jack White opened up his own upholstery shop in Detroit. The shop’s name was Third Man Upholstery and carried the slogan, “your furniture’s not dead.” Now, White owns a record label called Third Man Records, with the slogan “your turntable’s not dead.”
The Long Blondes – Librarians
Surely unsurprising for a band who liked to sport berets, thick-rimmed specs and brightly coloured cardigans, four out of five members of Sheffield indie-popsters The Long Blondes paid the bills as librarians in the early days of the band. Suddenly, all of their wordy lyrics make sense…
Ian Curtis – Civil servant
Destined to destroy his legacy as brooding vagabond forever, Joy Division biopic Control showed Ian Curtis clocking in as a civil servant in an unemployment office in between gigs.
Calvin Harris – Shelf-stacker
Calvin Harris could be found stacking shelf displays back in 2007, when he was working in the Dumfries branch of Marks & Spencer. His debut album was written and produced in his home studio between shifts.
Art Garfunkel – Maths teacher
Art Garfunkel of Simon & Garfunkel was working as a Maths teacher when ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ went to Number One. The record went on to sell over 3 million copies in the UK alone.