"This Ain't No Picnic" is a song by influential punk/alternative band the Minutemen. It appears on their 1984 double album Double Nickels on the Dime, and was composed by their lead singer and guitarist D. Boon.
Boon composed the song after a dispute with the boss of an auto parts store where he was employed. According to Michael Azerrad
's book Our Band Could Be Your Life
, Boon wanted to put a Los Angeles-area jazz/soul station on the radio, but his boss prevented him from doing so, calling the station's playlist "nigger shit
". Boon was disgusted enough in his boss' attitude - as reflected in the lyric, "Hey mister, don't look down on me/For what I believe"
' - to want to quit the job on the spot, but he needed the income at the time. So, as Azerrad put it in Our Band Could Be Your Life
, "his frustration fueled a Minutemen classic." An early version of the song as heard on a live video shot in 1983
and released by Flipside
magazine has Boon mentioning his boss by name; Boon later changed the lyric prior to recording the song for Double Nickels...
"This Ain't No Picnic" was tapped to be the Minutemen's first ever music video, directed by Randall Jahnson and shot in black and white for $600. The "plot" has the Minutemen singing the song in a barren field that is about to be bombed by then-president Ronald Reagan (as seen in clips from a public domain war film he starred in). The video earned some airplay on MTV and was also featured on their first-ever MTV Video Music Awards show in 1985. The video is included as one of the DVD bonus features of We Jam Econo, a full-length Minutemen documentary.
A popular live favorite during the Minutemen's lifetime (it topped fan balloting when the Minutemen were planning a live album that became, after Boon's car-crash death, the live compilation album Ballot Result
), bassist and band co-leader Mike Watt
revived the song for live performance in 2003
at the instigation of his Secondmen
organist Pete Mazich
. It became a permanent part of Watt and the Secondmen's live set for their 2004