Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: A Listener Comment, Vol. 1

Why are the lefties of the world often ironically challenged? At times it seems their sense of humor is as lost as the missing Nixon tapes. Now let’s get this out in the open right off, I, personally, fall on the left side of the middle. Somewhere in that great tire of fat that surrounds America’s meaty political belly. There are a lot of us here. Some lefties, some righties and all more or less trying to get along in an otherwise fill-in-your-deity-of-choice-or-more-preferrably-don’t-bother forsaken world. I know this is true, because of how often and indiscriminately we vote out one crappy party in favor of the other crappy party. If we have no choice we might as well keep them guessing.

Today (Jan. 21st, 2010 for the archivist), on The Outskirts I programmed about half the show with Devilish songs. That is, songs about Old Scratch. A few weeks ago, the Rev. Pat Robertson made an outlandish claim that the Haitians were responsible for their own earthquake due to a late 18th century pact with Mephistopheles himself, and basically, I felt the need to comment, by showing how many songs, pacts and whatnot have been made on our very own soil. We’re not immune from  God’s wrath ourselves though and you can read about it here: http://www.theonion.com/content/infograph/gods_wrath_according_to_pat

One of the great devilish songs that had made my shortlise was “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”. It was written in 1932 by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. The two men were quite extraordinary and also penned together, “Get Happy”, “Let’s Fall In Love”, “I’ve Got the World On A String” and “Stormy Weather”. Arlen also wrote “Over the Rainbow”, “If I Only Had A Brain”, and “Lydia the Tatooed Lady” with E.Y. Harburg, and with Johnny Mercer “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive, “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home”, “That Old Black Magic”, “Come Rain or Come Shine”, and “One For My Baby (And One More For the Road). Hello great American songbook. Cab Calloway was the first person to record the song and has been covered by Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme…

Harold Arlen

The title comes from a nautical term referring to “The Devil” which dogs saltier than I (Gary Martin) tell me is “the seam between the deck planking and the topmost plank of the ship’s side”. Quite obviously a ship is a better ship when this seam is watertight and from time to time some unlucky bluejacket would be dangled over the side to squeeze on a re-seal. Hence being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. A rock and a hard place.

Every Thursday at noon on KBCS in Seattle I begin The Outskirts by doing a bit segment of various sound bytes squished in between the sound of a tuning radio signal. Get it? We’re heading to the outskirts. Ah, yes, hi-larious and wildly inventive. Sometimes, when feeling particularly inspired I even rip things straight from the headlines. Today, I used a clip of the Rev. Pat telling his foxy co-host the how and the why the Haitian people have brought so much calamity upon themselves (see above). That was tuned into one of the juicy bits from Jonathan Edward’s “Sinners In The Hands of an Angry God” which in turn tuned to Bob Dylan reciting various names of the devil which tuned into Twyla Tharp’s lesson on the expulsion of devils from one’s home which inevitable finished with The Charlie Daniels Band sawing away at “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”.  The show then veered off into sulfuric sounds by The Grateful Dead, Blind Boys of Alabama, Robert Johnson, and Roy Orbison to name a few. Sometime, shortly after the opening segment though I received a phone call into the air room and after saying “Hello, KBCS” was asked “Do you think the Devil is on the side of the slaves or the slave holders?” Now, what this had to do with anything I had no clue, but after close to a decade on the radio I have steeled myself for the occasional irritant. Frankly, I assumed I had offended some fringe zealot who more likely than not had accidentally found my show and was ready to list for my betterment my sins. It was, as it turned out, a member of the lunatic fringe. She did list my sins. I was mistaken on which side she was from. My assumptive apologies, at least for now, to the lunatic right wing fringe.

Now, from my line of thinking these two sides aren’t that different really. One’s Saul, the other is Paul. Same guy, same means, different end, sort of. The caller went on pushing me to answer her question and demanded to know why I was avoiding it. When I responded that I couldn’t answer the question, she pounced knowingly. Some right winger had gained access to Her radio station and was promoting Pat Robertson’s agenda on the mid day Americana show. Got me copper. Over the years, I’ve really worked hard on not yelling at the idiots of the world. Pissing in the wind as it were. So, I took a breath, exhaled and explained that I couldn’t answer because really 1. her question made no sense to anything I had said or done on the program and 2. I didn’t believe in the Devil, and 3. I didn’t really understand what she was talking about. However, I’m game, so I added that if, in fact, I did believe in the Devil, and her weird question was actually grounded in something I had reference too I would readily admit that the Devil is indeed on the side of the slave holders. Finally being in agreement on this major sticking point we proceeded cautiously.  Two people, with a relatively similar point of view arguing is about as dumb as a conversation can get. I suppose it could be a handy definition of crazy. Here’s the thing though, it’s not about politics or religion, it’s about humor and the lack thereof. It’s about seeing the world through a Marxist prism.  Groucho that is.

Who was this person. A casual listener? Surely, someone could not have tuned in to the better part of a decade and been surprised by what was played. A casual listener with the phone number? A casual listener so completely and immediately offended that she looked it up in furious frustration? I suppose I should simply file this away as Stuff White People Like No. 101 (http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/05/28/101-being-offended/) and move on, but am I too….to let it go?

Aww, keep ’em coming you crazy kids! Coming soon, a criticism from another listener that I actually took to heart! Not enough? It also is about Elvis and Mickey Newbury and the greatest song ever assembled! Sweet.

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About Iaan Hughes

Iaan Hughes is a deejay on 91.3 KBCS in Seattle. He plays country & western music.
This entry was posted in Music, Politics, Pop, Radio and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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