Worst. Song. Ever.

18 Jul

I deal in hyperbole, ostensibly, for a living, but in reality, for shits and giggles. You can call it my oeuvre my milieu or whatever other French word you can conjure (showoff!) that basically means “medium.” Because it is my chosen medium, you’re correct to assume I’m not serious when I say things like:

·         “It was so goddamned cold, I froze my ass off!” (nope, still attached)

·         “It is seriously hotter than balls out here!” (“Balls” is currently not a recognized measure of temperature, though the Kelvin scale is its closest analogue)

·         “Jesus loves me.” (Well, He thinks I’m kind of all right, but He wants to see other people)

However, when I describe, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” as the single worst song ever recorded in the history of everything, I assure you that I am not waxing hyperbolic. I have my good friend Science on my side. With the help of super-sciency, scientific Science, I’m going to explain myself.

Let’s begin with the obvious: it’s a country tune. Anyone who knows me well, has met me once or twice, or has shared a brief elevator ride with me knows that I loathe country music with the white-hot intensity of a 1000 suns gone supernova (again, not hyperbole). I’d rather stand on a bed of nails with Andre the Giant on my back and have a red-hot poker slowly inserted up my pee-hole while Liberace plays “Call Me Maybe” on a Casio, ‘80s-era keyboard than listen to country music. So yeah, I’m not a fan.

What vexes me most – what put this song on my radar in the first place – is the fact that they play it on Classic Rock radio. Nothing about this song rocks; it’s all fiddlin’ all the time. It’s even featured prominently in one of my all-time favorite bad movies, Urban Cowboy. In addition to having “cowboy” right there in the title, it’s a goddamned John Travolta movie about goddamned mechanical bull riding. Can you get more country than that? Sure, if your name is Colt Cash or Johnny America, but that’s about it. The song isn’t even that somehow-kind-of-works-for-me-on-certain-days genre mash-up, Southern Rock (see Skynyrd, Lynyrd; Special, .38; or Top, ZZ if you, for some reason, have never heard of it). Southern Rock is generally more rock than country and, ergo, does not totally suck balls. I’ve been forced to listen to this song for at least 25 years and it is nothing less than country-ass country music – can we agree on that? I see you nodding, hypothetical reader. Thanks for being agreeable this week. Still, I don’t feel that you share my hatred yet. Let’s see if I can change that with a breakdown of the lyrics.

“The devil went down to Georgia, he was looking for a soul to steal. 

 He was in a bind ‘cos he was way behind and he was willin’ to make a deal.”

Wow. Even the Devil himself has to deal with HR assholes and arbitrary quotas. Who knew? I wasn’t aware that the Devil could “fall behind.” I had always assumed that Satan was kind of the dictator of hell and made any and all decisions vis-à-vis the proper amount of souls needed for torment at any given time. It’s somewhat comforting to know that even the Prince of Darkness has a jerk-off of a boss to whom he must answer. He probably calls pre-meetings where they meet to discuss the shit that’s going to be discussed during the actual scheduled meeting too. I sympathize with you, Lord of Lies – bosses are dicks. Just sit in your cubicle and stare at the kitten poster you no doubt have posted to the wall that reads, “Hang in There!” It will be Friday soon enough.

“When he came across this young man sawin’ on a fiddle and playin’ it hot.

 And the devil jumped upon a hickory stump and said: ‘Boy let me tell you what:’

 ‘I guess you didn’t know it, but I’m a fiddle player too.’

 ‘And if you’d care to take a dare, I’ll make a bet with you.’

 ‘Now you play a pretty good fiddle, boy, but give the devil his due:’

 ‘I bet a fiddle of gold against your soul, ‘cos I think I’m better than you.’

 The boy said: ‘My name’s Johnny and it might be a sin,’

 ‘But I’ll take your bet, you’re gonna regret, ‘cos I’m the best that’s ever been.’”

Lots going on here. I have to say that based on this exchange, I’m on the Devil’s side here. Look at him in action: he talks to Johnny like an equal and offers him a gentleman’s bet – a fiddle competition. If Johnny wins, he gets a golden fiddle. If Lucifer emerges victorious, he gets Johnny’s soul. Now, the price of gold is at an all-time high, but this deal still seems a bit lopsided to me. Does Johnny see it? Does he take a moment to weigh the value of a golden fiddle versus his eternal life force? Nope. He takes maybe 1/8th of a second to consider the ramifications of his actions (“it might be a sin”) before saying, “HELL YEAH, SATAN!! I AM GOING TO LAY DOWN THE FIDDLE THUNDER ON YOUR ASS!!!” Come on, Johnny, you’re from the South. I know growing up you must’ve heard at minimum 18,000 cautionary tales about THIS VERY THING happening to you and none of them ended well. The devil doesn’t play fair. Ever. There’s always some ironic catch to deals like this. But, whatever – your soul, Johnny. Piss it away as you like.

“Johnny you rosin up your bow and play your fiddle hard.

 ‘Cos hells broke loose in Georgia and the devil deals the cards.

 And if you win you get this shiny fiddle made of gold.

 But if you lose, the devil gets your soul.”

Okay, this part of the song is 300% pointless. This is basically “catch-up” if the first verse was too full of twists and turns for you to follow. Now it’s restated so even the ultra-slow are on board. I don’t know about you, but every time I hear this verse, I picture thousands of listeners smacking their foreheads and yelling, “Oooooohhhhhhhhhh! I get it now!”

 “The devil opened up his case and he said: ‘I’ll start this show.’

 And fire flew from his fingertips as he rosined up his bow.

 And he pulled the bow across his strings and it made an evil hiss.

 Then a band of demons joined in and it sounded something like this:”

Uh-oh. Shit just got real. The Wicked One has just laid the smackdown on Johnny. This is the only part of the song that is even remotely cool. If you haven’t heard it, basically, it gets all bassy with some guitar shredding thrown in for good measure. There’s some fiddle, sure, but strangely, only a bit. Things took an odd turn in this devil vs. man fiddle competition.  But come on now, Johnny, what did you expect when you agreed to this contest without a second’s hesitation? The song really should end here with Johnny pissing himself in terror as he realizes what a mistake he made while his soul is earmarked for eternal torment. The listener learns a valuable lesson about not being a moron and we all move on better for the experience. That doesn’t happen. This does:

“When the devil finished, Johnny said: ‘Well you’re pretty good ol’ son.’

‘But sit down in that chair, right there, and let me show you how it’s done.’

Fire on the mountain, run boys, run.

The devil’s in the house of the risin’ sun.

Chicken in the bread pan, pickin’ out dough.

‘Granny, does your dog bite?’

‘No, child, no.’”

 What the hell is this shit? Not only is Johnny not afraid, he’s brimming with arrogance. For Johnny’s retort, the songwriters apparently threw their entire vocabulary’s worth of over 10 words into a hat, pulled them out one at a time, and wrote them down. That’s the only excuse I can come up with for that retarded nonsense above. How in the Christ is that better than what the Devil rolled out? The Devil eschewed lyrics in favor of bad-assery while Johnny just verbally ejaculated whatever dumb shit popped into his pea brain. To be fair, this was a fiddle competition and Johnny was the one competitor to play only the fiddle. So Johnny wins the Spirit of Competition Award, but we all know Beelzebub has this thing in the bag. Right?

“The devil bowed his head because he knew that he’d been beat.

 He laid that golden fiddle on the ground at Johnny’s feet.

 Johnny said: ‘Devil just come on back if you ever want to try again.’

 ‘cause I told you once, you son of a bitch, I’m the best there’s ever been.’”

 WHAT???? Let’s take a moment to consider something: do you realize who was judging this competition all along? THE DEVIL! The Devil himself was the sole arbiter and HE LOST! He challenges Johnny to a fiddle competition and before he can even announce terms that stack the deck in his favor, Johnny accepts. He handily defeats Johnny (which is a moot point anyway because, you know, THE DEVIL WAS THE JUDGE) and declares himself the loser! I never realized what an honest and fair dude the Devil is before hearing this song. I think he listened to Johnny play that awful stream of consciousness garbage on the fiddle and he felt sorry for him. The Devil took pity on Johnny – that’s how bad Johnny plays the fiddle. Taking Johnny’s soul at that point would’ve been tantamount to dropkicking baby ferrets. There is apparently some shit even the Devil won’t do.  

If the point of this song was to make the Devil out to be a sympathetic, benign, pretty cool guy and make Johnny look like an impetuous, stupid, arrogant prick, then mission accomplished. I mean read those last two lines of the last verse again. Johnny took a total shit when it was his turn to shred on the fiddle (oxymoron?) and he has the massive balls to not only revel in his awfulness, but to taunt Satan! How does he get pants over balls of that size? I begrudgingly respect and salute those balls.

In summary, here’s what the two principals exude in this song:

The Devil – dignity, class, good sportsmanship. Johnny – arrogance, douchebaggery, obnoxiousness.

And that is why The Devil Went Down to Georgia is the worst song ever recorded. Scientific facts have never lied.

2 Responses to “Worst. Song. Ever.”

  1. Michael Brennan October 18, 2012 at 1:43 am #

    I just rolled my eyes and quickly changed the channel, I mean, that song is just… well, you read the post. You know how I feel about it.


  1. Worst. Movie. Ever. | Rants & Anecdotes - July 2, 2018

    […] Mayan apocalypse (the Y2K of this decade), I wrote a 100% factual, completely objective post on the Worst. Song. Ever. This is the companion piece to that. Again, what follows is completely objective fact. No […]

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