Don’t Let The Bogeyman Make You Blue, from Assassins (Day 116)

Like yesterday’s song from Assassins, We Serve The Hoove, today’s song is a cheerful riff on the insidious effects of paranoia. Assassins included a character named Index, a researcher on a government contract whose assignment was to identify individuals from the population most likely to attempt to assassinate a President. In order to do this, she studies the profiles of past assassins to determine the traits that are most predictive of their potential to become assassins. She takes this job motivated by enthusiasm for challenging research, but eventually discovers that the “sponsor” of her research is in fact seeking a “fall guy” on whom they can use to blame a staged assassination, an “inside job.”

The character of Index was played by Susan Cash, a stalwart member of the Theater Express troupe for the two years I worked with the company. You can hear her on this clip in the recitative section of the song “They’re calling us crazy…” The lead vocalist in this number is J. L. Smith, and the track was recorded after the workshop production of Assassins at Theater Express in 1978.

Don’t let the bogeyman make you blue
Or let him hang a frown on you.
At any moment, you might be
The subject of their scrutiny,
But don’t let the bogeyman make you blue.

Don’t let the bogeyman make you doubt.
He’ll turn your reasoning inside out,
But you can keep a smiling face
If you pretend that it ain’t the case.
What’s all of the commotion about?

Don’t be depressed or tired.
This couldn’t all have been conspired.
So what if your telephone is wired?
There isn’t anything you can do.

Don’t let the bogeyman make you blue
Or let him hang a frown on you.
You read a book that purports to be
The final word on the mystery,
But who’s gonna guarantee that book is true?

They fabricate these facts for us to read them
And fancy that they help to fill a void.
The fact is that we only think we need them,
And what is worse, they make us paranoid.
We walk a tightrope made of their surmises
And never doubt the net that’s there to save us
And when they let us fall, the fact surprises us,
Because of all the clues they gave us.

They’re calling us crazy
As they call the shots.
Their logic is sinister
In each of their plots.
They know how to minister
To our need for coherence.

They’re out there! I hear them conspiring!
They’re out there! I see them confer!
In a secret place, the plans are laid.
It makes me feel a bit dismayed.
Don’t you find it terror-inspiring
Contemplating what could occur?
You know he has the master plan,
The booga-booga bogeyman!

We all are blind and what we see
In fact is just a fantasy.
Do you suppose that it might be
The work of the assassination industry?
No, no, no, don’t let the bogeyman make you blue.
If you feel paranoid, it’s your point of view!
When times are tense, remember this:
Ignorance is close to bliss,
And don’t let the bogeyman make you blue!

Assassins was a work that began as a kind of collage, a paste-up of materials from various sources, which is one way of explaining the abrupt shifts of musical styles in the songs. This particular tune veers from funk to madrigal to operatic recitative before reverting to funk. Elsewhere in Assassins you’ll hear singer-songwriter pop, Schoenbergian modernism, and jazz both low-down and sophisticated, not to mention the musical comedy pastiche of a number like We Serve The Hoove. This exuberant mingling of styles was something that gave me considerable delight as a young writer; listening to it now, it strikes me as a kind of defiant flaunting, a showing-off that I outgrew as I became increasingly absorbed by the challenge of writing material that suited the subject I was working on rather than material that displayed my zany musical polyglot tendencies.

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