The Music Man "Ya Got Trouble"

Trouble with a capital “T”
And that rhymes with “P” and that stands for pool!

Friday, a friend put me on to a musical bit that I know by heart, but he gave me a fresh perspective on it. I had never seen it in a modern political context, in a cable news/talk radio context.

In one, short speech — building intensity as he goes — Professor Harold Hill gathers a crowd of onlookers and rattles off a litany of big city sins “the right kinda parents” worry about corrupting their children and their small town: sloth, drinking, gambling, being “stuck-up,” smoking, loose morals, and indecent pop culture. In a fevered crescendo, Hill warns parents of “shameless music • That’ll grab your son, your daughter • With the arms of a jungle animal instink!”


Harold is selling something. And in four minutes he creates a market for it out of thin air — among people he calls “as green as the money.” Moments earlier…

HAROLD HILL: Now, Marce, I need some ideas if I’m gonna get your town out of the serious trouble it’s in.

MARCELLUS: River City ain’t in any trouble.

HILL: We’re going to have to create some.

Hill presses every button the people of River City, Iowa have to press, plus appeals to patriotism and God to create a city-wide moral crisis that four minutes earlier the townspeople didn’t know they had. Sound familiar?

Now strike pool . Insert contraception , voter fraud , death panels , or a half dozen other right-wing bogey men and the grifter’s pitch works the same. Today, Harold Hill would be working for Fox News or Americans for Prosperity. He’d be running American Crossroads, and making a lot more money.

Eat your heart out, Karl Rove. Watch the video here. Lyrics here.

(Cross-posted from Scrutiny Hooligans.)

About the Author

Tom Sullivan

One Response to Ya Got Trouble — A fresh look at an old con

  1. infmom says:

    I wrote this quite a while ago but I thought you might enjoy it.

    Trouble in Ditto City

    Well, either you’re closing your eyes
    To a situation you do not wish to acknowledge
    Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
    By the presence of the liberals in your community.
    Well, ya got trouble, my friend
    Right here, I say trouble right here in Ditto City

    Why, sure, I’m a Limbaugh list’ner, certainly mighty proud
    I say I’m always mighty proud to say it
    I consider the hours I spend with the radio on are golden
    Help you ‘preciate straight talk and a cool head and a keen eye
    ‘Jever take and try to find a lick of sense
    When you’re hearing a sobbing Glenn Beck rant?

    But just as I say it takes judgement, brains and maturity
    To stick with the right-wing way
    I say that any boob can take and read a book by Al Franken
    And I call that sick
    The first big step on the road to the depths of degreda-

    I say, first – it’s wizards and witches at Hogwarts,
    Then Chrstopher Hitchens!
    And the next thing you know your kids are changing the channel to NPR
    And listenin’ to some big out-o’-town lib’ral
    Hearin’ him tell about education
    Not a wholesome Bible school, no
    But a place where they learn things right outta books!
    Like to hear some lib’ral teacher start reading from Karl Marx?
    Make your blood boil, well I should say

    Now, friends, let me show you what I mean
    You got one, two, three, four
    Five, six commenters on Fox News
    Anchors that see no difference between
    The liberals on the air, with a capital
    ‘L’ and that rhymes with ‘hell’ where liberals go!

    And all week long, your Ditto City youth’ll be
    Fritterin’ away, I say, your young men’ll be fritterin’
    Fritterin’ away their noontime, suppertime, choretime, too
    Think the best of Obama
    Never mind throwing teabags on the lawn or the taxes cut
    Or Al Franken pounded
    Never mind rooting for the right wing ’til your parents are caught
    With a Democrat on election day and that’s trouble

    Yes, ya got lots and lots o’ trouble
    I’m thinkin’ of the kids in the gangsta outfits, young ones
    Sneakin’ off to tune in MSNBC.
    Ya got liberals, folks, right here in River City
    With a capital ‘L’ and that rhymes with ‘hell’
    Where liberals go!

    Now I know all you folks are the right kind of people
    I’m gonna be perfectly frank
    Would you like to know what kind of conversation goes on
    While they’re spinning across the dial?
    They’ll be tryin’ out Rachel, tryin’ out Hardball
    Tryin’ out Olbermann like socialist fiends
    And braggin’ all about how they’re gonna
    Get their Fox News clips from HuffPost.
    One fine night they leave your rec room
    Headin’ for the Democrat rally
    Libertine men and scarlet women and hip-hop
    Shameless music that’ll drag your son, your daughter
    Into the arms of a jungle animal instinct massteria!
    Friends, the liberal brain is the devil’s playground, trouble!

    Oh, we got lberals
    Right here in Ditto City
    Right here in Ditto City
    With a capital ‘L’ and that rhymes with ‘hell’
    Where liberals go
    Where liberals go

    We surely got liberals
    We surely got liberals
    Right here in Ditto City
    Right here
    Gotta figure out a way to keep the young ones
    Moral after school – Our children’s children gonna have
    Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble…

    People of Ditto City
    Heed that warning before it’s too late
    Watch for the tell-tale signs of corruption
    The minute your son leaves the house
    Does he refasten his waistband below his butt?
    Is there a Dixie Chicks sign on his favorite t-shirt?
    U2 CD underneath the mattress?
    Is he starting to memorize jokes
    From Daily Show and Colbert?
    Are certain words creeping into his conversation?
    Words like… hope?
    And… ‘stimulus plan’?

    Well if so, my friends, ya got liberals
    Oh, we got liberals
    Right here in Ditto City
    Right here in Ditto City
    With a capital ‘L’ and that rhymes with Hell where liberals go

    We’ve surely got liberals
    We surely got liberals
    Right here in Ditto City
    Right here
    Remember John Birch, Billy Graham and Tail Gunner Joe!
    Our children’s children gonna have trouble

    Oho, we got liberals
    We’re in terrible, terrible trouble
    That place with the multicolored bird is the devil’s tool
    Devil’s tool

    Yes, we’ve got trouble, trouble, trouble
    Oh, yes, we got liberals, we got lots of liberals
    With a capital ‘L’
    And that rhymes with hell
    Where liberals go!

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