Gather ’round the campfire, children, and I’ll tell you a right proper tale of terror before I send you off to bed.
The year was 1992. President George Bush (no, children, the clown’s father. I know) had told us all, “Read my lips: no new taxes.” But what he meant was, “Read my lips: I just realized that cutting spending and raising taxes, though politically unpopular, is probably not a bad way to reduce the deficit my predecessor ran up in his protracted pecker contest with the Russians.” Bush would go on to lose his bid for re-election to a chubby-chasing Rhodes Scholar who would go on to be impeached for lying about a blowjob.
What’s that? No, the Rhodes Scholar didn’t torture anyone. No, he didn’t lie to get us involved in any wars. He just… I know, but listen: it’s just the blowjob thing. He lied about it and some guys thought he shouldn’t be president anymore. I know that’s fucked up. Watch your mouth.
But the story I have to tell you, children, it’s not about anything so mundane as politics. It is my intention to chill your bones with the 100% true story of Billy Ray Cyrus and his “Achy Breaky Heart.”
Back in the early ’90s, Billy Ray was just another hick from Flatwoods, Kentucky, hoping to ride his astonishing mullet to any kind of fame and fortune he could find. He went to Los Angeles, where they called him “too country.” So he and his mullet hitchhiked back to Nashville, where they called him “too rock ‘n’ roll.” They were just fucking with him in Nashville, but the line succeeded in its goal: trying to keep Billy Ray Cyrus from becoming a household name. Rejected by two of the biggest cities in music (in their own estimation. By my reckoning, the early 1990s belonged to Olympia, Washington), our be-mulleted southpaw had only one option left:
Billy Ray Cyrus went down to the crossroads.
Most musicians know that you go to the crossroads to make a deal with the devil in exchange for mad skills. Billy Ray didn’t know that; he was just lost, trying to find a 7-Eleven where he could purchase a 64-ounce NASCAR mug. Maybe he was looking for a Circle K. In any event, the Devil was most certainly there and he most certainly approached Billy Ray Cyrus.
Looking over Billy Ray, Satan could not help but remark, “60 years ago, I met Robert Johnson. You, sir, are no Robert Johnson.”
Billy Ray was confused. “Who’s Robert Johnson?”
It was all the Devil could do to keep from disemboweling Billy Ray right then and there. Swallowing a hatred that could ruin nations, Lucifer asked, “What is it you seek, traveler?”
Billy Ray didn’t hesitate. “I was lookin’ for a 7-Eleven where I could git one of them big ol’ NASCAR soda cups.” He paused. “Or am I thinkin’ of Circle K?”
Satan realized he was going to have to speak very slowly to this one. “Is that all you want, Billy Ray? For your whole life?”
Billy Ray was amazed. “Hey! You know my name, man! You must know where I can git one of them cups.”
“Forget the fucking NASCAR mug!” exclaimed Satan. “You’re trying my patience. Do you wish to be famous, Billy Ray Cyrus? Do you want to wade neck-deep in the carnal embrace of a sea of middle-aged white women with the worst possible taste in hairstyles? I can make that happen for you.”
Billy Ray thought long and hard. “Shoot, mister,” he said. “I’m not sure what a carnival embrace is. Is that like when you kiss yer sweetheart on the Ferris Wheel?”
“Sure. Yes,” said Satan. He made a note to tell God at their next lunch date that people like Billy Ray Cyrus are enough to turn angels into atheists.
By some miracle, it finally dawned on Billy Ray. “Wait,” he said. “You mean you can make me famous?”
“I can,” replied the Lord of All Evil. “It is within my power to make even you rich and famous beyond your wildest dreams and far – far – beyond the bounds of human decency. What say you?”
“What do I have to do?” asked Billy Ray, running a hand through the roadkill that he called a haircut.
“I have a man in the music industry,” replied Satan. “His name is Don Von Tress. He has written a song just for you. It will make women – mostly the aforementioned white women – love you and men fear you. It will give you everything you desire.”
“Gosh,” said Billy Ray. “That’s awfully kind of you. What’s in it fer you, anyway?”
Satan smiled deviously. “Well, I will get your soul when you die…”
Billy Ray interrupted him. “Wait… are you an angel?”
The Devil has no need for honesty. “I sure am,” he said as kindly as he could.
“So this song…it’s gonna save my soul?”
“Why not?” asked Satan. “Angels can do anything, can’t they?”
“Yeah!” shouted Billy Ray. “I better go find this Don Bon Jovi guy and learn that there song. I can’t wait to get some of those carnival embraces.”
Billy Ray dashed off to fame and fortune, his mullet billowing behind him in the wind. The Devil looked up and shook his head. And he quipped unto the Lord, “You sure don’t make ’em like you used to. Intelligent Design, my ass.”
And so Billy Ray Cyrus met Don Von Tress and recorded “Achy Breaky Heart,” a song so awful that entire continents were rent in twain by the force of the line-dancing craze that it inspired —
What’s line dancing, you ask? It’s a crazy form of mating ritual that was popular among white trash in the early 1990s. Now stop interrupting and get Dad another beer.
Where was I?
Yeah. So shit got real bad after “Achy Breaky Heart” dropped. War broke out in Bosnia. Isaac Asimov died within a month of the song’s release. But that’s nothing. More than 200 people died in Guadalajara, Mexico, when their sewers exploded (No, children, I am not making this up). The “official” cause of the explosion was a fuel leak into the sewers, but the truth is that the sheer volcanic force of “Achy Breaky Heart” rained shit and death upon unsuspecting foreigners.
Clearly, something had to be done. And I guess this story comes back to politics after all. In order to stop the devastation wrought by “Achy Breaky Heart,” President Bill Clinton took his own trip down to the crossroads shortly after his election in November of 1992.
“Bill!” shouted the Devil. “How’s it hangin’?”
The President-elect replied, “Satan, we gotta talk. We’ve been friends now for a long time, right?”
Satan nodded. “Ever since you lied your way out of Hell in the tenth grade, Billy. I gotta admire that kind of chutzpah.”
“Yeah, okay,” said Bill Clinton. “But you’ve gone too far this time, Satan. I know you’re behind this ‘Achy Breaky’ thing. What were you thinking?”
Satan shook his head. “Bill, I thought I could control it. I had no idea… I think the song is actually more evil than I am. Ever since it came out, I’ve felt… empty.”
Clinton gave his old friend a conciliatory pat on the shoulder. “Can we stop it?”
Lucifer pondered this. “Maybe. Listen: I’ve got a deal in the works with Newt Gingrich. Are you willing to take a beating in the midterms?”
Clinton, ever the shrewd politico, figured he could afford some losses in the ’94 Congressional elections. “Sure,” he said.
Satan said, “Okay. Gingrich is gonna be Speaker of the House and he and his guys are gonna try to ruin all the fun for everyone.”
Clinton’s ears perked up at this. “I still get the blowjobs, right?”
“Sure,” said Satan. “But you might have to face impeachment for it.”
“Fine,” said William Jefferson Clinton. “Anything. Just make this fucking ‘Achy Breaky’ song go away.”
And so Satan, in perhaps the one good deed of his entire life, set about helping the people forget about Billy Ray Cyrus and his stupid achy breaky bullshit. Sure enough, the Democrats got walloped in the midterms and Bill Clinton got his blowjobs. He wasn’t successfully impeached and – more importantly – his willingness to be caught in an extremely uncomfortable lie saved us all from “Achy Breaky Heart.”
By that time, however, Billy Ray Cyrus had become slightly savvy about show business. As soon as the world forgot about him, he began plotting his diabolical return. The first step in his plan? Sell his daughter as a slave to the good people at Walt Disney Entertainment. That tale of terror will have to wait for another time though.
Now off to bed with you. And pay no attention to the sounds you hear coming from Mommy and Daddy’s tent.