"Hey Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a Deal"
They Might Be Giants
Purple Toupee EP (1988), Miscellaneous T (1991), Then (1997), and Dial-A-Song (2003) (2C!s)

I could never sleep my way to the top
'Cause my alarm clock always wakes me right up
And since my options had been whittled away
I struck a bargain with my radio DJ
I said I'd like this song to be number one
He said "I'd really really like to help you my son"
And then I knew that I would have him to thank
Because he asked me how much I had in the bank

He said to think long term investment and
That all the others had forgiven themselves
He said the net reward would justify
The colossal mess they'd made of their lives

He said the record wouldn't have to be hot
And no one ever seemed to care if it's not
It would depend on something else that I've got
And that the other ones who'd given it a shot
Had seen a modest sum grow geometrically
And then they had forgiven themselves
Because the net reward had justified
The colossal mess they'd made of their lives

Hey Mr. DJ, I thought you said we had a deal!
I thought you said, "You scratch my back
and I'll scratch your record"
And I thought you said we had a deal!

Well, I told you about the world (its address)
I wonder when they're gonna clean up the mess
You know the rabid child is still tuning in
Chess piece face's patience must be wearing thin
Because they haven't played this song on the air
Not that anyone but me even cared
And the Disk Jockey has moved out of town
The district courthouse says he's nowhere to be found.

He said to think long term investment and
That all the others had forgiven themselves
He said the net reward would justify
The colossal mess they'd made of their lives--
Hey Mr. DJ, I thought you said we had a deal!
I thought you said, "You scratch my back
and I'll scratch your record"
And I thought you said we had a deal!

Imagine being Faust, but not even getting anything in return. Imagine playing the game, only to never get anywhere, and realize that you've been scammed.

The song was originally called "Sleeping My Way To the Top" and was to be performed with the Johns laying in hammocks on stage. Great image, physically impractical.

Aside from the obvious meaning of the song, it adds the nice touch of self-reference, something which was often seen in the later Beatles' songs, particulary on "Glass Onion". "Chess piece face" is a character from two of their early songs, "Rabid Child" (also mentioned in this song) and "Chess piece face". "The World's Address" is another song, this time from Lincoln.

Well, They don't get much airplay, but they're in good shape.


I told you the story before--about laying on my bed, headphones on, twisting the dial, signals from space, trying to find something that would alleviate boredom, alleviate loneliness. To tune into a DJ that knew what they were doing, that pulled out the forgotten, the absurd, the brilliant--whatever--to hear a dj do that, to be let into a little society of knowledge... That was beautiful.

I used to want to be a DJ. I'd watched WKRP in Cincinnati as a kid, and thought it the coolest thing in the world to just sit playing music all day. In college, I joined their station, sometimes having two shows a semester because I couldn't keep away from just sitting and playing records all day. We'd get lists from the College Music Journal, telling us to play the top ten; I'd either forget, or ignore the list if I didn't like it. Didn't see the point. My show was eclectic--not necessarily rock, I'd throw in jazz, rap, blues, country, folk, novelty records. Didn't matter. I was happy.

But man, I couldn't be one today. Maybe I'm naive, maybe I'm crazy, but I miss the days when I would sit in front of the board and just play records because I thought people might get something out of them. No--now it's playlists, pay-to-play. The payola scandals are now business as usual, though I guess it probably never went away. I twist the dials, but I don't hear anything I like. Pop crap that I can't stand. Maybe I'm getting old.

Hey, Mr. DJ--you broke my heart.

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