The theme song for the film noir, Kiss Me Deadly (1955), raises the question,” Is there a more painful torment than the blues?” While its composer, movie and TV journeyman Frank Devol, could never be mistaken for a Metaphysical Poet, with this song he was in more expansive and dangerous company than hitherto and henceforth, and thus he contributed to an enterprise with remarkable scope.
"The night is mighty chilly, and conversation seems pretty silly I feel so mean and wrought, I’d rather have the blues than what I’ve got. The room is dark and gloomy; you don’t know what you’re doing to me The web has got me caught; I’d rather have the blues than what I’ve got.
All night I walk the city, watching the people go by. I try to sing a little ditty, but all that comes out is a sigh. The street looks very frightening; the rain begins and then comes lightning It seems love’s gone to pot; I’d rather have the blues than what I’ve got.
All night I walk the city, watching the people go by. I try to sing a little ditty, but all that comes out is a sigh. The wind is blowing colder; it looks like love is stale and older. My luck don’t look so hot; I’d rather have the blues than what I’ve got."
Years later (c.1961) French New Wave cineasts Jacques Demy, Robert Bresson and Alain Robbe- Grillet felt compelled to incorporate that film’s malaise and promise into their work. Years after that (c.1980), novelist Paul Auster, also gave it a shot. Years after that (c.1986), choreographer Twyla Tharp, taking her cues from Auster’s In the Country of Last Things, took up the case of Christina, Velda and Mike in her ballet, In the Upper Room. Years after that (1993), filmmaker Mark Romanek, noting that musician Iggy Pop bore a strong resemblance to private investigator Sherlock Holmes, saturated his four-minute video for the song, "Beside You," in the loving anguish of Mike Hammer’s efforts on behalf of discovering the secrets of Pandora’s Box.
The architects of the 1955 film and all the subsequent participants in this sharing would maintain a policy of lips sealed about what they might have in mind by proceeding (again and again) with the lugubrious course of events comprising it. So what’s going on here? My brief study, Rather Have the Blues, as prelude to a more extensive book to be published in 2009, goes some distance in fleshing out the will-o’-the wisp history of that concern.