Slush
by Memphis Evans

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I. Origin

"Slush" didn't come from a dream, didn't come from any collaboration, didn't come from a bunch of writing or improvising that I didn't expect to be anything but then it suddenly turned good. It was extremely unusual in that I very intentionally sat down and attempted to write a song. It sounds weird, but I almost never do that. I almost always have an idea first. I remember it so clearly because it was so unusual. The memory also includes the brown leather couch (furnished apartment), notebook and nice pen, and my ancient gray seafaring chest with a broken lock as a coffee table. (not that furnished after all)

I don't really block off time and sit down and say "Today I am going to write a song!" beause there is really no need or demand for me to do that. But I did this time. My only idea was that the structure would be simple. I wanted to generate a single, neat chord progression that would repeat over and over. I had been noticing that my songs would be difficult for a beginner (or anyone, really) to play. I love Bob Dylan and I think one reason for his popularity as a songwriter is that almost anyone can play, for example, Knockin' On Heaven's Door. Very rarely does Bob use a bridge. (Although now that I say that, Just Like A Woman and the whole New Morning album come to mind as wonderful counterexamples.)

So I wanted a song that played the same chord progression over and over and was still really good and interesting; one that other people could play without too much difficulty. It worked! This is one of the few songs of mine that I've heard someone else cover. It was at a little Italian place where Justin was playing an acoustic solo show. It was a great honor and I really enjoyed it. If I remember correctly, he is to credit/blame for the musical "tag" at the end.

For that matter, he is the one who taught me what the term "tag" meant in music in general, along with so much else. St. Mary's (my "second college", his first) had a jazz program that I got secondhand from Justin. St. Olaf had literally one teacher who taught jazz and I caught on to this late and only had piano lessons with him for one semester.

Slush was the first thing I recorded when I switched to a digital recording platform and that became the first track on my first (and to date only) career spanning compilation cassette. I also recorded a drum machine/reverb driven version on the old cassette four track. I later taped an electric solo show version that I like a lot but that got me banned from the Tavern Lounge, even though I asked the room at large whether they wanted me to sing the clean version or the version with an f-bomb and they enthusiastically, loudly, and with great vulgarity advocated for the f-bomb version.

II. Subject

What is it about? A whole bunch of different things that were going on at the time, both in our culture and in my personal life. It was 1998, a somewhat turbulent and yet exciting and interesting year to be alive both culturally and personally. I'm grateful that I was there for all of it, even if it means I am older now in 2021.

It's about even more things than I had time for because, again unusually, I wrote more words than I used. There are two entire verses I took out because it felt complete and solid with only the four I left in. I hardly ever make giant cuts and/or overwrite like that. Even if I write too much, I generally leave it in!

Because it's about a whole bunch of different things, I called it Slush, meaning a mixture of snow, sleet, rain, dirt, rocks, and water.

I remember someone (maybe Justin?) advocated for a title change to "You're My Favorite Place To Go" when we recorded it for the Urban Rust CD Leave This Place and that would make more sense and be more accessible but I just couldn't do it at the time for some reason. Maybe because I wanted more attention on the verses than the chorus. Or maybe that's post-hoc reasoning.

III. Re-arrangement

This song has stayed with me through many different live formats:
Full rock band with Urban Rust (The Fine Line and multiple other bars)
Fingerpicking quiet electric guitar solo act (Tavern Lounge)
Electric version with Contraption (also mostly Tavern Lounge)
Two guitar actoustic version with Great Uncle Helmer (multiple coffe/sandwich shops and town squares)
Acoustic guitar with flute soloist (Honey in Northeast Mpls. opening for Vonnie Kyle)

For this livestream I was thinking I would do nylon string acoustic fingerpicked. I started tuning the guitar using octaves and fifths, like I learned from Craig Wasner, who worked with Karl and I to produce old man will travel. I started picking a little figure around a minor, thinking how much life there is in that chord. (Sound of Silence, for example.) I thought "I should record this figure real quick before I do Slush and use it for something later."

Then the light bulb went off and I just used the figure for Slush itself. The figure does not have a third, so what I was thinking of as a minor became A Major instead. Despite my original intentions for Slush when I wrote it, the chord progression has my usual detailed bassline, inversions, and short time passing chords. I left most of that out. I sang most of the verse over just that repeating figure around the Asus2. It was easier on my voice than singing it in C and also it was fun to try something new!

IV. Coda

Often when Paul McCartney finishes playing a song in the studio, he starts improvising some other thing just for fun. ("You Want Her Too" from Flowers in the Dirt has a rather elaborate example of this) With the beautiful combinations of acoustic and electric guitars and synths that he used in Wings (Venus and Mars!) already serving as an inspiration on these livestream EPs, I thought I'd try that extra coda thing myself and so started goofing around on the synths after the song was over. It went great!

There is a troll strategy on the internet in which people create and share images of actors in a movie saying a line that includes the title of that movie. No such line was in the movie and people go nuts searching for it. The example I saw was a still from Pulp Fiction with Samuel L. Jackson supposedly saying "This is some pulp fiction!" Never happened, but the very idea drives some people insane and other people are amused by that. At the very end of my little extra McCartney jam here I say "Look at all this slush!" It cracked me up so I left it in.

Lyrics:

It's a simple thing
It's not that hard to understand
You be the king
I'll be the power to rule the land
We'll join together, take control
Take apart the gallows pole
Burn the parts and bury the whole
And send them down the gutter

In a million years
We'll want our names to still be known
So pack up your fears
We'll kill until our fame has grown
We'll tell the world a tasty lie
Flags and banners marching by
All beneath my watchful eye we'll
Send them into battle

Heard it once, I heard it a thousand times
For her and I, it's just not so
When even a friend can tell a thousand lies
You're my favorite place to go

It's a heavy burden
I wouldn't want you to take it alone
But I'm uncertain
How can I help you to carry it home?
I'll watch you walk and should you fall
See if I can help at all
Hang me on the wailing wall
and send me down the road

Heard it once, I heard it a thousand times
For her and I, it's not that way
When even a friend can tell a thousand lies
You're my favorite place to stay

No versatility
Of all these things, we'll just need one
You be ability
I'll be the means to get things done
We'll shoot a movie of the wall
Show it at the critics ball
If they don't get it, fuck them all
We'll send them crashing through it

Heard it once, I heard it a thousand times
For her and I, it's just not so, no
When even a friend can tell a thousand lies
You're my favorite place to
You got my favorite face, too
You're my favorite place to go

Next song: Child's Hallucination

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