Monday, 11 March 2019

The Making of Snow Plow Blues


Rude songs have been with us for centuries. They are nothing new. But how did the Snow Plow Blues come about? And why is it so blue?

Well, it all happened like this.

I was messing around on my guitar trying to come up with a way to make a 12 bar blues in E sound more interesting, and I found that if I twiddled my left pinkie around it sounded quite good. Changing the chords of E, A and B to flatter or sharper or minor or major or whatever the technical music term is, by just pressing my pinkie on different strings, it meant I could almost get a melody out of it while still playing the other strings in the main chords.

Then I had to come up with some lyrics. As it happened, a few flakes of snow were drifting down while I left the house, got in the car and drove up the hill to my English lesson which takes about 20 minutes, and apart from keeping my eyes on the road there's not much to stop me coming up with the lyrics of a song, which had to sound a bit like the first few notes of the guitar riff. Hence the rather lame flat lines:

Snow drifts down
To the ground

I then thought, well, it's a blues song, so it should be about a woman leaving a man, right? But what kind of man, and what's it got to do with snow? And the rest as they say is history, or at least, in the past. The original title of the song was “Lament of the Snow Plow Driver” but in my mind it was always the “Snow Plow Blues”.

It was interesting to me how a broken heart might affect a person's productivity, and if that person's productivity affected a whole town then that might – ahem – 'snowball', leaving the protagonist to get even more frustrated by the problems that he himself has created.

The drive up to my English Lesson (teaching not learning) was through a forest, which probably lead to the lines:

Every winter, forests die
Cold dead fingers scratch the sky

which in later verses I was hoping to change to:

scratch this guy

but in the end I just didn't have time to repeat the verse.

The next verse I wrote was:

Goodbye Christmas, See you New Year
All I want is another beer

which is supposed to symbolise the lack of enjoyment in winter festivals due to a broken heart.

The chorus, if you can call it that, I wanted to have words that ended in  '-tion' because I had a feeling that would give me plenty of rhymes to choose from (it does – there's hundreds) and a kind of 'one thing leads to another' feel.

No adoration equals no motivation,
no motivation means no remuneration.

And in the intervening lines I felt like telling a slightly different story, as if something else was going on at the same time. In the first chorus

In this town there is no place to go,
Because of all the f%^&n snow.

It seemed right/different/interesting to shuffle these two couplets together, although I'm unsure if this is clear for the listener.

As the song is supposed to be from a jilted American snowplow driver's point of view, I wanted to use appropriate (or rather - inappropriate) language. I also thought this would make it more amusing, because snow is usually idyllic and romantic, but as we found out from the Beast from the East last year, after a while it just becomes a pain in the ass. And I kind of wanted this bad language to escalate throughout the song, culminating in the lines:

All my extremities are turning to ice
And that's including my f%^^$n d*£k

Which is refreshingly politically incorrect, yet it cuts to the core of a jilted male lover's frustration. It's not just about a broken heart, it's also about a now defunct and unnecessary body part.

But I thought it would be funnier to do a near miss on the 'f*&^n  d^£k' line and slowly morph into an overly sentimental and romantic coda (or whatever it's called) with no drums and minimal guitar, to contrast the rest of the negativity in the song and again make the 12 bar sequence a bit different. The first one was originally:

Did I ever tell you, did I ever tell you, that I love you?
Did I never mention that I would never place another above you?

Just for fun, because I liked this one so much, I did it again off of 'salt':

All I ever wanted, all I ever wanted, was you to love me.

The only words I could think of to rhyme with wanted, were daunted and haunted. 

No need to look so daunted, this ol' house isn't haunted.
Apart from me.

Now I needed another verse with some slightly supernatural comedy undertones, because I had three choruses with escalating bad language, so the last one I put in was

The pipes are frozen, the heating is off
There's funny noises coming down from the loft

which could be because of ghosts or because of dodgy central heating. And it was all going a bit 'Sixth Sense' and I had to make a decision : did I want it to culminate like he's a ghost with a frozen penis, or a living snowplow driver with escalating bad language.

In the end I chose the escalating bad language, which meant the ghostly verse, chorus and coda had to go in the middle. I decided this change after already recording the song, and I felt like kicking myself, but then I realised I could just cut and paste the vocals in Garageband with minimal disruption! Ha ha!

The final problem I still had to wrestle with was that the song as it stands was too crude to play to my mother or my son (or most people, I thought). I hoped West Lothian Writers would help me tone it down a bit last night, but actually they seemed to like the song as it was!

The therapeutic rewards of writing, practicing, playing, recording and publishing a dirty blues song - even one that has been pretty much ignored by everyone - have been enormous and I would recommend it to anyone.

And without further ado, here it is :

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