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THE SLUMP
Notes on Song writing

Chords with Lyric
AUDIO/LYRIC
The ball is in the air and the count is holding three and two
The batters in the box and he donít know what heís going to do
The ball is in the air and it may be curving high and wide
When the batters in The Slump, itís impossible for him to decide

Before this ever happened heíd drive a ball to Timbuktu
One more strike and the batter is out, heís all but through
Iím going to have my final say. Iím going to swing away, make the big play
Hereís one for the girl in aisle two, the one whose eyes are glued on you
Iím on my way back

The ball is in the air and it may be sinking low and away
When the batters in The Slump itís impossible for him to say

His confidence was shattered, his innocence a shady bribe
The batters at the plate, he canít seem to take it all in stride
Iím going to live to tell it all, keep my eye on the ball, and go for it all
Hereís on for the girl in aisle two, Iím stealing home on you
Iím on my way home

The ball is in the air and the count is holding three and two
The batters in the box and he donít know what heís going to do

With runners on the corner and this game more or less on the line
The batters in the box, he canít seem to make up his mind
Iím going to have my final say, like the good old day ‘Say Hey’
And when this inning comes to an end, I rise up again
From The Slump


NOTES ON SONG WRITING Back to top ^

In September 1979, I was in my little cubicle of an apartment on the West Side of Buffalo NY, listening on the radio, to a football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins, while playing my guitar. It was in fact, one of the last games in this decade between these two teams. The final moments of the game came down to a field goal kick by Buffaloís club footed kicker, Tom Demsey. If he made the field goal, Buffalo would break the strangle hold Miami had on the Bills. It meant, if this field goal was good, Buffalo would not go zero for the 1970's against the Dolphins.

As the teams were lining up for this fateful encounter, I had an imaginary 'twilight zone' moment. I saw the ball sailing through the air and freeze frame halfway to its destination. In the kickerís mind, is the weight of all his doubts throughout his entire life. He thinks...is this slump for real? Can I break out of it NOW? Or is it the end of a career? Will this be a tragic finale where a once-in-a-lifetime chance at sports immortality is blown wide right? Can the kicker avoid a conclusion, a reality, and just have the ball never arrive? Can he live an entire life within a frozen piece of time?

I heard The Buffalo Bill's radio voice Van Miller announce...ĎThereís the put down, the kick is up, itís in the air...itís long enough itís...itísÖ itís... ' And there it was. Stuck in time. A song was born. I wrote down the lyric, ĎThe ball is in the airí and a few other phrases and started playing a blues shuffle feel on the guitar.

This ultimately unsuccessful moment was, of course, more than 10 years before a missed field goal by Scott Norwood ended the Billsí first Super Bowl effort. But in 1979, this was as close to the Big Dance as the Bills were ever going to get. Just beat the Dolphins. Just once in this stinking DECADE, and I will be happy. Thatís all I asked.

I set the very rough song idea aside and came back to it, on and off, for a long time, never really warming to the unsentimental confines of a football game or a three chord blues shuffle.

Time passed, and the tweaking continued, but not really making any headway every time I took a look at my song notes on 'The Slump'

Then Robert Redford and his Hollywood production crew came to town a couple of years later and the movie The Natural was filmed right here in Buffalo. It then dawned on me to change the setting of this song from football to baseball. All of a sudden, I found the romance the lyric needed. This became a Roy Hobbís moment, and lyrically the song started almost writing itself. I liberally used baseball phrases like Ďlow and awayí, Ďhigh and wideí, Ďrunners on the cornerí and common older phrases like Ďdrive a ball to Timbuktuí, Ďmake the big playí, and so forth. The song finally had a sense of place and time, and the metaphor became clear.

Although Roy Hobbs was not in a typical 'slump' (he had a bullet wound in his stomach ) the idea of rising to the greatest moment of your life by busting out of a seemingly hopeless situation was born. This ball was not going to be stuck in the air forever. I moved on from the world of missed field goals, and into the fireworks that showered Buffalo's War Memorial Stadium after Mr. Hobbs smacked the ball out of the park and into the stadium's light fixtures.

Another little odd coincidence happened while the movie was being shot; I was giving guitar lessons to Bob Rich III, who starred in the movie as Roy Hobb's son. Bob's character seemingly was the inspiration Roy Hobbs needed to belt the ball out of the Park in the movie's final scene. Just a coincidence, but an idea that drew me closer to the lyric and feel of the song.

It took me a long time after that to finish writing the music. I guess I had to evolve to a point where my musical competence would let me find all those Jazzy chord changes and rhythm.

The Natural, The New York Knights, Buffalo's Offerman Stadium and 'The Rock Pile'...even sand lot games and little league games in Cazenovia and Hillary Park as a youth....these are the old baseball images I was trying to paint into the music and lyric of 'The Slump'. So, while writing this song, it was a pleasure to recall these great scenes in my head that to me, look a lot like a Norman Rockwell drawing. It's all very nostalgic to me. Musically, I was looking for a song that was a little light and funny too. Here the man is in a very serious slump, and heís singing a light Bosa Nova tuneÖ how nuts is that? The melody loops like a curve ball at the beginning of the verse and turns sad and reflective at the songís next section as the source of the slump is revealed. Happily, my own Roy Hobbs does find his confidence and strength at the very end. And he does indeed, rise up from the slump.

'The Slumpí melody was created after I had strung together a series of Key of C chords on the guitar using mostly simple but extended chord voices. I played the capo'd/finger picked main guitar part on my Gibson ES 335. I also added 12th fret harmonics and an octave style solo at the songís outro on my Guild D25 acoustic guitar, tuned to C major (C G C G C E). I arranged the rhythm on a digital programmer and happened upon a few chord progressions and song form ideas in the process. In order to get the vocal in the right range; I put a capo on the third fret. This puts the song in the key of Eb major. (See lyric/chord chart). This version was recorded in early 1997 at Advanced Audio Recording Studio in Orchard Park, NY. Dave Pruski was the sound engineer, Jim Brucato (the Thirds) played bass, Pete Holquin (Blue Ox) played drums, and Steve Zagami (Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra) contributed percussion. I played acoustic and electric guitar and sang it. The most pleasant surprise in this project was John Hillís (Rocket 88) beautiful chromatic harmonica part (played on a Yamaha wind driven synth).

I know this song at first may seem a little bit like itís from left field. Thatís because it is. Personally, it is one of my very favorite original songs. I thank the musicians for their inspired performances.


CHORDS WITH LYRICBack to top ^

capo 3

CM9                              Dm9                            CM9       Dm9        G7#11   G7
The ball is in the air and the count is holding three and two

        CM9                               Dm9                                      CM9      G7#11 G7sus4
The batter is the box and he donít know what heís going to do

       CM9                            Dm9                                 CM9       Dm9          G7#11 G7sus4
The ball is in the air and it may be curving high and wide

                  CM9                                    Dm9                          CM9            G7#11  G7sus4
When the batter is in the slump its impossible for him to decide

 Am9                                           Bb7#11                       Am11      Dm11
Before this ever happened heíd drive a ball to Timbuktu

                  Em7                            Bb7#11                     Am9          D7#5 D9
One more strike and the batter is out, heís all but through

                     Dm (add 9)  Fm (add 9) Bdim Bb7#11 Bb7        Am11            D7 (13)
Iím going to have my final say.  Iím going to swing away, make the big play.

            Dm7 (11)     Fm (add9)  Fm7   Fm7 (11)    G7 sus4    CM9         G7#11 G7
Hereís one for the girl in aisle two, the one whoís eyes are glued on you, I'm on my way back.

        CM9                           Dm9                               C (add9)    G7sus4  G7  
The ball is in the air and it may be sinking low and away.

                 CM7                                Dm7                            C(add9)   G7sus4  G7#11
When the batter is in the slump itís impossible for him to say

       Am9                                        Bb7#11                   Am11      Dm11
His confidence was shattered, his innocence a shady bribe

         Em7                                      Bb7#11                      Am9    D7#5  D9
The batter is at the plate he canít seem to take it all in stride

                     Dm (add9)       Fm (add9) B dim Bb7#11 Bb7        Am11               D7(13)
Iím going to live to tell it all, keep my eye on the ball, go for it all

           Dm7(11)   Fm(add9) Fm7(9)   Fm7(11)         G7sus4   CM9           G7sus4   G7
Hereís one for the girl in aisle two, Iím stealing home on you. Iím on my way home.

        CM7                              Dm9                                  CM9       Dm9
The ball is in the air and the count is holding three and two

        CM7                                   Dm(add9)                                 C (add9)    G7sus4  G7
The batter is in the box and he donít know what heís going to do

         Am7                                           Bb7#11                                 Am11           Dm11
With runners at the corners and this game is more or less on the line.

        Em7                                Bb7#11                               Am9          D7#5  D9
The batters in the box and he canít seem to make up his mind.

                     Dm (add9)       Fm(add9) Bdim Bb7#11 Bb7 (9)         Am7                 D7#5 D7(9)
Iím going to have my final say, just like that good old day, Ďsay heyí

         Dm11   Fm(add9) Fm7(9)  Fm11     G7sus4                 CM7    G7#11 G7sus4
And when this inning comes to an end, I rise up again from the slump.



The Blue Ox Band Hits collection Guitar Workshop The Gang of 15 Rocket 88 Totally Live Rocket 88 Blues Life Hot Guitars from Buffalo Lead Guitar Compilation The Thirds Anthology St. Teresa's Choir Poacher of Love/The Slump The Thirds Songs from the City Line Pass it On/Are you Still? The Stone Bridge Band
©2019 Charlie O’Neill
©2019 Charlie O’Neill