What are the crew high on in "Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone"?
June 16, 2020 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Help me understand this elided word in the lyrics.

In John Prine's song "Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone" a word is elided in the final verse:

Sabu was sad the whole tour stunk
The airlines lost the elephant's trunk
The roadie got the rabies and the scabies and the flu
They was low on morale but they was high on ...

What are they high on? My wife think it's "glue" -- I think she's probably right, but why would Prine elide this word? He didn't seem to shy away from drug references in other songs. What gives?
posted by johnnybeggs to Media & Arts (6 answers total)
I learned the song from Prine's live version. He doesn't elide the word in either version - he simply omits it. When I have sung it in public I sometimes filled it in with the old term "boo" which used to mean... ya know... stuff. Prine was upbeat and ironic: I'm sure he doesn't intend for it to be "glue."
posted by zaelic at 12:12 PM on June 16, 2020

I have always assumed it was glue.
posted by jkent at 12:22 PM on June 16, 2020

Best answer: I always assumed it was glue. Elided because sniffing glue was thought of as kind of goofy, and it’s kind of a goofy move to leave the word unsaid so the audience fills it in. It gives the line a kind of ha!/groan vibe.
posted by sallybrown at 12:23 PM on June 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've been listening to that song for years and this was the first I learned he didn't (quietly) sing "glue" there. My brain's been filling it in for decades.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:31 PM on June 16, 2020

When I have sung it in public I sometimes filled it in with the old term "boo" which used to mean... ya know... stuff.

Boo is much better than glue just because it's such a fine old term for weed. See, The Smoke Off by Shel Silverstein, because if you haven't you really should, and in particular listen to the reverence he gives that word when he performs it:

And from every town and hamlet, over land and sea they speed
The world's greatest dopers, with the Worlds greatest weed.
Hashishers from Morocco! Hemp smokers from Peru!
And the Shashnicks from Bagun who puff the deadly Pugaroo.
And those who call it "Light of Life." And those that call it "Boo."

posted by The Bellman at 1:53 PM on June 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Both mind-rhymes and deliberately leaving words out for the listener to fill in have featured in Prine's songs. I think it's much less about shying away from a drug reference and much more about the fact it's funnier (or at least more engaging).

For this song I've always assumed it was intended to be "glue" or "fumes". For some reason my brain has always filled in "fumes" because that's hilarious, but "glue" is probably much more likely.

Then again, this quote from him introducing it during a live performance could indicate he was specifically going for a more disorientated vibe by trailing off:

"When I wrote this I stayed in my room for three days. I was afraid someone was going to ask me what the song was about. This is Sabu riding through the jungle, looking dazed and confused."
posted by rhiannonstone at 6:27 PM on June 17, 2020

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