Rosy and Grey

In my late teens/early twenties, I listened almost exclusively to Nirvana. I was renowned for my obsession with the band. I still am, among those who knew me back then. And I can still spend a full day listening to back to back Nirvana tracks.

But as I was driving around Ottawa today flicking through my music collection, I came across the Lowest of the Low‘s Shakespeare my Butt, and the memories hit me with more force than even Nirvana can conjure. Though, to be fair, that may be because I have continued to listen to Nirvana all along, whereas listening to Shakespeare my Butt is like happening upon a time capsule.

They are – or were – a Toronto band from the early 90s. According to Wikipedia, Shakespeare my Butt was actually the best selling indie record in Canadian history when it was released in 1991. I was 16. My boyfriend at the time and his best friend introduced me to the music and it was prominent on the soundtrack of the year or so that we hung around together.

While I knew the moment I saw the selection that it would bring back memories, I was surprised to discover that I still know every drumbeat, every note played by the guitars, and every word. I don’t recall being so intimately familiar with these songs back then. But they are firmly imprinted on my brain.

A few years later, when we had all gone our separate ways and the Lowest of the Low had released a second album, I went to see them play live at the University of Toronto. Though technically more mature and advanced, that second album didn’t have the same zing as the first, though I have listened to it off and on over the years.

I think what it was actually lacking was the nostalgia.

Listening to that first album today, I was transported back to my 16th year in a vidid and almost startling way. Like the moment Marty McFly wakes up and realizes he’s in 1955.

The memories, emotions and scenes of that time returned to me, stark and almost palpable. Though I was driving around Ottawa, I was also, simultaneously, 16 again and driving the empty streets of Toronto. I could see the old brick buildings of the west end, the bleak greyness of the November day, the last crisp leaves whipping around storefronts.

I was transported back to the cafes the three of us used to frequent, where we would listen to jazz, drink cappuccinos and eat cheesecake, incredibly sure that we were mature and grown up.

The music also reminds me of home, of that profound and familiar place in my soul where my childhood lives. In part, that is because there is something about the Lowest of the Low that sounds unmistakably Torontonian. I’m not sure what it is but if you’re from Toronto, especially if you lived there in the early 90s, you may recognize it. Maybe it’s the rawness of  Toronto’s indie recording studios of the day, or the way the music reflects the sounds of iconic venues such as Lee’s Palace or the Horseshoe.

Trying to narrow down the list to one song to link to here is next to impossible. There is Bleed a Little While Tonight and Just About “The Only” Blues and Under the Carlaw Bridge – each track means something to me, transports me.

But Rosy and Grey will always have a special place in my heart, though I don’t even remember why. It brings a smile to my face and always makes my heart beat just that much faster. I remember listening to it that Christmas, in 1991, while I decorated the Christmas tree; I can see the family room in my childhood home, the records on the bookshelf, the trees and roof tops outside, the little gold and red decorations.

I want to take a streetcar downtown
Read Henry Miller and wander around
And drink some Guinness from a tin
‘Cause my U.I. cheque has just come in
Ah, where you been… because

Everything is coming up rosy and grey
Ah, the wind is cold but the smell of snow warms me today
And your smile is fine and it’s just like mine and it won’t go away, ’cause
Everything is rosy and grey

You’ve been under my skin for more than eight years
It’s been eight years of laughter and eight years of tears
And I don’t know what the future can hold, or will do, for me and you
But I’m a much better man for having known you
Yeah, you know that’s true, because…

Everything is coming up rosy and grey
Ah, the wind is cold but the smell of snow warms me today
And your smile is fine and it’s just like mine and it won’t go away, ’cause
Everything is rosy and grey

Well, I’ve been told that there’s a sucker born every day
Well, I wonder who, yeah, I wonder who
Maybe the one who doesn’t realize there’s a thousand shades of grey
‘Cause I know that’s true, yes I do, I know that’s true
How about you?

The poetry. My home. My beginnings.

Here it is. Rosy and Grey.

Other posts from this weekly challenge (which was my inspiration for this post) are too numerous to link to here, but they are worth reading through.

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6 thoughts on “Rosy and Grey

  1. I don’t know this band but will check it out. I’m so glad you were able to go back and do this challenge–it’s fun! Just and FYI though, it’s funny lately some of the newer bands I have been listening to are from Canada My faves: The Barr Brothers and Elliot Brood. have you heard either?

    • I haven’t heard of either if them. I’ll have to check them out!
      It’s fun going back to some of the old prompts that have come in throughout November. I have lots of ideas for them.

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