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
where you been… because
Everything is coming up rosy and grey
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
~ Rosy and Grey, from Shakespeare My Butt
Dave Bookman (102.1 The Edge) on Lowest Of The Low:
It’s funny. We tend to define ourselves not by our actions but how an outside element – be it a book, film or album – captures the essence of our experiences and state of mind, and we wear it on our hearts and sleeves as a badge of honour. For me, such a work of art is Shakespeare My Butt. While we depend on our senses to navigate our way through the haze and maze of the day, the one intangible we rely on most is feel, and this record felt just right.
Released in 1991, this sprawling seventeen-song set is oft noted for launching the Canadian indie explosion. Along with the Barenaked Ladies, it helped put new music on the radio and in record shops, but more importantly it inspired and motivated a generation of music fans and makers that saw themselves in these tales of today, tomorrow and yesterday, all to the sound of an intense rock-folk beat that never stopped or strayed from its point or purpose. It loved, it fought, it highed, it hid, but most of all it just… did.
Over the last twenty years, Shakespeare My Butt’s lyrics have become catch phrases in our vocabulary. The album has been honoured with awards, had a book named after it, and had its tunes covered by artists from around the block, across the country and as far away as Australia . It¹s opened many conversations and closed many more bars.
And now, twenty years later, it can still take and give a punch as good as it did first time around.
There’s a demi-generation of Canadians that, when asked what Shakespeare My Butt means to them, smile wistfully and slowly nod with gratifying satisfaction. Memories of fuelled emotion, questioning of blah blah blah authority and a little of that ‘fuck you’ attitude that ‘The Low,’ as they were affectionately called, helped bottle in the early nineties. Toronto born and bred, The Lowest Of The Low were trailblazers who turned the tide, bringing about the revelation that there was no longer a need to look beyond this country’s borders to satiate the soundtrack of our lives. Streetcars, the bridge on Carlaw, Bathurst Street – The Lowest Of The Low sang about their hometown. They made us feel pride in this town, not in some whitewashed Tourism Ontario billboard on the Gardner way, but because we could all relate to the honesty espoused in those 17 songs. Ron Hawkins (vocals, guitar), Stephen Stanley (vocals, guitar), David Alexander (drums) and John Arnott (bass) went on a ride in 1991 and took us all along with them. Sizzling Edgefest performances on a stage that still turned 360 degrees, radio play without major label heft, an episode on the then leading edge CBC series ‘Ear To The Ground’ and tens of thousands of records sold the good old fashioned way…that’s what thumps upside the old Intelligious Majoras when someone mentions The Low and Shakespeare My Butt.
On the eve of the band’s 20th anniversary, we see Shakespeare My Butt reissued by Pheromone Recordings. Remastered by Tim Branton at Joao Carvalho Mastering, the Deluxe Edition hits the streets on November 23rd. The album includes an expanded six panel digipak artwork and a booklet with essays from Edge 102.1’s Dave Bookman, comments from SMB fan Weakerthans’ John K Samson and more. The reissue also includes a 45 minute Lowest Of The Low documentary “LowRoads 91-08”. The DVD chronicling the Low’s history is loaded with unreleased live footage, interviews and an original soundtrack by Ron Hawkins.