"Shady Lane" as written by and Stephen Malkmus....
Blind date with a chancer, we had oysters and dry lances
And the check when it arrived, we went dutch dutch dutch
Dutch a redder shade of neck on a whiter shade of trash
And this Emory board is given me a rash
I'm flat out
You're so beautiful to look at when you cry
Freeze don't move
You've been chosen as an extra in the movie adaptation
Of the sequel to your life

A shady lane
Everybody wants one
A shady lane
Everybody needs one
Oh my God, oh your God, oh his God, oh her God
It's everybody's God
The worlds collide
But all that We want is a shady lane

Glance don't stare
Soon you're being told to recognize your heirs
No not me
I'm an island of such great complexity
Distress surrounds
In the muddy peaceful center of this town
Tell me off
In the hotel lobby right in front of all the bellboys
And the over friendly concierge

A shady lane
Everybody wants one
A shady lane
Everybody needs one
Oh my God, oh your God, oh his God, oh her God
It's everybody's God
The worlds collide
But all that We want is a shady lane

Lyrics submitted by vCheerUpEmoKidv, edited by revmannix138, cronaldo7, AntDC, steve11836

"Shady Lane" as written by Stephen Malkmus


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Shady Lane song meanings
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  • +5
    General CommentThis song, in my opinion is one of the finest examples of Stephen Malkmus's narrative brilliance. In fact, it is one of the few examples of the use of straight narrative, in a Pavement song. SM doesn't normally tell stories; his songs are usually oblique meanderings on various moods. However, in keeping with the general "maturity" of SM's songwriting style on "Brighten the Corners," it makes sense.

    Here's a brief exegesis of the story of "Shady Lane," as I see it unfolding:

    1) A sort of unwashed slacker hick decides to go on a blind date with some high-class fancy new girl in town, at a fancy resturant in the town's five-star hotel.

    2) They go on the date, and when the check shows up, the mostly broke and ambitionless slacker decides it would seem most egalitarian if he proposes they go dutch (i.e. both members of the party pay).
    3) During this potentially terse moment, the slacker reminisces back to earlier in time before the date, as he regarded his shabby visage in the mirror ("A redder shade of neck on a whiter shade of trash"), and prepared his grubby fingernailsfor the big endeavor ("this emory board is giving me a rash").

    4) Finally, after sitting around in uncomfortable silence, the slacker admits to the girl that he's totally broke ("I'm flat out")!

    5) The girl starts bawling her eyes out. He tells her she looks beautiful when she cries, in a shallow attempt at making amends for the growing embarrassment of the scene. He sticks his foot further into his mouth by joking about her being captured there, in the moment, "as an extra in the movie adaptation of the sequel" to her life.
    6) The chorus has the slacker singing about how much he wishes the world were easier, and less high-maintenance.

    7) The scene grows more terrible. The waiter waits, the girl sobs, and the slacker gropes empty pockets. "Glance, don't stare," he thinks in the direction of the perplexed and embarrassed onlookers. The girl begins to scream, "Fuck you!" to the slacker, and then to the onlookers, pissed that she's in the situation. Therefore, as the slacker predicted they soon would, he and the onlookers are both being told to "recognize [their] heirs"!

    8) In his mind, the slacker thinks, "Fuck me?" and mentally rebuts in a bored and matter-of-fact way, "No, not me...I'm an island of such great complexity." Basically, in the face of humiliation and defeat, he'd rather put on an air of blase nonchalance.

    9) "Stress surrounds / in the muddy, peaceful center of this town" is pretty self-explanatory at this point. I imagine the girl throwing down all of her cash, and storming out of the restaurant, into the hotel lobby, where (predictably)...

    10) ...she tells the slacker off in the hotel lobby, "right in front of all the bellboys and the over-friendly consierge".

    A brilliant tune from a brilliant album, and my favorite songwriter in the world.
    summerbabeon May 15, 2002   Link
  • +2
    My OpinionThis is a song that I've listened to fairly regularly for at least 15 years and never explored the lyrics too deeply, even though I like to analyze lyrics. About 6 months ago I was listening to Pavement as it'd been a while, and when this song came on it just hit me. I think I needed to live a few more decades with this song in my head for it to sink in the way that it did.

    Disclaimer: I might seem simple even daft for not putting it together, but sometimes only experience can open your mind to certain revelations. It might not even be the intended meaning but it's a new way of looking at it for me:

    I actually think both sections are from the same person's p.o.v., the two just happen to be years apart by his changed perspective. To me, it's about the usually unaware human cycle of perpetuating the roles that are before us, be they demonstrated through music, art, literature, politics, family, etc.

    In this song, the symbol of family is used. The date shows two people who are mutual risk takers putting on airs. this could work as an allegory for any sort of meeting between interested parties/lobbyists in politics or musician/agent whatever. The line about the emory board giving him a rash demonstrates that he was trying to enter a role for which he simply isn't suited - the oysters, the fanciness, it grates to the point that he has to admit he's broke and it's all a farce. she finds this upsetting, probably because something about their encounter made them click. in all of this, there is a beauty because the ugly truth prevails in their race to deceive/impress the other. all that we want is a shady lane, everyone has their struggles that can vary wildly, but the desires within don't change much from person to person. at this point in their experience, the shady lane represents financial wealth, ease of life, for the universe to smile upon them for a change.

    as for the extra in a movie adaption of the sequel to your life - i think that's his way of comfortin her rather than an insult. we are never fully in control of our lives and sometimes the safest, least upsetting perspective to take is that of an outsider. i see this line as a sweet cheer up kid this is as good as we're getting.

    the 2nd section seems like an older, more financially secure narrator speaking to his offspring. don't be rude and stare at those who shock you (possibly the poor and homeless as they make their way into a fancy hotel). being taught to recognize your heirs smacks of sitting in front of photo albums with family and having dead relatives pointed out and named to you, as well as a sort of projection from the man to the children to be stingy with what they have so they may never suffer. a message that says "look after your own - don't worry about those people lying in the streets." the line, "no, not me, i'm an island of such great complexity" reminds me of parents and their silly the do-as-i-say-not-as-i-do rule of thumb.

    sometimes when people who grow up with very little suddenly are able to make do, they wish to shower their children with all the things they felt they missed as a kid, and unintentionally spoil their own joys with this. I think that's what happens here, and the kid shows little respect throwing some sort of tantrum in the lobby of the hotel, embarrasing our narrator. the fact that his kid seems to show concern/respect for the people in the streets and then berates him in public is the smack in the face that gets this man craving a shady lane again.
    crustyknickerson November 28, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentExcellent explanation. There's just one thing that bothers me - why is the restaurant serving a cheap-ass wine like Lancers? Could it be a Portuguese restaurant?
    feinsteinon May 21, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Commentgood job summerbabe. i think there is a little bit more, though. the scene in the restaurant is right on - but i don't think that the chorus is about wishing the world was more simple. at first i did - i thought that the "shady lane" was like the "range life" that he wishes for in another song (guess which song) - you know: home, home on the range . . . where seldom is heard a discouraging word, etc.

    but now i think that the shady lane is a peaceful cemetery. in the middle of the debacle at the restaurant the narrator begins to think of the futility of all this, how it will all end in death. and aging. the narrator is transported momentarily to his death bed where he is old and dying and demented trying to recognize his heirs. and the lines about god are confused because the narrator is confused about god as well.
    then he's back to the present at the embarrassing restaurant situation.

    but maybe the shady lane is heaven - not a cemetery. the narrator is hoping that there *is* a heaven – like everybody else.

    the world's collide
    but all that i want is a shady lane.
    moikon January 09, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe story is right on, no doubt about that. But everyone's opinion of a shady lane is going to be different, because it's your place. It's the mental happy spot everyone dissapears to when things are at their worst, and you just want to crawl up into your bed and hide. Nothing matters there, (i.e. religion, politics, social status.. etc) and even though everything is going to hell, there's always your shady lane.
    badtowndisasteron February 22, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti think that summer babe is assigning value to these lyrics without warrant. referring to her analysis of the first verse, she is filling in the gaps in the narrative way too liberally.

    "in fact" it is one of the only "straight narratives" in the pavement discog. really? in fact? come on.

    firstly, summer babe instantly assumes that malkmus is speaking from the first person, but under a different persona. justification given by summerbabe? none. i'm not going to critique it line by line, but i'll offer my (much simpler) opinion:

    a blind date is taking a chance. his date is a person who likes taking chances. chancer. easy. it also rhymes. double easy.

    why did they go dutch? because malkmus (the redneck, wait, no) is poor? no. because when you have an awful blind date, you split the check, which is the civil thing to do.

    a redder shade of neck on a whiter shade of trash describes the date -- likely a back-home, deep-south kinda girl. a fundamentalist christian, maybe?

    the emory board is giving him a rash. ever try to talk to a lovely lady who is being completely disrespectful during an argument and pulls out her filing board to work on her nails instead of looking at you? classic female move to divert her attention.

    i'm... flat out (classic malkmus thought fragment/misdirection).

    you're so beautiful to look at when you cry (kinda cryptic, i'm not really sure. it's obvious she's upset with stephen.)

    the movie adaptation line -- the date was a scene from a movie? or is she being quiet, refusing to continue their argument, thereby becoming an extra? this interpretation ties in with my interpretation of the chorus.

    i believe the chorus mocks what the argument is about: stephen's use of the phrase "oh my god" during the date. he sings "oh my god, oh your god, oh his god, oh her god" trying to emphasize the silliness of the "lord's name in vain" rule that she's trying to hold him to. moral imposition.

    the shady lane signifies personal comfort. he goes on this date looking for his shady lane, and so does she. what they find is that their world's collide, and all he ever wanted was a pepsi -- or no, wait, just a shady lane.

    the date was ruined because of the phrase "oh my god" and she, like so many christians i know, refused to argue, saying, "that's my belief, you don't have to agree with me." all that he wants is a shady lane.

    check out my band, myspace.com/…

    also, this is an interpretation. it very possibly is wrong. in all likelihood, it probably is.
    countess of persiaon March 06, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIf you think summerbabe's interpretation was deep, I've got a reading of this somewhere which explains how this song is simply a metaphor for the state of America's inheritance of the status of the global superpower after the fall of the British Empire.
    BoAdon October 13, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI enjoyed Summerbabes interpretation, but wait - the most important bit. The shady lane is the place he actually wants to be with his date! He wants to drive his car down a shady lane and be alone with her. Just simple, no fuss, no restaurants to bills no embarrassment no nothing - just him and her. I have always thought that was what the shady lane was! And Im surprised no-one else thinks that. Think about it - A Shady Lane, everybody wants one! Of course they do - they are only going through that date because they want to be alone with that person, and thats the only reason anyone is doing it. Right???
    alldaybrekkieon October 11, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General CommentUm, I agree with summerbabe? Ha. Good job.
    deathcabfan1on July 19, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentumm...whoah
    pcontoson March 22, 2003   Link

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