Although The Old Apartment is one of my favourite BNL songs, I never quite figured out what was going on in the song. So, it occurred to me, why not have a look at Wikipedia. And, amazingly, there’s an answer – an answer that makes sense. At the same time, it loses a little of its intensity.
The song is about returning to “the old apartment”, and breaking in. The is addressed at a “you” – “why did you” do (whatever). It always seemed that he was singing to an old girlfriend…”why did you keep the mousetrap, why did you keep the dish rack, there things used to be mine, I guess they still are, I want them back”. And yet, he does goes on to say “I know we don’t live here any more, we bought an old house on the Danforth, she loves me and her body keeps me warm”.
The Wikipedia article clearly says that he isn’t returning to terrorise his old girlfriend:
While some have misinterpreted the lyrics to mean that the man in the song is stalking an ex-girlfriend and breaks into her apartment to terrorize her, Page has said that this is definitely not the case. The person in the song and his girlfriend are still together and happy, having “bought an old house on the Danforth” (Danforth Avenue in Toronto). However, he goes back to visit “the old apartment” where they previously lived, and winds up breaking in.
While, sadly, none of this is referenced, it makes sense. People have roommates. Not all roommates part on good terms – people can “turn on your tv, and stomp on the floor just for fun” out of anger at someone other than their ex-girlfriend. Obviously, but not so obviously.
Regardless of those details, the song is filled with a longing that I can really relate to. It makes me think of some of the many places that I have lived – places to which I can never return. Going to Canada in 2005 was a wonderful (and cathartic) experience – although so much had changed, although you can never go home…in certain ways, less had changed than I had feared. I was happy that there was more to see, more to return to, than I had feared.