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“Shady Lane” is one of Fork in the Road’s favorite Pavement songs, a ditty so evocative it might bring tears to your eyes.
The refrain, “A shady lane, everybody wants one/A shady lane, everybody needs one” suggests an Acadian past we might like to retreat to, while also partly recalling the Quicksilver Messenger Service album (and title track), “Shady Grove.” Of course, during the current sweltering weather, a shady lane is doubly appealing. But the song also has strong foodie associations.
The song begins with what is apparently a California-style date, presumably outdoors at someplace like the Hog Island Oyster Farm in Marshall, CA:
Blind date with a chancer,
We had oysters and dry Lancers,
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 givin’ 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.
Yes, “chancer” is a word, meaning “two-faced person” or “liar,” and Lancers is a Portuguese blended wine that came in a picturesque reddish bottle, very popular in the 1970s and considered sophisticated until real wine geekism took over in the 1990s. The line “a redder shade of neck on a whiter shade of trash” may or may not refer to the Lancers.
From there the narrative peters out in a phantasmagoria of imagery, but returns to the central concept of the song — our periodic need to retreat to the shady lane of our dreams.