The Old Apartment

Album: Born On A Pirate Ship (1996)
Charted: 88
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  • In a 2016 Songfacts interview, Barenaked Ladies frontman Ed Robertson discussed the oft-misunderstood song: "People think that it's a disgruntled ex-partner breaking into the apartment to mess with the current relationship of his ex. But it's actually about the building. The couple has moved on together and the guy is going back and he's pissed off that the people have changed this place that is special to him. So, the anger comes from, 'Hey, this was my home, why did you mess it up by changing all these things?' So, that's what that one's about. A lot of people think that that's about an ex-relationship but it's actually about an ex-abode."
  • Born On A Pirate Ship was the third Barenaked Ladies album. By this time, they were one of the most popular acts in Canada, but had just a small (albeit fervent) following in America. "The Old Apartment" was the first song to break through in that country, earning them their first Hot 100 appearance as the song reached #88 in May 1997. A live version of "Brian Wilson" was issued later that year, and after relentless touring and a huge promotional push, they hit it big in America in 1998 when "One Week" reached the top spot.
  • Jason Priestley, a big fan of the group and a fellow Canadian, directed the video. In 1997, Priestley had Barenaked Ladies appear in the "Spring Breakdown" episode of his show Beverly Hills, 90210, where they perform at The Peach Pit. Priestley also directed Barenaked in America, a 1999 documentary of their Stunt tour.
  • The line, "We bought an old house on the Danforth" refers to Danforth Avenue in Toronto. It is the main street in Toronto's Greektown, popular for its large Greek population and outdoor patios. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Nick - Toronto, Canada
  • In the liner notes for Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits, Steven Page says that "To answer one of the most common questions I get, the protagonist is still with the same woman - it's the new tenants of his old place that he's intruded upon." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Tara - Parma, OH
  • A live version was released on a special double-CD of their album Stunt in 1999. The live version was also included on the single to "It's All Been Done."
  • This was included on the 1996 Barenaked Ladies live album Rock Spectacle. That album is actually pronounced "Rock Spec-tak" because that is the French pronunciation of that word. Canada is a bilingual country.
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Comments: 22

  • Sarah from Toronto, OnThe song is about nostalgia. The "old apartment" is the quintessential shabby, poorly maintained first apartment so many people have when they're first starting out (mine had no heat, blown fuses and roaches in the kitchen).
    He, like a lot of young middle class Canadians (and probably Americans) has since become more successful and moved on from that place and bought a house. He's probably also married that girlfriend and they may have some kids. In short his life has become more comfortable but also more complicated and there are days that he finds he misses the simplicity of the old apartment when it was just the two of them "living on love."

    He is angered by the changes at the apartment because they're a reminder that you can't go home again. You can't go back, you can only go forward and grow older.
  • Michael from Cincinnati, OhIf you watch the video you will clearly see that it is not about Domestic Violence. However I will agree that some parts of the song do point towards domestic violence. Kim mentioned what she thought of the line "She loves me her body keeps me warm." I agree that it is possible that he is speaking about a girl. But then I look past it and think he could be talking about the house. Prior to that sentence he says "We bought an old house on the Danforth" and follows it with "I'm happy there". The house keeps him warm with feelings or even physically but I think that makes sense. This is one of my favourite songs.

    I hate to seem like I'm advertising but I do a cover of this song and I would like to see what you guys think of it. None of my friends know who the Barenaked Ladies are so there is no use in asking them....I just learned it yesterday...

    http://www.myspace.com/mkisalwaysbored
  • Tara from Parma, OhThe song is clearly not about domestic violence, and I think anyone who insists otherwise after Steven Page says it's not is being incredibly immature. Also, listen to the lyrics. It's clear that the protagonist has gone back to the place where he used to live with his (current) girlfriend, and is trashing the place where someone else now lives.
  • Kim from Bayonne,I assumed this song was about a deranged ex-boyfriend breaking into his girlfriend's apartment when I first heard it, and I still think so today, no matter what anyone says. The imagery in the lyrics is very violent--stomping, tearing things from walls, punching holes in the wall. Also, the character in the song is angrily demanding mousetraps and dishracks back. That would make no sense if he were so happy in his new home. It is something a jealous ex-boyfriend might do, though, to bother the ex-girlfriend.
    As for the "she" who he's living with on Danforth Ave., I always assumed it was a new girlfriend, but that he really liked the one in the apartment better. Whatever the song is about, it is told from the point of view of a nutcase.
  • Jackie from Virginia Beach, VaThis is not about an "ex" (except and ex-apartment). Listen to the lyrics: "I know we don't live here anymore /We bought an old house on the Danforth." Note the *we*. Same couple, new life, looking back on the old. I have to drive by my old place(s) every once in a while since I live in the same town, and the nostalgia overwhelms me. Breaking in is tempting, just to see.... Then I drive on, and we are still married, just like in the old house and the old apartment in my life.
  • Eric from Byron, NyThis is the first time I've heard anything about the song being about domestic violence...

    But I'm convinced that line is "tore the bolt out of the wall" (referring to the bolt that locks the door)... the album version, the live version, and the acoustic version from the podcast all sound alike though, and I can't tell.
  • Tony from Boston, MaTo Annabeth in Kutztown, I am gonna assume he "turned up the tv and stomped on the floor" to bug the neighbor he mentions in the line before. I to thought it was a sad song. Then I saw the video and listened to the song more. It is a fun song.
  • Samantha from Hartford, VtMusic is music the meaning of any song is different to everyone. We all relate from our past experiences. This song isnt about domestic violence. It seems he revisits the past and its all changed, except the feelings for this girl, whom he loves and wants her back.
  • Bill from Alamosa, CoHe and the girl who he live in the apartment with are still together. He simply longs for the days when they were just starting out. Now that they have moved up, they aren't as in love or passionate.
  • Scott from Columbus, OhNostalgia of a love lost, and a time of life he wants to relive....Pure and simple.
    A nice depiction of the things you have, and HAVE had.
  • Scott from Columbus, OhI think Tara said it very well. This song means to me, the passion of a young, inexperienced love in comparison to what tend to experience as we become more seasoned and mature in our judgement. It's an extreme play on nostalgia and the fervor involved (good and bad)we experience in relations while comihng of age.
  • Martin from Boston, MaBroken glass, broken hearts and broken bones. Holes punched in the door, locks changed, breaking and entering, stomping around on the floor and tearing the phone off the wall. Now why would anyone think this was about domestic violence?
  • Connor from Turlock, Cait's about a guy going back to his old apartment with the same girlfreind, and being pissed about how things have changed.
  • Tara from Hackensack, NjIt sounds like the guy left his girlfriend for someone else. Thought he would be happier. He and that girl moved somewhere new together. He revisits the apt he and the ex lived in together because while things are "ok" with the present girl, he misses the ex, the life they had, and is thinking about the memories they had in that place.

    The song doesn't sound to be about domestic violence, but that the relationship with the ex might have been tumultuous and fiery. Maybe that is why he left to be with someone else where the relationship was easier, but not as exciting or passionate.
  • Annabeth from Kutztown, PaThe lyrics clearly indicate that it's about a man going back to visit and ex, and seeing everything she's changed since he left. This kind of makes him mad, and he reacts in a juevinile way, hence: "I turned up your tv and stomped on the floor," and, "tore the phone out of the wall." He knows it's over, and he has a new gf, but he still wants to be able to remember the girl and the times they had tomorrow. He's angry she totally wiped him out of her life after he left.
  • Sarah from Charlottesville, Vathis song is about this guy and his girlfriend who go back to their old apartment and look at everything that has changed. there is nothing about violense in here.
  • Mike from Medford, Nythis song is about a man (person) visiting an old apartment that (s)he used to live in, and talking to the current occupant(s). it has nothing to do with domestic violance (see Liner notes on the BNL greatest hits CD.
  • Nick from Toronto, CanadaThe line "we bought an old house on the Danforth" is a reference to Danforth Ave. in Toronto Canada. It is the main street in the heart of Toronto's Greektown.
  • Ashley from Davenport, Iain the liner notes of Barenaked Ladies "Disk one: all their greatest hits" Steven Page confirms that the person in the song is breaking in on new residents of his old apartment.
  • Steve from Nicosia, EuropeThis song is simply about nostalgia. We all experience it. I don't understand where domestic violence comes in.
  • Tracy from Pasadena, TxI read somewhere that the meaning to this song is NOT domestic violence. It's about a guy revisiting the old apartment he & his girlfriend used to live in. They've moved out of the apartment & he just goes back to visit and ends up breaking in. It's more of a funny song when you know the back story.
  • Jodi from Springfield, IlMany believe that this song is about domestic violence. The band has yet to confirm or deny this fact. (Spfld, IL)
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