The Rusty Bull

Album: Boy From Michigan (2021)
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Songfacts®:

  • On the way out of town on Old Walton Road
    There's a twenty foot rusty bull
    With a ring right through its nose


    "The Rusty Bull" is a song about the giant metal sculpture that spanned the entrance to the scrap yard where John Grant's father would hunt for car parts, its minotaur frame later haunting his son's dreams.
  • Grant was born and raised in Buchanan, Michigan, in a conservative Methodist household at odds with his emerging gay feelings. When Grant was 12 years old, he and his family moved to Parker, Colorado. For a long time after, he couldn't find anyone who remembered the sculpture that gave him childhood nightmares.

    If you ask all the folks in town
    Some of them remember but
    Most of them don't


    One day, Grant found a Facebook page of people who had grown up in Buchanan at that time. "I remember someone asking if anyone remembers this bull in the woods off this road," he recalled to Mojo magazine, "and it was a really great moment for me because of course, I knew it was real."
  • In this song, Grant uses the metal sculpture as a talisman; a symbol of his developing homosexuality: "This thing that was growing inside of me - my sexuality, which was considered not good and evil and perverse and sick, and this thing in the woods was looking at me and saying, we have all sorts of horrible things in store for you," he told Mojo. "It's sort of a metaphor for coming of age and dealing with being a gay man in small town America back in those days."
  • The song is one third of the "Michigan trilogy" on Boy From Michigan. Grant also looks back at his childhood in small-town America on the opening title track and on "County Fair." "I can still see the church grounds," he remembered to The Sun. "I went to bake sales, ice cream socials and potluck dinners. There was a real sense of community."
  • Grant titled the album Boy From Michigan as a reaction to having to hide his homosexuality for much of his life - and feeling he doesn't need to hide anymore. "I can say exactly what I think and feel so that title feels good - I like the simplicity of it," he told Mojo. "I love Michigan and I love anything about it - it's a really beautiful place and I romanticize it a lot . But you were being indoctrinated into this sick society. All societies are sick but I feel like the American one has some stuff up its sleeve when it comes to the sickness of the society."
  • Cate Le Bon produced the song along with the other Boy From Michigan tracks. The Welsh singer-songwriter has also worked with Manic Street Preachers ("4 Lonely Roads," "Let's Go to War") and The Chemical Brothers ("Born In The Echoes "). "I just played a ton of ideas and loops and sounds to Cate and we picked up all the good ones," Grant told The Sun. "I would fashion them into songs and, in the afternoons, I would write the lyrics. They just poured out of me. Cate would give her two cents, but she has a real gentle touch."

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