NXNE Film Review: You Left Me Blue: The Handsome Ned Story [Chris Terry, Ross Edmunds]

Toronto – Handsome Ned was a country/rockabilly musician who was the pinnacle of the Queen West music scene back in the mid-’80s.  Made up of a mix of concert footage, interviews with Ned and bandmates back in the day, and more current interviews of Ned’s contemporaries reminiscing about his career, You Left Me Blue is a detailed portait of an emerging artist and music scene as well as a window to the past – a look back at a world that seems vastly different than the current indie music scene.  It’s hard today to imagine a Toronto like the one seen in the film, where the independant music scene was virtually non-existant, made up of a close knit group of musicians with vastly different influences just trying to get a show anywhere.  We take for granted these days that on any given night there will be a good number of bands playing across the city.  This was not the case back then.

“We were fighting a system that suffered roots-type music, or music that had heart,” says reggae musician Mojah at one point, illustrating the uphill battle faced by musicians going somewhat off the beaten path.  Mojah’s “rastabilly” collaboration with Ned on “Johnny Too Bad” is one of the highlights of the film, despite the Hilarious House of Frightenstein type effects that appear briefly on the screen at one point.  I guess those were cutting edge effects back in the 80s.

The reverence for Ned held by so many of the musicians interviewed, from Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor to Steve Leckie of The Viletones, is clear.  All share a deep admiration for him and an appreciation for what he stood for.  Of course, dying young always helps to cement one’s status as a legend and unfortunately, Handsome Ned died of an overdose January 10, 1987.  This film is a fitting tribute to his legacy and worth seeing for anyone interested in the history of Toronto music.

You Left Me Blue: The Handsome Ned Story is playing June 18, 8:00 pm at The NFB Theatre.

Posted on by Paul in Everything, North By Northeast