Taylor Swift Song Spikes Interest in Black Dog Pub

Leave it to Taylor Swift to make a London pub the hottest spot in town with just one mention.

Last week, the singer-songwriter dropped her highly anticipated 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department—and then a mere two hours later, followed it up with an edition dubbed The Anthology, effectively a double album, with 15 bonus tracks. One of them is “The Black Dog,” in which Swift sings about looking at her ex’s location on her phone, and tracking him as he walks “into some bar called the Black Dog.”

In classic Swiftian fashion, there are lots of hidden meanings in the song. First, “the black dog” is a phrase often used to mean depression, popularized, some say, by World War II–era U.K. prime minister Winston Churchill. Of course, it also just sounds like the name of a classic British pub. Swift may not have been thinking about any bar in particular when she wrote it, but she’s had an impact on actual South London tavern the Black Dog in Vauxhall.

The pub’s marketing manager, Amy Cowley, told People that the steep rise in business since the song’s release has been “surreal.”

“We’re quite lucky because we’re a well-established and well-loved local pub already,” she said. “But that’s the key word—we’re a local pub—so to get this worldwide attention has been crazy.”

She added: “We’ve had people from all over. We’ve had interest from the States, Spain, Germany, and Australia. It’s been far-reaching. … Every single day since the album has been released, we’ve had to turn people away as we’re at max capacity, so that shows the levels that we’re talking about.”

Cowley did note that Swifties have been the most gracious of guests. “What’s been great, though, is that the fans have been amazing,” she said. “We’ve had them shifting up to share tables with strangers to let people get in the door, which is really cool.”

With pop music fans storming the London pub, there’s a lot of interest in who “The Black Dog” is really about: Swift’s ex of six years, Joe Alwyn; or the 1975 frontman Matty Healy, whom Swift had a short relationship with following her split from Alwyn.

Many of the song’s lyrics suggest a more serious relationship, indicating that it’s about the longer relationship: “I move through the world with the heartbroken / My longings stay unspoken / And I may never open up thе way I did for you.”

Also, Swift appears to be nodding to her 2019 album Lover, which centered on her relationship with Alwyn, with these lines from the bridge of “The Black Dog”: “Six weeks of breathin’ clean air / I still miss the smoke.” On the Lover track “Daylight,” she sings, “Clearing the air, I breathed in the smoke.”

Plus, the owner of the Black Dog, Lily Bottomley, hinted that Alwyn is a “regular” at the pub in an interview with Sky News on Monday. “I don’t want to give too much away,” she said. “We do have a certain blond regular who frequents, let’s just say that.”

While that seems like pretty clear evidence, there are also a few allusions to Healy in the song’s lyrics. For instance, in the chorus, Swift mentions American pop-punk band the Starting Line, whom Healy’s group the 1975 covered during shows in New Zealand and the Philippines. There’s also a reference to a woman “too young” to know the song Swift’s ex loves, which could be about Healy’s current girlfriend, Gabbriette Bechtel (who is nearly a decade Healy’s junior).

Perhaps Swift drew on experiences from both relationships when writing “The Black Dog”; we’ll probably never know for sure. What we do know is that the Black Dog in London will probably have Swifties busting down its door for weeks to come.

Headshot of Joel Calfee

Joel is the editorial and social media assistant for HarpersBAZAAR.com, where he covers all things celebrity news. When he steps away from the keyboard, you can likely find him singing off-key at concerts, scavenging thrift stores for loud wardrobe staples, or perusing bookstores for the next great gay romance novel.