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Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Tragically Hip

While everybody (rightfully) talks about Nashville, New Orleans, New York, London, Memphis and Detroit as hotbeds of music, a lot of good stuff has been spawned right here in the Great White North. I'm going to bid farewell to 2010 with a nod to the group I consider Canada's best over the last 25 years. Oh, I hear the grumbling from you Rush fans. Tough tamales. Start your own blog. (Without actually checking, I bet there's a few already dedicated to Geddy, Neil and Alex.)

But my vote for the maplest of leaves goes to The Tragically Hip. Fronted by the brilliant, if a tad erratic, Gord Downie, The Hip's music is every bit about the land as Gordon Lightfoot's. The light weave of their melodies is shot through with threads of black. This is, after all, Canada -- a country of stark beauty, some of which is shrouded in darkness for months at a time.

The Hip are always interesting musically. The band is tight. And Downie's passionate and poetic vocals reflect both the delicate beauty and harsh reality that epitomizes our country.

I'm going to open with a young Hip and their very first single. The video is just about as puzzling as the lyrics. But Blow At High Dough still kicks ass.

Bobcaygeon is another favourite, only partly because the town isn't far from me and I've been there many times. Mostly it's because it's just a good song. Here, we find a considerably more mature Gord Downie starring in another bit of a head-scratching video (albeit with a brilliant ending). But again, the song's the thing. And it's a beauty.

My absolute favourite song of theirs is the hauntingly melodic Ahead By A Century. By now, none of you will be suprised to find another enigmatic tune and video. I admit it. Many of the songs I like best have an element of the obscure. Few things bring me greater joy than hearing a song for the 1000th time and finding something new. The Hip's songs have that sort of layering.

At midnight we're going ahead by a year, but for now, let's skip ahead with The Hip by a century.

Thanks for keeping me company. I wish you all a healthy and fulfilling 2011.


  1. Happy New Year, everyone!

    It was somewhere around 1985 when the band I was in at the time, The Rubels, came back to our hometown of Kingston, Ontario after being on the road for the better part of a year. Our first gig upon our return was a local talent showcase held at watering hole The Lakeview Manor. The evening featured -- among others -- ourselves and a very young and raw pre-recording-contract Tragically Hip (yes, they didn't use THE in their name at the time, dunno why they added it later on but I prefer it without).

    While they didn't blow me away as a band way back then, it was obvious Gord Downie had something special. So it was no surprise when, not too long after, they started making some 'noise' as it were and landed their record deal. And the rest, as the old saw goes, is history.

    I can't help swelling up with hometown pride every time I hear Gord's voice. The memories of that long ago night always come back whenever I watch the video below, shot at the now demolished Lakeview Manor. It's an onslaught of nostalgia ... I couldn't count the number of times I have walked the same path as the cameraman in the opening sequence. I performed on that stage many times and this bar is where I had my first official beer with my dad, waaaay back around 1971):


  2. I like their music a lot. I buy my bird seed at Medlands Feed in Brooklin where Ahead By A Century video was shot,(the same place our Gigi used to get his livestock feed)I remember when the street was closed down for the shoot. Zach was just a tyke then and was sooo excited because it was his favorite song and he would beg me to keep popping into to Medlands just in case the Hip was perhaps hiding among the bags of feed somewhere in the garage.
    Mr. Medland is a very sweet wizened man close to 90 years of age now. Back in the 80s when I started going there I told him who my grandparents were and he said, "Oh Pete and Mary, what wonderful people, I remember them so well, I would chat with your grandfather all the time..." It's always great when you find people who knew your kin and when you can link a great band to them.

  3. The only T-Hip song I ever heard until now was a long-time favorite, "Scared". Here's that one without cryptic video distractions or poor quality live audio. I'm impressed by your 3 examples as well. Melody, musicianship, crafty lyrics...great stuff. As usual, I'm just sitting here playing "Scared" over and over.

    P.S. Who are the Bobcaygeons and why are they mispronouncing my name?



  4. Love that clip, Charlie. It's cool that you share roots with those guys. I've visited Kingston a few times in the last four years and really enjoyed the city. I'm considering moving a little closer to it. Thanks for the story and the link.

    Nifty story, little sister. There sure aren't many folks left of Granny and Gigi's generation. I'm glad you get to touch base with Mr. Medland. I'm jealous.

    Scared is a cool song, Cay. The Hip is a tough band to categorize but their stuff is always interesting and challenging. I had a hunch you might like 'em.

  5. How did I miss this new blog. I love new music. Especially new old music. That Gord fellow cleans up well AND doesn't age. I can't believe I hadn't heard of these fellows before. Thanks for the share!

  6. Totally stumbled in here, and I know this is weird, but The Tragically Hip is one of my favorite bands.


  7. Hi Terrie. Well, you found it now! Hope to see you more often. :)

    Hiya Pearl. Glad you did. And I hope you'll stumble by again. :)


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