#ThrowbackThursday: On the Hip

Hey there GWK fans,

The Geeks here are starting a new Thursday tradition… the ol’ #ThrowbackThursday. Normally we’d just post a funny video, an animated gif, or something of that sort, but since we’re celebrating the Tragically Hip on the road to Kingston I thought we’d write about them.

So I asked the Geeks and some of the guest hosts to write a favourite memory or their first introduction to the Tragically Hip.  Here’s what I have so far:

Aaron (a self-admitted not-really-a-Hip-fan)

I remember the air band competition in highschool. I think they “sang” New Orleans is tumblr_o8xm1k8wzb1u52nwvo1_400Sinking. They were supposed to sing Nautical Disaster and they got in trouble for switching it up. The VP was angry because they not only changed the song but there was something about the lyrics they thought were inappropriate at the time. I remember thinking that these VPs were too upright and that there was nothing wrong with the song at all. Since then that song not only reminds me of high school but a little bit of rebellion too.

Erik (still trying not to cry)

I cannot honestly remember a time when I didn’t know a Hip tune.  Was Nautical Disaster, Courage or Wheat Kings the first song I heard? No clue. Their music has sorta just been there in my life for as long as I can remember.  I think my favourite or at least the first thing I think of when I think of the Tragically Hip are mixed tapes or more importantly bootlegs.  When I was younger, my friends and I used to swap tapes that we would find and then make copies for ourselves.  Sometimes these would be bootlegs from various concerts. Unfortunately, we were too young at the time to go ourselves, so this was sort of our means of going to concerts. One tape I played the death was a bootleg concert of the Tragically Hip.  This must’ve been just after their Day for Night album was released because there was a version of New Orleans is Sinking where, instead of telling the Killer Whale Tank story (which I heard on a different bootleg), the Hip went into Nautical Disaster.  Now hearing that for the first time was incredible – going from the fast and hard rock to this beautifully melancholy song and then finishing with the rest of New Orleans.  Man.  It hit me at the emotional core.  Every band I had after hearing that song, played this version of New Orleans is Sinking.  That’s how much I loved that song.  Unfortunately, I lost track of my bootlegs tapes.  I’m sure they’re in one of my boxes in my basement… but whenever I think of the Hip, I always think of that version of that song.  I think about how they can write songs so passionately, so intelligently and so Canadian.. that are just so damn good.  Thank you Gord and the Hip.

Szpirs (who’s rambling, naval gazing bs is brought to you by Forty Creek Whiskey)

When I was working at a summer camp, I found this cassette in the gravel of the path to the dining hall. It was mud-covered but you could still make out the rich red sleeve with the folksy photo of a horse in front of a lot full of trailers. An hour or two later, I sat by a cabin (the kind that housed ten kids and three counselors, none of whom were over twenty years old) and put my earbuds in, pressed play on my waterproof Sony Walkman – the yellow kind with a silver screw lock and a big round digital watch display on the front. The tape was halfway through the second song (Twist My Arm) and I spent the next hour or so just listening. This wasn’t my kind of music at the time. I was in my third year of high school and I’d been on a pretty-much uninterrupted diet of pop punk….some of it had substance (Weezer, Green Day, The Offspring) but so much of it didn’t (The Refreshments, in particular, springs to mind). This bland meal was cut with some Metallica (held over from middle school), Aerosmith, and a deluge of CanCon Alternative Rock (Our Lady Peace, I Mother Earth) from the radio. When the Hip’s Road Apples blared through those headphones onto that bed of musical expectations it just did not compute. The rhythm was catchy, the poetry of the lyrics was impenetrable, and the overall feel of it was just a little too close to Dave Matthew’s Band for me. Rambling, twangy guitars; soulful, nasal singing; no adrenaline; no narrative – not that I could hear. What was the big deal about this band? It wasn’t until the years had put a few more miles on me before I started to get it. At that time in my life, I was living in a pretty comfy bubble and submerged in fantasy escapes. If it didn’t deliver some kind of rush – violence, excitement, ideas – it didn’t resonate for me. The Hip don’t move at the near-epileptic speed of anime, Doom 2, or Dungeons and Dragons. Once I’d had a bit more life to me, songs like 38 Years Old and Fireworks began to speak to me – the lost opportunities, the shared moments in time, the wide, rolling story and bar-band pace speak in simple, stripped down honesty. I was far too much a pretentious space-case for that as a kid. I wish I could reach through this screen, give that kid a good, hard shake. Don’t dismiss this. Don’t assume that reality is boring background-noise to be ignored – you’re gonna be there a while, kid; get used to it. Cope with it. Find something to yearn for in it. Stop running from it. I don’t know if I’ve improved very much since then. I like the Hip a lot more, for what it’s worth. Even now, listening to Fiddler’s Green, there’s something mysterious and just-out-of-reach about the music – the ghost of something profound I’m meant to understand but I don’t…. but I’m getting there.

Mark (guest host ep. 34, 33, and maybe others)

I’m not the world’s biggest Hip fan.  I am however a fan.  I’ve never seen them live, but I’ve listening to bootlegs, live recordings and to this day I still remember listening to Gord Downie’s stream of consciousness live version of New Orleans is Sinking, I’m pretty sure it was on Alan Cross’ the Ongoing History of New Music.  Let me note that the Hip shouldn’t really be my thing, I’m more Rage Against the Machine, punk, Korn and other loud obnoxious bands, but there is something about the Hip.  During the mid-nineties I didn’t necessarily always get along with my older sister, but we could both sit and listen to Wheat Kings or Fifty Mission Cap without one of us having to get up and change the radio, and that’s a beautiful thing.  I know lots of people who I don’t generally jive with musically, but for some reason we can all rally around Little Bones.  Is it a Canadian thing?  I don’t know, but it has always felt like The Tragically Hop weren’t writing for anyone specific, but they somehow managed to write for everyone.  Maybe I’m crazy but definitely Canada’s greatest rock legacy.

Marty (our most recent guest host)

I first fell in love with The Hip during my first year of university. It was 1992, It seemed like everyone on my floor had a copy of Road Apples and when Fully Completely came out that fall I heard songs for the first time that would be (to use the most overused quote of 2016) the soundtrack of my adult life. I loved the guitar riffs, the Canadiana and Gord’s lyrics. But it would be the dawning of the age of downloading music that would cement my love for The Tragically Hip. That is where I would finally hear Gord tell me about his previous job right in the middle of New Orleans is Sinking. And I would learn the fate of his last girlfriend (obviously before Carol) in the middle of Highway Girl. These stream-of-consciousness stories blew me away and demanded that I see them live to hear more.

I would see my heroes for the first time in Barrie in 1997 but my favourite experience was getting a ticket to a “surprise” show at The Kee to Bala in 2012. I was already up north at the cottage when the ad came out saying tickets would go on sale one hour later for a show the following night at a venue I had been dying to go to. Got the tickets, went to the show and stood about 20 feet away from the stage. The band was amazing and played so many of my favourites.

This band has just simply become an important part of my life. They are there for me for every road trip, every bonfire, every late night beer. Thanks guys.


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