Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Those Melodies Come Back To Me



We hung around till the final band
Called "Escape Is At Hand For The Travelling Man"
You yelled in my ear this music speaks to me


 Absolutely gutted this morning, just shattered by the news about Gord Downie. It's been an awfiil year for musicians in general but for the Canadian music community and people of a certain age it has been especially horrible. First the devastating news about John Mann and now Downie. Both so young.

 Beware of nostalgia and sentimentality coming, even more so than usual.

 I remember a number of years back having an online conversation about music and the soundtrack of your life and how that nearly always goes back to your youth, not so much when you are in high school but when you are in your early twenties, fancy free, having fun before the responsibilities start coming on. So it is for me, when it comes to music I am a real Philistine (to which those people who sneer at the Hip will say here's the perfect example) and while I know some newer music and enjoy it, thanks to my kids, for the most part I listen to music and bands that I listened to 25 years ago. What can I say, I am a simple man.

 And The Hip ... well the Hip have always been there. I was nineteen or so when we were talking about this new Kingston band and my friend Sharon, still a dear friend all of these years later, commented on their name and how she loved it and that was when it began. Within a few years they had gone from playing University pubs to headlining a show called Another Roadside Attraction. I was 23 I guess, or thereabouts. This was a two day festival up at Markham Fairgrounds, fifty thousand people, an absolute bacchanal, the show starting at noon and running until midnight, the sun blazing, stumbling about dusty and grinning. They were different times back then for sure, no security lineup. We had beer on ice in our car (we had a DD) and if we wanted a beer we'd walk out of the grounds and drink a few, the wandering cops turning a blind eye.

 Maybe four or five years later I went to the second tour by the same name. One show only. This time I was with the Girl From Rawlins Cross. There was no beer in the parking lot, once you were in past the security you were in and if you wanted a beer it was the beer garden for you. It was a tremendous show once again, I never attended an average Hip show, they always brought terrific energy and Downie was a rambling madman on stage, an outstanding showman. But times were changing, at 29 I looked around at the drunken kids and thought to myself 'what is wrong with these people'. Lol.

 In 2002 we were married for a year and had just bought a house and Jenn and I went to Ontario Place with friends and sat on the lawn ('That night in Toronto ....') and in the cool summer evening we sat back and revelled in it all.

 And then just over a year ago we were at the ACC, my birthday present, three kids and over a decade after the last show. It was great, as great as ever. Gord (to me he was always simply Gord) was a bit shouty, or shoutier lol, it was a February show so maybe he was battling something or maybe all of the years were taking his toll on his vocal cords. But it was a terrific show all the same and the best birthday present I ever received.

 What is it about the Hip and Gord himself that spoke to me? I don't know. Their sound is simple driving rock and roll, which I enjoy, but what separated them for me were the lyrics, referencing obscure Canadiana, often digressing and wandering here and there, I can't explain it but I can sing along to dozens of their songs without missing a beat. ('There is nothing uglier than a man hitting his stride' except maybe me trying to carry a tune but man oh man I know them all.)

 Maybe it's because for all the fame and wealth Downie still remains the hoser, with the hoserest name, the hockey fan, the beer drinker, the guy I saw at The Dora Keough one afternoon having a few pints at the bar or who came into the Famous one day to pick up his takeout Indian, waiting with us and then hopping on his bike and pedalling off with his dinner. He's one of those guys, like my boyhood hero, Stan Mikita, who is sadly also having health issues, who I have never heard a bad thing about. Just a simple guy, a good guy, and I think for a lot of Canadians we look at the Hip and see ourselves in them, just a bunch of regular dudes who happened to make it big. Maybe that's it? I don't know and I will leave it to someone smarter than me to explain how they became the biggest Canadian band ever.

 It's hit me hard and let's be honest, a lot of this has to do with the fact that he is only a few years older than me. His wife battled cancer herself and they have four children and really that is the most heartbreaking thing and the thing that terrifies me the most, leaving my children behind, so I cannot imagine what they are going through right now.

 All the best to Gord and his family in this toughest of times. With great sadness but also with thanks for the joy he has brought me over all of these years.





3 comments:

Gord said...

I know what you mean. For me it was Harlequin playing in the run down Winnipeg bars 35+ years ago...

Black Dog said...

Ah Harlequin there is a blast from the past!

smiliegirl15 said...

So late to this party! The first and only time I saw the Hip was during my first year at Carleton. They played during Frosh week. My new roommate was from Belleville and knew the guys in the band. After the concert, she ditches me and her best friend to go party with the band, without so much as a come party with us thank you very much. Oh well. She was only my roommate until Christmas. What a nightmare.