In an era when we celebrate big albums from bands like Nirvana & Soundgarden and reissues of classics by Zeppelin, don't you think its high time we swooned about a great CANADIAN album!
UP TO HERE came out 25 years ago today (September 5, 1989). At the time nobody really knew who they were ...or cared. The Tragically Hip today are a band that have been branded as quintessentially Canadian, with songs weaving Canadian politics, history and geography into their lyrics and have played to a rabid legion of beer-soaked Canadian fans. It’s ironic that it was a record company south of the border that signed them and led to release of Up To Here.
The album still stands as their biggest seller in their catalogue. Songs like New Orleans Is Sinking, Blow At High Dough, Boots Or Hearts & 38 Years Old are hardwired into our DNA. Despite it’s success north of the border, the Americans never understood The Tragically Hip and Up To Here. Maybe The Hip were too foreign – too Un-American. Maybe it was, as one American radio programmer once told me, “the weird leader singer”. WE got it. It was the regular airplay, the way The Hip could whip a concert rowd into a frenzy and maybe it WAS the lead singer, Gord Downie.
Put Gord Downie’s name up there with all the other great Canadian songwriters: Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Gord Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen and the rest. Maybe what makes Gordie unique from those names is that his poetry is set to rock music. The music on Up To Here is straight-up. “New Orleans is Sinking” was born in Rob Baker's living room while the band jammed on the riff from The Guess Who’s Shakin’ On All Over. But Gord Downie’s lyrics were far less derivative. His lyrics are oblique and vague. Over the years , he’s offered only hints to their meanings. Like all great poets, they are open for interpretation.
Well, sometimes the faster it gets
The less you need to know
But you got to remember the smarter it gets
The further it's going to go
When you blow at high dough
One of the centrepieces on Up To Here is “Blow At High Dough”. Downie told us that blow at high dough is an expression his grandmother would use - sage advice to “not get ahead of yourself” - to walk before you run.
It’s 25 years later now and The Tragically Hip have grown and expanded their vision. Years later they are still mesmerizing and at times, confounding. The Tragically Hip are great example of a band who prove that you can have a career, great success and garner critical acclaim abroad while being based HERE in Canada. Years later, Up To Herestill stands up. The songs are sublime, simple and instantly familiar, All day today we’ll be playing deep cuts from the most popular album from one of our most beloved Canadian rock bands.
Below is a pic of the gold record they gave us. Years later, during the World Container promo tour, I asked Gord to sign it for us. The plaque sits on the wall in my office over my right shoulder as a reminder.