- Ahead by a Century
- Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)
The Tragically Hip, often referred to simply as The Hip, are a Canadian rock band from Kingston, Ontario, consisting of lead singer Gordon Downie, guitarist Paul Langlois, guitarist Rob Baker (known as Bobby Baker until 1994), bassist Gord Sinclair, and drummer Johnny Fay.
Since their formation in 1983 they have released 12 studio albums, two live albums, 1 EP, and 54 singles. Nine of their albums have reached No. 1 in Canada. They have received numerous Canadian Music awards, including 14 Juno Awards.
The Tragically Hip formed in 1983 at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Guitarist Paul Langlois joined in 1986; while saxophonist Davis Manning left that same year. They took their name from a skit in the Michael Nesmith movie Elephant Parts. At one of their first venues, Mark Mattson, a lawyer, and friend of The Hip, got asked to get a graphic designer to make their tickets. Mark asked Owen Corrigan, a graphic designer, and one of Gord’s and The Hip’s best friends. Owen accepted the offer, but disliked the name of the band. So he made the tickets but changed the name to “Tropical Ship”. Mark was angry at Owen but didn’t have enough time to ask Owen to make new tickets, so he scratched out “Tropical Ship” and wrote “Tragically Hip” by hand.
In the mid 80s they performed in small music venues in Ontario until being discovered by MCA. They were then signed to a long-term record deal with MCA, and recorded the self-titled EP The Tragically Hip. The album produced two singles, Small Town Bring-Down and Highway Girl.
They followed up with 1989’s Up to Here. This album produced four singles, “Blow at High Dough“, “New Orleans Is Sinking“, “Boots or Hearts.” and “38 Years Old“. All four of these songs became staples of modern rock radio play lists in Canada. Road Apples followed in 1991, producing three singles (“Little Bones,” “Twist My Arm” and “Three Pistols“) and reaching No. 1 on Canadian record charts. During the Road Apples tour, Downie became recognized for ranting and telling fictional stories during songs such as “Highway Girl” and “New Orleans is Sinking”.
The sound on these first two full-length albums is sometimes characterized as “blues-tinged,” although there are definite acoustic punctuations throughout both discs. While the band failed to achieve significant international success with these first two albums, their sales and dominance of modern rock radio in Canada gave them license to subsequently explore their sound.
The Hip released another album, Fully Completely in 1992, which produced the singles “Locked in the Trunk of a Car“, “Courage” and “At the Hundredth Meridian” and three others. The sound on this album was more assured and displayed less of a blues influence than their previous two full-length albums. The Hip created and headlined the first Another Roadside Attraction tour at this time, both to act as a vehicle for their touring, and to promote other Canadian acts (as well as non-Canadians Ziggy Marley and Pere Ubu).
Many songs from Day For Night were first performed prior to their release during the 1993 Another Roadside Attraction Tour. “Nautical Disaster” was played frequently in the middle of “New Orleans is Sinking”, an early version of “Thugs” was tested, and Downie sang lyrics from many other Day For Night songs, such as “Grace, Too”, “Scared” and “Emergency”, during this tour.
Day for Night was then released in 1994, producing six singles, including “Nautical Disaster” and “Grace, Too“. Trouble at the Henhouse followed in 1996, producing five singles, including “Ahead by a Century” and “Butts Wigglin”, which would also appear on the soundtrack to the Kids in the Hall movie Brain Candy. Live Between Us, was recorded on the subsequent tour at Cobo Arena in Detroit, Michigan
The band explored a unique sound and ethos, leaving behind all earlier blues influence. Downie’s singing became fuller and stronger, while the band experimented with song structures and chord progressions. Songs explored the themes of Canadian geography and history, water and land, all motifs that became heavily associated with the Hip. While Fully Completely began an exploration of deeper themes and is suitably highly revered, many critics consider Day for Night to be the Hip’s artistry most fully realized.
The sound here is typically called “enigmatic” and “dark”, while critic MacKenzie Wilson praises “the minimalism of Downie’s poignancy.” It was on the follow-up tour for this album that the band made its first and only appearance on Saturday Night Live, thanks in large part to the finagling of fellow Canadian Dan Aykroyd.
In July 1996, The Hip headlined Edenfest. The three-day concert took place at Mosport Park, in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, just a few months after the LP Trouble At the Henhouse was released. The concert sold over 70,000 tickets total and was attended by another estimated 20,000 people who walked into the concert site after the outside security broke down.
In 1998, the band released their seventh full-length album, Phantom Power, which produced five singles. It won the 1999 Juno Awards for Best Rock Album and Best Album Design. A single from the album, Bobcaygeon, won the Juno Award for Single of the Year in 2000. The album has been certified platinum three times over in Canada.
In February 1999, The Hip played the very first concert at the brand new Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario.
2000 saw the release of Music @ Work. It won the 2001 Juno Award for Best Rock Album. The album featured back-up vocals from Julie Doiron on a number of tracks, and reached No. 1 on the Canadian Billboard Charts.
In 2002, In Violet Light, recorded by Hugh Padgham and Terry Manning at Compass Point Studios in The Bahamas was released, along with three singles from the album. It became certified platinum in Canada. Later that year, the Hip made a cameo appearance in the Paul Gross film Men with Brooms, playing a curling team from their hometown of Kingston. Two of their songs, “Oh Honey” and “Throwing Off Glass”, were also featured on the film’s soundtrack.
On October 10, 2002, The Tragically Hip performed two songs, “It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken” and “Poets”, as part of a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II. In 2003, the band recorded a cover of “Black Day in July”, a song about the 1967 12th Street Riot in Detroit, on Beautiful: A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot.
In Between Evolution was released in 2004 in the No. 1 position in Canada. It has since sold over 100,000 copies.
In October 2005, several radio stations temporarily stopped playing “New Orleans Is Sinking“, out of sensitivity to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which had devastated the city in early September of that year. However it received considerable pirate radio and relief site play and gained some notoriety and praise in New Orleans due to its attitudinal proximity to the city’s culture.
On November 1, 2005, The Hip released a double CD, double DVD box set, Hipeponymous, including all of their singles and music videos to date, a backstage documentary called “Macroscopic”, an animated Hip-scored short film entitled “The Right Whale”, two brand new songs (“No Threat” and “The New Maybe”), a full-length concert from November 2004 That Night in Toronto, and a 2-CD greatest hits collection Yer Favourites (selected on-line by 150,000 fans). On November 8, 2005, Yer Favourites and That Night In Toronto were released individually.
In 2006 another studio album, entitled World Container, was released, being notably produced by Bob Rock. It produced four singles, and reached the No. 1 spot on the Canadian rock music charts. The band toured concert dates in major Canadian cities, and then as an opening act for The Who on several US dates. A tour of Eastern Canada, Europe, and select cities in the United States occurred late in the year.
On February 23, 2008, The Hip returned to their hometown of Kingston, Ontario, where they were the first live act to perform at the new K-Rock Centre.
In 2009, the band again worked with producer Bob Rock, and We Are the Same was released in North America on April 7, 2009. It produced three singles. To promote We Are the Same the band invited The Hour‘s George Stroumboulopoulos for a live interview at The Bath House Recording Studio in Bath, Ontario (where most of the album was recorded), and they played seven new songs as well as unique versions of five other songs. The interview and performance were broadcast live in more than eighty theatres across Canada.