The country’s crazy heat wave has got us thinking about the “Paris of the prairies” which reached a high of 30°C today with a whopping 40°C humidity air temperature. This Monday’s music pick is Canadian icons The Tragically Hip. Tell us if you know where the “Paris of the prairies” is as referred to in their classic ballad Wheat Kings.
The Tragically Hip
Formed in 1983 in Kingston, Ont, by Gordon Downie (vocals), Rob (Bobby) Baker (lead guitar), Paul Langlois (rhythm guitar), Gord Sinclair (bass guitar) and Johnny Fay (drums). The group’s name is derived from a skit that is performed in Michael Nesmith’s movie Elephant Parts, but fans simply refer to the group as The Hip. During a performance at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto in 1986, the group caught the attention of Bruce Dickinson, then president of MCA Records. Dickinson signed them to MCA and they recorded the self-titled EP The Tragically Hip (1987), followed by Up to Here (1989), which featured the singles “Blow at High Dough” and “New Orleans Is Sinking,” and Road Apples (1990), which included “Little Bones” and “Twist My Arm.” In 1992 Fully Completely was released (1993 in the US) and the album won six Juno Awards and two MuchMusic Video Awards. The album Day for Night (1994) was released in the US through Atlantic Records with the hope that the new label would promote them more vigorously in the foreign markets. While touring to promote Trouble at the Henhouse (1996) they recorded Live Between Us in Detroit, which was released as their first live album (1997). Their next two albums, Phantom Power (1998) and Music@Work (2000), were strongly promoted inside and outside Canada.
Known for their raucous performances, the band established a demanding club and concert itinerary throughout their career, touring extensively in Canada, the US, Europe and Australia. They have toured with many other musical groups, such as Midnight Oil, World Party, and Hothouse Flowers in 1993, Spirit of the West and Ziggy Marley in 1995, and Los Lobos, Ron Sexsmith and Wilco during their 1997 tour. The Hip also co-founded a series of tours called “Another Roadside Attraction” to raise money for various international charities. The charitable tours in 1993 and 1995 sold out across Canada and the last “Another Roadside Attraction” tour was held in 1997. They also performed in Salt Lake City during the 2002 Winter Olympics.
The Hip achieved triple platinum status with Up to Here, which received a Juno Award for most promising group of the year in 1990. After winning the 1990 Juno, they continued to receive recognition from the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) and won Canadian entertainer of the year in 1991, 1993, and 1995, and group of the year in 1995. In 1997 they again received the Juno for group of the year, and Trouble at the Henhouse won album of the year in addition to the North Star rock album of the year. Phantom Power won the Juno for best rock album in 1999 and in 2000 “Bobcaygeon,” off the Phantom Power album, won the Juno for best single. The Juno for best rock album was again awarded to The Hip in 2001 for Music@Work.
The Tragically Hip travelled to Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas to work with British producer Hugh Padgham (David Bowie, The Police) for 2002′s In Violet Light. In the studio, Padgham managed to capture the band’s lively energy while simultaneously showcasing Downie’s lyrics. The album sold more than 100 000 copies on the strength of the singles “It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken,” “Silver Jet,” and “The Darkest One,” the video of which featured the stars of the cult Canadian television comedy, Trailer Park Boys.
Adam Kasper (Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters) produced 2004′s In Between Evolution, which featured some of the shortest and fastest songs the group has ever recorded. It included the singles “Vaccination Scar,” “It Can’t be Nashville Every Night” and “Summer is Killing Us,” which helped push sales past the platinum certification mark of 100 000 units.
“No Threat” and the acoustic “The New Maybe” were the two new songs included on 2005′s Yer Favourites, a two-record set comprised of 37 songs chosen by fans. The career retrospective was also included in Hipeponymous, which featured the two CDs along with a concert DVD and another DVD containing all of the Hip’s videos, several short films and a 50-minute documentary called Macroscopic. Yer Favourites has been certified double-platinum and Hipeponymous has reached platinum status. The latter also won the 2006 Juno for best music DVD.
World Container was released in Canada in October 2006 and in the US five months later. It was recorded with producer Bob Rock (Metallica, Mötley Crüe) at studios in Maui, Vancouver and Toronto. Lead single “In View” reached the top of the Canadian singles chart and the album debuted at number two on the sales chart before selling more than 100 000 copies.
There was a longer between-album break before We Are The Same, which was produced by Rock at The Hip’s Bathouse Recording Studio outside Kingston, Ont, arrived in April 2009. It became the group’s eighth album to top the Canadian sales chart and reached the revised platinum sales standard of 80 000. We Are The Same, “Love is A First” and the Tragically Hip were nominated for 2010 Junos for rock album, single and group of the year respectively, which brought the band’s nomination total to 41. The group has won 12 times.
In 2002 The Tragically Hip were inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame, and at the 2005 Juno Awards they were inducted into The Canadian Music Hall of Fame. The Tragically Hip have appeared on Saturday Night Live (1995), composed the soundtrack and appeared in the movie Men with Brooms (2002) and made a cameo appearance during an episode of the sitcom Corner Gas (2005).
In addition to his work with The Hip, Gordon Downie has released two solo projects: Coke Machine Glow (an album and a book of poetry with the same name) released in 2001, and Battle of the Nudes in 2003.