"Looking For A Place To Happen"
"Jacques Cartier, right this way I'll put your coat up on the bed You've got the real bum's eye for clothes And come on in, sit right down We've all been here since, God, who knows?" When you namecheck French explorer Jacques Cartier, you're taking Canadiana lyricism to the next level. Cartier was the first European to map the shores of the Saint Lawrence River, which he named "The Country of Canadas." Downie was the first Canadian to rock out about it.
"All Canadian Surf Club"
"Well, there’s a rocking little spot next to the Regent Theatre
And if you want to make the scene you’ll make it sooner or later
You’re really hanging with the crowd, you know the ins and the outs here
All Canadian Surf Club, denim jackets and long hair" This 1987 classic from their self-titled album features a shout-out to Toronto’s Regent Theatre and a run-down of the era's hoser dress code of jean jackets and hockey hair.
"Cause it was in Bobcaygeon Where I saw the constellations Reveal themselves One star at a time" This wistful ballad from 1998's 'Phantom Power' album put the Kawartha Lakes, Ontario, village on the map and in our dreams.
"Fifty Mission Cap"
"Bill Barilko disappeared that summer He was on a fishing trip The last goal he ever scored Won the Leafs the cup They didn’t win another 'til 1962 The year he was discovered I stole this from a hockey card I keep tucked up under" It's lyrics like this one from the 1992 alt-rock classic album 'Fully Completely' that have crystallized the Canadian legends.
"38 Years Old"
"Twelve men broke loose in '73 From Millhaven Maximum Security Twelve pictures lined up across the front page Seems the Mounties had a summertime war to wage" This haunting '89 song is inspired by a prison break from Millhaven Institute in the band's Kingston, Ontario, hometown. You can almost envision the Kingston Whig-Standard's front-page story.
"Late breaking story on the CBC
Nation whispers, “We always knew that he’d go free”
They add, “You can’t be fond of living in the past
‘Cause if you are then there’s no way that you’re going to last” This song tells the story of David Milgaard, who was just 17 when he was convicted of the brutal rape and murder of 21-year-old Gail Miller in Saskatoon. His story captivated the nation and he served more than 23 years in prison before DNA evidence proved his innocence and he was released 1997.
"The Lonely End of the Rink"
"I hear your voice across a frozen lake
A voice from the end of a leaf
Saying, “You won’t die of a thousand fakes
Or be beaten by the sweetest of dekes” Beyond the imagery of rinks made from frozen lakes, it's Gord Downie's use of the classic hockey term "deke" that cements this song firmly in Canadiana.
"I think it was Algonquin Park
It was so cold and winter dark
A promised hibernation high
Took me across the great black plate of ice" The lyrics of this 2000 song from the Hip's seventh album, 'Music @ Work,' read like a grim Canadian fairytale.
"If there’s a goal that everyone remembers
It was back in old '72 We all squeezed the stick and we all pulled the trigger
And all I remember is sitting beside you You said you didn’t give a f*ck about hockey
And I never saw someone say that before
You held my hand and we walked home the long way
You were loosening my grip on Bobby Orr" This '98 song about the 1972 Canada-Soviet Hockey Series takes a hard left into 'love song' territory.
"In Skeleton Park
One fine summer evening
The sun teased the dark
Like the last strawberry
I could hear them on the breeze
Hear them moving through the trees
The ghosts of the Rideau Canal start to sing
And patting the grass you said
“Come sit next to me, be my sweetheart”
Over in Skeleton Park" Locals have long been practically tripping over human remains at Kingston's downtown McBurney Park, formerly known as Skeleton Park, formerly-formerly known as Upper Burial Ground, which operated as a cemetery from 1819 to 1864. The reference to Rideau Canal ghosts adds some spookiness to Ottawa's longest skating rink.
"The Darkest One"
"Come in, come in, come in, come in
From thin and wicked prairie winds come in
It’s warm and it’s safe here and almost heartening
Here in a time and place not lost on our imagination" There is nothing so rooted in the shared Canadian experience than what is offered in this 2002 track: an invitation to come in from the cold and be safe.
"At The Hundredth Meridian"
"Me debunk an american myth?
And take my life in my hands?
Where the great plains begin
At the hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian
Where the great plains begin"
The song's about the line of longitude that marks off Western Canada, but if you're feeling weepy at all today, don't listen to the part of the song that dictates where Mr. Downie would like to be laid to rest: "If they bury me some place I don't want to be You'll dig me up and transport me, unceremoniously Away from the swollen city breeze, garbage bag trees Whispers of disease and the acts of enormity And lower me slowly and sadly and properly Get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy"