Tragically Hip – Ahead By A Century

I learned about this band from my Canadian friends Dave and Deke. What a wonderful band they were and I’m still shocked they didn’t make a bigger impact in America. The Tragically Hip remains a national treasure in Canada. This song is not only beautiful but it weaves together past, present, and future. It is about time, memory, loss, disappointment, and desire.

The song was released in 1996 on the album Trouble In The Henhouse. The album peaked at #1 in Canada, #7 on the Billboard Heatseeker Album Charts, and #134 on the Billboard Album Charts.

They got their name from Elephant Parts. That was a video by Michael Nesmith (Monkee guitarist) and they heard it in an Elvis Costello song (Town Cryer) also. Gordon Downie said: “There’s one skit in there that is sort [of] like a TV plea: ‘Send some money to the Foundation for the Tragically Hip.’ And that phrase has also appeared in an Elvis Costello song. It crops up every now and again, and it’s just a name that we like.”

They formed in 1984 in Kingston, Ontario. They were together until 2017. They have released 13 studio albums, one live album, one compilation album, two video albums, two extended plays, and a boxed set. In December 2015, their lead singer Gordon Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.


Following Downie’s terminal diagnosis, he soldiered on for one final tour with the group that had  over a thirty-plus-year career  and become known as “Canada’s Band.” Night after night, the group’s set closed with a lengthy ovation for a man that had…in his impressive body of work…seemingly captured everything that made Canada…well Canada.

On the last night of the tour – in the band’s hometown of Kingston, Ontario – Downie said his final goodbye with this song. The credited songwriters are Rob Baker, Gordon Downie, Johnny Fay, Paul Langlois, and Gord Sinclair.

Gordon Downie died on October 17, 2017, and the country mourned his passing.

Gordon Downie: “Originally, that song was entirely different,” he revealed. “The lyrics were almost totally overhauled, which is not usually my style, but whatever—it seemed like the way to go. Originally, what was it: ‘First thing we’d climb a tree, and maybe then we’d talk; I will touch your cunt, you will touch my cock; then we’ll be married, then we won’t have to hide.’ Those were sort of working lyrics, but they stuck there, they said to me ‘innocence’, and that’s what I wanted, because I thought, ‘It’s two little kids, and they don’t know what a cunt is and they don’t know what a cock is—they just heard them called that.’

“People picked up on that within the band, but then it became apparent that I was going to have to defend one’s right to use words that possibly offend other people, and I didn’t really care to have a Lenny Bruce situation on my hands. But the biggest concern—which was pointed out to me by our guitar tech, Billy—was that no one’s gonna get to hear this song because no one’s gonna play it, and ultimately the real reason no one’s gonna hear it is because they’re only gonna hear those lines and not the rest of the song. People’s ears are gonna race to those words and start having a little debate about what those words mean.

The last concert and last song…Ahead By A Century

Ahead By A Century

First thing we’d climb a tree
And maybe then we’d talk
Or sit silently
And listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday
Cast in a golden light
No dress rehearsal
This is our life

And that’s where the hornet stung me
And I had a feverish dream
With revenge and doubt
Tonight, we smoke them out

You are ahead by a century
You are ahead by a century
You are ahead by a century

Stare in the morning shroud
And then the day began
I tilted your cloud
You tilted my hand
Rain falls in real time
And rain fell through the night
No dress rehearsal, this is our life

But that’s when the hornet stung me
And I had a serious dream
With revenge and doubt
Tonight, we smoked them out

You are ahead by a century
You are ahead by a century
You are ahead by a century

You are ahead by a century
You are ahead by a century
You are ahead by a century
And disappointing you is gettin’ me down


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

45 thoughts on “Tragically Hip – Ahead By A Century”

  1. Beauty, eh! A great song, from what to me was their last great album…they put out good ones after but ‘…Henhouse’ ended a stretch of about four very good, consistent albums. They really put out a varied body of work with interesting lyrics, often Canadian-themed (only a Canuck might know where Bobcaygeon is or who Bill Barilko was). Even the Prime Minister was there to see their final concert.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve definitely heard their memorable name before but sadly, or perhaps I should say tragically, haven’t listened to their music. I surely like how “Ahead By a Century” sounds!

    That background story about Gord Downie is just heartbreaking – man, he was only 53! I think it also speaks volumes if even your country’s prime minister attends your final show!

    On a move upbeat note, Dave and Deke – dude, I like how these names sound together! It would be a cool name for a duo – so how about it, fellows? And remember, you read it here first!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are a national treasure up there no doubt. The Dave and Deke show! It baffles me on why they weren’t big here. They had a great sound.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Dave and Deke, it just has a certain sound to it! Deke could leverage his YouTube channel with Jex. Heck, they could even make it a power trio: Dave, Deke & Jex, or DDJ!

        By the time Deke gets to throw in a word, we’re gonna have their promotional strategy all figured out!😆

        Liked by 1 person

      2. LOL…I would go see them! Don’t let Deke fool ya…he played bass back in the 80s and 90s…just need to get him back in shape on the bass.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Jeez, this sounds a bit like me in terms of having played bass during my wild but short-lived band days!🎸😆. Not that I would ever want to compare myself to Deke who was probably way more talented.

        Come on now, Deke, where are you?🤣

        Liked by 2 people

  3. This is awesome Max! Hip were and still are a big deal here but you already know that. This is a great song as if anyone that is reading this check out the first four Hip albums that came before Trouble In The Henhouse. The Hips first two studio albums Up To Here and Road Apples were produced by Don Smith who captured a young and hungry band. Great listens…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks man! I hope the article is somewhat correct. What a heartbreaking way to end it. The guy had grace like no other to go through that and push through that tour.
      I’m checking those out man…thanks Deke!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I would say Road Apples. Love that guitar barroom rock
      Also check out the Live At the Roxy from 91! They are on fire from that stage and Downie is on another planet lol

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Have heard the name before but probably not the music. Good post that gives the context of the first YouTube. Cannot imagine the energy flowing in the concert hall that night. Brought tears to my eyes. Good music also.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was tragic…and yea you can feel the emotion through the film. They were a really good band with a cool name. They have a similar sound to REM on some of their songs.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I was listening to them because of Deke, of course, and I think they sounded like R.E.M. at times which could be why they didn’t hit it big as we already had R.E.M. I don’t really know, only a thought.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes that could have been it…sometimes they were really Canadian…well of course they were lol but more so than others and that might have been it also…like some British bands are deemed too “British” for America…which I think is stupid.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’d heard of them before one of Daves posts highlighted them. ‘Bobcaygeon’ is on my driving list for that reason, and this one is joining it. Great if sad way to do a final tour, rolling round the country you love.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks for the little bit of Canadiana Max. I know someone who was a neighbour of Gord’s for awhile, said the man was very friendly and acted like just a regular guy and family man. Like U2 they split writing credits evenly, he was really a humble man. How brave and strong he was to do that last tour. We lost a friend to the same illness around the same time, truly a devastating disease.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Randy…it alwasy scares me to write these becasue you guys know the history…I don’t as much.
      He had to be a strong person to get through that tour physically and mentally.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Nice to see the non-Canadians appreciating them, and Randy pointing out how Gordie was a decent, down to earth guy. I said something to that effect to Max in an E-mail recently…with a few exceptions, Canadian musicians tend to not be jackasses, though there are 1 or 2 exceptions. Most are pretty cool, nice types. Now living here in Texas it’s weird… listening to a CD of theirs & I have a new sense of national pride I didn’t even feel when hearing them in Ontario. Time to pull on my ’50 Mission Cap’, LOL

    Liked by 2 people

  9. The Tragically Hip take me back for sure. I think they did alright for themselves. It’s the same as The Replacement. We think that they should have made it BIG. But, in a sense, they DID! These sort of indie bands were huge in their day and fans still love them to pieces.

    Liked by 1 person

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