Tragically Hip – New Orleans is Sinking ….Canadian Week

I’m just now really listening to this band and I’m liking a lot of what I’m hearing. This song takes on a new meaning after Katrina but this song was released in 1989. Whenever I post something about a band that I don’t know much about…I usually go with their most popular song to start off. I posted Ahead By A Century, and people responded. I like this one more…it has some thump to it.

I liked this one with a first listen. I love the relentless guitar riff that starts this off.  The song seems to be recalling a past experience in the city, and the lyrics describe a sense of nostalgia and appreciation for everything New Orleans has to offer…including its spirit. The song is lamenting the changing times, and expressing his desire to remain connected to its rich history and traditions.

The song was on their debut album Up To Here released in 1989. The album did well in Canada peaking at #9 and #170 on the Billboard 100. They released 13 studio albums and this is the worse showing of all the albums on the Canadian charts. Nine of their albums peaked at #1, two of them at #2, and one of them at #3. The song peaked at #1 on the Canadian RPM magazine Charts, #70 on the Canadian Singles Charts, and #30 on the Billboard Main Rock Charts in 1989. The song was credited to the band.

To show the disparity between the band’s fortunes in America and Canada. I read that a fan was traveling through upstate New York and passed a small roadside club that said “Tonight: The Tragically Hip” and he turned around and saw them in the small club. In Canada at the time were filling stadiums and now they got a chance to see them close up. A difference a few miles can make.

The Tragically Hip is an institution in Canada, and still something of a cult band everywhere else…and I love cult bands such as Big Star and The Replacements.

Deke told me about the live album The Tragically Hip Live At The Rox May 3, 91 and it is great…a great sound and the band was really tight that night. No video of them but it’s worth a listen to the video below this.

New Orleans Is Sinking

Bourbon blues on the street, loose and complete
Under skies all smoky blue-green
I can’t forsake a Dixie dead-shake
So we danced the sidewalk clean
My memory is muddy, what’s this river that I’m in?
New Orleans is sinking man, and I don’t wanna swim

Colonel Tom, what’s wrong? What’s going on?
Can’t tie yourself up for a deal
He said “hey north you’re south shut your big mouth,
You gotta do what you feel is real”
Ain’t got no picture postcards, ain’t got no souvenirs
My baby, she don’t know me when I’m thinking ’bout those years

Pale as a light bulb hanging on a wire
Sucking up to someone just to stoke the fire
Picking out the highlights of the scenery
Saw a little cloud that looked a little like me

I have my hands in the river
My feet back up on the banks
Looked up to the Lord above
And said, hey man thanks
Sometimes I feel so good I gotta scream
She said Gordie baby I know exactly what you mean
She said, she said, I swear to God she said

My memory is muddy, what’s this river that I’m in?
New Orleans is sinking man and I don’t wanna swim


Author: Badfinger (Max)

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

44 thoughts on “Tragically Hip – New Orleans is Sinking ….Canadian Week”

  1. Great stuff Max! Thanks for the shout out and how about Bakers riffing on the end of the track!
    This record sold 1 Million in Canada which is 10 times platinum. The whole album is filled with barroom boogie rock!
    You nailed it out of the park on this one Bro!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks man…the real test is tomorrow lol. I’m glad it was correct. I loved this song man…Dave told me in Canada it’s played quite a bit.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Nice one Max! Like Deke said, that’s when their real radio and sales domination of Canada began (I didn’t know it even made any Billboard charts at all)… a good tune but yes, to me, it fell into that ‘Old Time Rock n Roll’ category of songs played to death in Canada, which is unfortunate. But it’s a good indication of the early sound they had and (I’ve got to listen to see which live one you posted) a staple of their live sets with Downie riffing away ad libbing. Hope a few new ears open to them with your piece. Speaking of the T Hip, time to get posting at my site…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Dave… the story about them playing in the small bar is incredible when a few miles north…they were huge. It makes no sense in some ways.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I had a couple of friends (literally, they were married) that were nurses and lived briefly in San Antonio (they moved back to Canada before I ventured south unfortunately). The guy was a huge fan and said he saw them play in S.A. in some bar that held about 100 and the room was full of Canadian ex-pats waving flags. Barely an American in the room. And that was at a time when they easily sold out Air Canada Centre in Toronto, 18 000 strong.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. When I read that story….I couldn’t believe it…it makes no sense. You would have thought some of it would have slipped down a little bit anyway. It was a cool experience for the people if not the band…to see them that close up.
        It would have been like seeing The Stones in a small club for many people.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Great synergy going on, very Hip! That’s one thing that puts me off the live performances, Gord could take some seriously wide tangents on stage. I did suffer from the played to death syndrome but it’s great to revisit.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Some UK songs are liked that…like with Status Quo over there played to death but we hardly hear them.
        The first time I heard the song was a few weeks ago. They have some great stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you Randy- unpopular position but I agree …sort of. I bet it would’ve been cool AT the concert if he went off on some ad-libbed long story that you hadn’t heard before about cleaning killer whale tanks etc. But to have it on a record & hear it over and over again, it gets a tad tedious

        Liked by 2 people

    1. No matter how much you read about a band or artist…if you don’t KNOW them…or their history….sometimes you don’t know what to beleive. Like with The Beatles I can navigate their history easily.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I did Ahead by a Century a couple of weeks ago and loved it. I am loving what I’m hearing. My Canadian friends told me that this song has been overplayed in Canada but everything is new to me.


  3. It had a greasy bar sound that grabbed me. The first song I heard was this ne. I went out and bought the album. A fan ever since. The hard rock edge and a bunch of other things were right up my alley. No defense against this kind of music. ‘I had my hands in the river …” love that lyric. Couldn’t of picked a better cut Max.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That bouncing guitar riff is what caught me….like you said…a very bar band sounding song…and I mean that in the best way.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was just relaying this song to Connie ‘Do you remember this group’? Haha.
        ‘Ahead by a Century’ is fantastic. We were saying how much he looked like Grant McLennan from The Go-Betweens.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We use that in the south…yes. Sorry… I never thought about it. It means it’s “like” something.
        Example… Jeannie favors her sister.
        Sometimes Bruce and I will run into that.

        Either him or I will say something and a certain word doesn’t make sense to the other.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thats the south… I don’t realize it until I talk to someone not in the south.
        Another American may not know what I meant who doesn’t live in the south.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This a cool-sounding tune, Max – love it!

    Like apparently is the case with you, I’m also still at the very beginning of exploring the music by The Tragically Hip. I recently included “Bobcaygeon”, off their 1998 album “Phantom Power” in my “Sunday Six” feature. It was kind of an arbitrary pick.

    Liked by 1 person

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