On “Bobcaygeon,” the highlight of this album and possibly the Hip’s best song ever, Downie’s enigmatic lyrics paint a picture that accumulates detail with every listen. – Amazon
You can never predict what will inspire my choice for the Wadio from one week to the next – this time around, it was as simple as a fireside conversation with an old friend about his dock sales route. “Last week I went up through Napanee, stopped in Belleville, made a run down towards Trenton and then right back up to Bobcaygeon“. I smiled and looked over at Moynihan, as I knew exactly what he was thinking – That’s the town they mention in that Hip song!
The Tragically Hip’s lineup has remained absolutely unchanged since 1983 when they started slugging away on the Ontario club circuit – and they’ve grown over the past 22 years to become the undisputed and revered godfathers of Canadian rock. My history with the Hip has been love/hate (read about it here). I have seen them live four times and their lead singer, Gord Downie, solo twice. I have grown slowly to love this band over two decades, and like Marmite – most people either love them or hate them.
Bobcaygeon is one of their more readily digestible dittys, and was once described by Downie as a “cop love song”. The song weaves the tale of a man who hates his job and spends every waking hour longing to return to the arms of his significant other, and opens with two of my favorite lines ever: I left your house this morning about a quarter after nine / coulda been the Willie Nelson, coulda been the wine. Ah yes, Lovemaking – country-style. I wonder which one of them was holding the fly-swatter.
In the video, Gord is a Toronto horseback cop (not to be confused with RCMP), and his girlfriend is Native American. But the actual lyrics never get this specific, which is why I hate literal interpretations and music vids in general: Drove back to town this morning with working on my mind / I thought of maybe quitting / thought of leaving it behind / went back to bed this morning / and as I’m pulling down the blind / the sky was dull and hypothetical / and falling one cloud at a time.
Sounds like someone needs to pay a hasty visit to Monster.com. As the song progresses, the protagonist is involved in breaking up what sounds like a white power rally (which is probably why the woman is portrayed as ethnic in the video): In the middle of that riot / couldn’t get you off my mind. He then returns home to the rural paradise that is Bobcaygeon, Ontario and resumes brooding/liquoring.
I love this song. The lyrics are simple – yet deep and engaging. The acoustic guitar is rustic and scratchy and the bassline dances around like a crazy person. As it slowly builds momentum towards the creshendo of the incident in Toronto, you learn volumes about this man and the remorse he has for his lot in life. Afterall, behind every suicidal cop, there’s an indigenous woman.