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The Never-Ending Present

The Story of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip
Length: 17 hrs and 55 mins
4 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)

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Summary

From our talent-rich neighbor to the north comes this biography of one of the most successful Canadian rock bands, The Tragically Hip, which announced a year-long tour after sharing the news of lead singer Gord Downie’s inoperable cancer. Now available to US listeners, The Never-Ending Present details what led up to the memorable night when music fans all over the world watched Downie’s heroic final performance. Author Michael Barclay explores the band’s musical and cultural importance through interviews with friends, fans, and others they touched. Broadcaster George Stroumboulopoulos narrates the Hip’s saga from its start in Kingston, Ontario, in 1984 to its superstar status as kings of the Canadian music scene—even conquering what Barclay calls the "American albatross." This audiobook is for anyone interested in rock music biographies in general or "Canada’s band" in particular, and how fans’ love for a band can foster a profound cultural moment of unity.  

©2018 Michael Barclay (P)2018 Audible, Inc.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fine tribute avoids hagiography

As a Hip fan from London (England) who experienced the frustration of only seeing the band on their occasional trips to the UK, (but the consolation of seeing them in relatively small venues, plus one night in Minneapolis on the Fully Completely tour), Barclay's history is hugely welcome. It is a riveting account not only of The Tragically Hip's musical evolution, but also the cultural context in which it took place, an eye-opening journey through 40 years of Canadian art, commerce and politics, culminating in a deeply moving (but never maudlin) assessment of the impact of Gord Downie's illness and death on the nation. What's makes this such a fitting tribute is that Stroumboulopoulos' wry narration highlights Barclay's witty and nuanced approach, so that instead of a sensationalistic rock biog, the story reflects the idiosyncratic and often contradictory elements which inform the band's perceived strengths and weaknesses, and effectively analyses the formula for their longevity. While there are no primary-sourced interviews with Downie or the surviving members, Barclay provides a rich and varied cast of characters, who offer insightful commentary on everything from the Canadian punk scene through the wider poet v lyricist debate to the 1st Nation activism that defined the final chapter of Downie's life. Far from a hagiography, the voices of The Hip's critics and detractors are also given a respectful airing, again in keeping with a band that never lost its sense of perspective or humility, despite it's massive appeal to fans (throughout the world!)

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  • Tommy Garou
  • 13-12-18

Hometown Heroes

I have an intimate relationship with the members of The Hip; I have grown up with them and their music, and it’s all contributed significantly to my own growth as an artist and person. With all that being said, I was truly captivated by Barclay’s intimate narrative. He really captures the essence of what made the five guys so compatible, and how they were able to achieve the level of success that they did. Stroumboulopoulos provides what is quite possibly the most appropriate voice for this book; a well traveled, articulate aficionado of art and culture, his personal relationship with the band accentuates a heartfelt, truthful performance.
My one gripe is the blatant fact that the book itself is not fact-checked by the band themselves (though several intimate sources are verified in interviews etc.) But taking that with a grain of salt, if you look at it as a story, which the magic that the band created is more than worthy of, it is exquisitely crafted and truly compelling. My favourite part was how each of the guys was highlighted and really given thorough focus throughout the novel. Each of their personalities and talents are conveyed through wonderful anecdotes about how particular songs came to be, and how they evolved as a band etc.

With all of my biases aside, this is really is a great book, and all of the production elements combine to amplify a compelling story about one of the truly great Rock and Roll bands, and one of the greatest frontmen of all time.

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  • JR
  • 14-10-18

Gord F’ing Downie

Loved this book, thank you Michael for writing it and for George’s narration. The music these guys gave us became the anthems of my youth. Every time I hear their music it reminds of great times with lifetime friends.

This book is very thorough hence the over 17 hour’s of listening. It gives you everything you would ever want to know about the band, it’s members, albums, tours, etc. it also gives you great info on the Canadian music scene and its players.

If you are a fan of the band or a fan of Canadian music this book will not disappoint. Miss you Gord!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 13-10-18

Loved it!

Very thorough informative and entertaining. Gord and the boys are an inspiration to us all!

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  • Steven Rochon
  • 12-09-18

Highly Recommended to Fans

This gave me a lot of the band's story from their beginnings to their culmination in 2016. It reminded me how much I miss Gord and how much of a shame it is that we'll never hear from this band again.

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  • Jim
  • 03-08-18

very insightful in all areas

I really respect the amount of research that went into this. what an unbelievable testament not only to the band, but to how music brings us all together in our common mortality and quest to make meaning of the gift we call life.

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  • Michael
  • 01-08-18

Non-traditional biography

I have enjoyed this (unauthorized) biography very much. Full disclosure I am a huge Hip fan, but not an audiophile. I listened even though some of the surviving band members have criticized some of the facts in the book, but I have found it very well researched.

Without giving away some of my favorite parts, for me the highlights included:
-history on the band and their key performances
-connections to other popular acts like Nirvana, Spirit of the West, Midnight Oil, the Odds, etc.
-behind the scenes details on Gord’s solo album and how it was constructed
-explanations and perspectives on how the Hip fit into the Canadian cultural landscape (positive and negative)

On a personal note I enjoyed the extensive details on the July 1994 Canada Day Concert which I had never seen anywhere. I was actually there and I remember how amazing their set was (and how out of place Daniel Lanois was, which was fully explained in the book).