Gord Downie - The Grand Bounce Gord Downie

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The Grand Bounce - Song Listing
01. The East Wind
02. Moon Over Glenora
03. As A Mover
04. The Dance And Its Disappearance
05. The Hard Canadian
06. Gone
07. The Drowning Machine
08. Yellow Days
09. Night Is For Getting
10. Moonslow Yer Lashes
11. Retrace
12. Broadcast
a
 
Album Notes
Album Biography
Cover/Art/Design
The Font
The Title
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Battle of the Nudes Coke Machine Glow
   

The Grand Bounce

 

   One late winter day, about a year ago, I was standing talking to my neighbour, Todd. He is a farmer. We couldn’t help but notice that we were getting killed by a strong, cold wind, coming hard off the lake. ‘That’s an east wind,’ Todd remarked, ‘the laziest wind’.
    ‘The laziest wind?’ I asked.
    ‘Yea,’ he said, ‘it doesn’t go around you, it goes right through you.” There was a long pause then he said, ‘you can use that.’


   The summer before that, I first met Chris Walla backstage at a festival in Pemberton. Chris is a gem. We talked easily for an hour or so, about what is funny about peace, love and understanding; about making music of our language for no other reason than to hear the sound again. We compared mythologies and talked about Obama. Yes, girls. Chris is a Democrat.

   One lazy afternoon, when I was a kid, I was reading ‘The Cariboo Horses’ by Al Purdy. Everybody knows it. One poem in particular, ‘Necropsy Of Love’ stuck out and stayed with me;

    ‘No I do not love you/hate the word/the private tyranny inside/a public sound’.

   Today, when I sing these lines, I’m trying to be ample and grateful to the memory of Al Purdy, to the way he spoke. Speaking of which, some people are trying to preserve the A-Frame Al built with his own two hands in Ameliasburgh, trying to make it a place for poets to go and make music of our language, to write the things we all can use. www.alpurdy.ca

    One afternoon, a few months after Pemberton, I was in the driveway, listening until the end of his ‘Narrow Stairs’. I was reading the liner notes. I said to no one, ‘I’m going to make a record with this guy.’ I went into the house, made a coffee and called Chris Walla. “I’m just gonna say it,” I said, ‘I have this hunch, that you’re going to make a record with me.’
   Walla said, ‘Sure.’
   Silence, then I said, “Sure…as in you don’t believe I have a hunch? Or, ‘sure’ as in, you’ll do it?”

I’ve watched ‘The Ox-Bow Incident’, directed in 1943 by William Wellman, many many times. (Along with ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’, it is one of my favourite films). It stars a young Henry Fonda. And, aside from Wellman’s fascinating choices, the story offers a chillingly timeless glimpse into the dim mind of the mob and the will of the conscience.
   It was only a year ago, when I first read the ‘The Ox-Bow Incident’ by Walter von Tilburg Clark. This story is no mere Western. Clark was challenging, unswervingly, the idea of ‘Frontier’, its prevailing and convenient histories, its dewy-eyed notions of honour, justice, moral cowardice.
    ‘Night is like a room, it makes the little things in your head too important’.
   The East Wind. It doesn’t go around you. It goes right through.

    Pulled from The Gulag Archipelago and named-so by Dale Morningstar, The Country Of Miracles; Julie Doiron, Dave Clark, Josh Finlayson, John Press and Morningstar, came out of those gloriously fraught Coke Machine Glow days. Just ahead of the wrecking ball swinging outside the window of Dale’s Old Gas Station Studio and just after the last of the artists had left the building - their doors hanging open, their studios charred - The Country of Miracles was born. We were the last session there – ever - we had to work fast. It cemented us.

We found we could make a healthy racket together. We’ve always had great chemistry, and lotsa laughs. We go on stage with not too many preconceived notions, no Set List and no expectations, unless, of course, transcendence is an expectation…

   I thought that Chris might like working with these guys and they him. I thought this would be the best way to serve the songs. These were some of the hunches that brought us together for two weeks last August, Me and Chris and the Country Of Miracles.

    Months before that, I was downtown with my kids one night, to watch Kidd Pivot founder and choreographer, Crystal Pite’s ‘Lost Action’. I was reading the program booklet before the performance and there was a quote from Crystal describing what it is the dancers are doing:

“Dance disappears almost at the moment of its manifestation. It is an extreme expression of the present, a perfect metaphor for life. Dancers sculpt space in real time, working inside a form that is constantly in a state of vanishing. We have no artifacts. I find it strangely beautiful to be creating something that is made of us – made of our breath and blood and bones and minds. Something that is made of the space we occupy and made of the space between us. We embody both the dance and its disappearance.”
- Crystal Pite

Dancers say the coolest things.

    Now, Chris only had to drive across the continent for The Grand Bounce to begin. He drove it like he stole it; to the north shore of Lake - Ontario from Portland, Oregon and that impressed everyone.
   We jumped right into the notwork and lot-talk some call, ‘Recording’. The windows of the big house by the big lake were wide open to catch the night air and the sweet afternoon breezes, letting in the sound of the cicadas, a red-winged blackbird, a lonely far-off jet-ski.
    We played everything a lot until it felt right to everyone, until everyone had an emotional response. Some things came quicker than others. We were all crammed up together in that front room of the Bathouse, the one with the tuned-out tack piano and the wall of misfit books. We stood, headphone-alone and glancing distance away from one another and played through afternoon silhouette and soft late glow. We played and played and played, shooting invisible ropes to one another with invisible bows-and-arrows. We connected. We kept the best and fixed the rest
    I remember some people were wearing shorts.

    Happy days collapsed into sunken evenings. We recorded and swam, had some laughs and raised our glasses, ‘To the Chef! To Happy Jack! If this record’s any good at all, it’s because of the food!’
    It was August in Eastern Ontario and generous about it.

   The May before that, Clattenburg was describing to me this thing he was working on, ‘It’s HARD Canadian and dope’ he said. ‘Who, how? What, now?’ my mind was saying. It wouldn’t leave me alone. I think he knew I would write a song called, the Hard Canadian, in a hotel room in Detroit staring down the river at the Ambassador Bridge

   We said our goodbyes on the driveway of the studio. Chris said before leaving, ‘As your Attorney, I advise you not to take rough mixes., you'll listen to them too much.’ So I didn’t. I lived on the glow. Chris spent the winter mixing the record. He didn't rush it.

    ‘The Grand Bounce’ means desertion. I came across it reading, ‘Son Of The Morning Star’, Evan S. Connell’s epic book about Custer and The Battle of the Little Bighorn.

   Time passed, I would start to forget what the songs sounded like, what they were called, and then a mix would arrive, out of nowhere, always in the small hours. Those were Christmas mornings to me, opening my laptop to the newest secret, groggy headphones throbbing with a breathtaking gift.

   So, here I am grateful. Grateful for the words, for expression. Grateful to the band and to Chris and to my family. Grateful for the chance to try for an emotional event that unfolds gradually, elegantly, beautifully. This is the dream we all dream. ‘Love is gratitude for being’. These are real tears.

Gord Downie
Mar 26th, 2010

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COVER/ART/DESIGN
   The painting on the cover, I painted, for the Creative Art Gems Auction in Toronto. (www.creativeartgems.ca). I asked the buyers of the painting, Julian Padfield and Virginia Priscus, if I could make it the cover of my record. They graciously consented. The painting is called ‘Mohr’ for the late painter Ingeborg Mohr.

   I got together with photographer, Gord Hawkins based on what I had seen of his work. Which is formidable. We had a great time together. We went shooting all around the real Toronto, tough town, looking for help with the narrative in service of the songs.

   Simon Paul suggested the ‘hybrids’, the paint-on-photograph pieces, and waded through the 1100 or so photographs that Gord had taken, and then set to work creating a beautiful home for these songs.
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The Font
the Font
   The font for the record is the Richler Font. It was created for and named after the great Mordecai Richler. The font is not publicly available. I am so grateful for a chance to honour the man and his family, to wear the look of his letters. Walla – a font guy – says, ‘a font tells you everything you need to know about what you are about to read before you read it.’
   It was my friend, Daniel Richler, who took time out from work on his forthcoming novel, to ask his mother, Florence who so gracefully – and from what I can see, she knows no other way – said, ‘Yes.’ And ‘I do wish you the success it should illicit’ Florence wrote to me, ‘comparable to my appreciation.’
   Daniel then consulted the font’s creator Nick Shinn (Shinntype) and the font’s Commissioner, Louise Dennys, (the Executive Publisher of Knopf Random Canada, who called the font ‘tough-minded and elegant’). They both said, ‘Okay’

   Of course, this puts me in a bit of a position; nervous-made and hoping that the words can honour the very letters they’re printed with.

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Title

Over the last coupla years I was reading this fine book, this epic story by Evan S, Connell, called, ‘Son of the Morning Star’. The book is about Custer and the Battle of The Little Bighorn. It chronicles, chronologically and in microscopic detail, the story of the people and events intertwining and leading up to the massacre. It was in this book that I came across the phrase, ‘the Grand Bounce’. It refers to desertion,

(“Between October 1st 1866 and October 1st 1867, more than five hundred members of the 7th Calvary elected to take the Grand Bounce, which is to say they deserted”.’ Outfit all drunk.’…”)

(“I want to get out of the Army honourable but if I can’t get out otherwise I will give the cursed outfit the “Grand bounce. I can not endure them much longer.” One telegraph operator at Camp Brown Wyoming wrote. )

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The Grand Bounce

I

The east wind is the laziest wind.
It doesn’t go around you,
it goes right through.”
- Todd Burley



Moon Over Glenora
“Well I’d rather dress a wolf,” you said. ‘Well I’d rather floss his teeth,’ I said. We fought til the ferry was full and that wolf was dead. ‘Ship’s ahoy’ and we’re out of the car, under howling winds and skies of lead, we might as well have been crossing the ocean except this ocean is dead. There’s a smudge of moon over Glenora, ferry spotlight’s on the ice ahead, and over your shoulder and through the snowflakes there’s an aloneness. Aloneness. Aloneness as dead, as dead as that ocean is dead. And that ocean is dead. Back under the glow of the interior light, blowing hard into my hands I said, ‘Let’s leave this boat to the snowflakes… to the aloneness.’ Aloneness. Aloneless as dead, as that ocean is dead. And that ocean is dead.

As A Mover
Oh Baby, how about a kiss? You said, “Ok, but I don’t wanna do this.” Here’s me as a mover. Me as a mover. Got no opinion listening to the yessing of the snow, there’s no pressure, I’m not less sure I’m ready to go. “Oh I dare ya! Oh Daddy take us everywhere!” Me as a mover. Me as a mover. Got no opinion watching a dead leaf etching on the snow, the slow gesture, I’m even less sure of which way to go. “Oh everything is leaving, it seems there’s wings on everything. Oh.” Oh baby, how about that kiss? You said, “OK, but I still don’t wanna do it.” Here’s me as a mover. Me as a mover. Me, I’m the mover.

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The Grand Bounce
“Dance disappears almost at the moment of its manifestation. It is an extreme expression of the present, a perfect metaphor for life. Dancers sculpt space in real time, working inside a form that is constantly in a state of vanishing. We have no artifacts. I find it strangely beautiful to be creating something that is made of us – made of our breath and blood and bones and minds. Something that is made of the space we occupy and made of the space between us. We embody both the dance and its disappearance.”
- Crystal Pite
The Dance And Its Disappearance
My mind a-squirrel before the wind, my heart’s a-pounding, ‘Let me in,’ and it’s all a-happening in a glint of ballroom blue. It’s just me and you, we are the dance and its disappearance. In the air a taste of mint, and night’s been coming ever since, the sun’s been giving off its dark hints. In orangey glows and sudbury yellows we are the dance and its disappearance. In the distance, a howling wolf. But in the darkness there’s a tinge, the slightest streak of blood-orange like a drop of blood to the rusty door-hinge. Our beautiful due, it’s still me and you, we are the dance and its disappearance. Our beautiful due, I’ve been thinking about you, we are the dance and its disappearance. We are the dance and its disappearance. Another howl, further off.
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The Grand Bounce

II

“Night is like a room.
It makes the little things
in your head, too important.”
- Walter von Tilburg Clark

 

“It’s hard Canadian and dope”
- Mike Clattenburg

The Hard Canadian
The Hard Canadian, he don’t have much to say but he hurts your feelings almost every single day. Takes a puff-a-nothin, picks something from his tongue, he’s the Hard Canadian. The Hard Canadian doesn’t care what you do. The Hard Canadian don’t give a damn about you. What’s a windswept face, the elusive presence of the sun, to the Hard Canadian? The Hard Canadian is all darkness in his heart but for the glow of her nightgown through the dark. Yea, but then he blurs the image, drags his brush through the wet pigment, cause he’s the Hard Canadian. His berating heart, grown thorny with sin and oh the silences, he don’t listen to them. Whether he’s just mean or willfully dense, he says, ‘from life nothing; to death nothing.’ The hard Canadian is what he throws away and he hurt her feelings almost every single day. Now he takes a shot of nothing, stares off remembering someone. That’s the hard canadian. That’s the hard canadian. He’s the hard canadian.

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The Grand Bounce
“….he had not been rooted in any woman’s heart,
he could not merge with any reality and was therefore
condemned to float eternally on the periphery of life,
in half-real regions, on the margins of existence.”
- Bruno Schulz
Gone
The sun is quitting, it’s not the end of my race though night is dispatching savages at a furious pace. Silver and violet shadows run the lawn, I got my antlers in the thicket of a dream where you’re gone. You’re gone, and I’m not in your heart. You’re gone. Black hand painted across my mouth, I’m out of things to say, I am a few feet from myself with a promise to stay. As the wind inclines, the waves hit your dock, my scarf is flapping something wicked like its trying to talk, saying, “You’re gone, yeah if you’re not in her heart, yer gone. Gone like that pink star, up there in the sky, gone and feeling half-real on the edge of your life.” C’mon! C’mon, I can still push air, I’m not an act! Am I invisible to you now? - Wait! - Don’t answer that. I’m going to wake up, where I was on your lawn, where shadowy dreams are disappearing in the light of your dawn. Dawn, and am I in your heart? Or gone?

I am the deck, you are the sea, I am the lights on the water, you are moving underneath, underneath me. I am the rail, you are the sea, I don’t know what I’m looking at, don’t know if it’s even happening underneath me. It doesn’t take much. It doesn’t take much to ruin a moment like this. They curse your name, they whisper, ‘please, please, please.’ They’re yelling at your waves, ‘Stop crashing, just please bring her home to me!’ People can be so mean, they call you, ‘The Drowning Machine’. I’m the entertainment, you are the sea, I am the survivor, you didn’t even notice me underneath. I am the wreck, you are the sea, I yelled your name cross the water, you just hummed a factory underneath me. It doesn’t take much. It doesn’t take much to ruin a moment like this. I call your name, I whisper, ‘please, please, please.’ Not yelling at your waves to stop crashing, just please, bring her home to me. But people can be so mean, they call you, ‘The Drowning Machine.’ The Drowning Machine.
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The Grand Bounce

III

“No I do not love you
hate the word
that private tyranny inside
a Public sound.”
- Al Purdy

 
Yellow Days
Summer on! Bring on the buzzing past! Summer on! Bring on August trash, the sweat of Johnny Cash, the hot-knife to the hash, the girls in the grass! Summer, bring it on! Oh, at last; days that glow and ignite and explode into nights; nights that scream for morphine and swim into the days; days of whisky and cake; nights of make-believe; days you don’t believe; nights of faith in flames and not consumed by flames. Ah still, summer’s always going, turning everything Canada-gray, and I will miss all the not-knowing of those summer days, but I swear, I will take morphine and swim if you take one more look at him... ah those yellow days. Bring on the liquid smoke. Summer on, night’s a blindfold, stay close. Then this bird has flown, the bullet hits the bone and it’s all filmed on a phone. Summer’s getting on, oh stay close; days glowing, igniting, exploding into nights; nights - ‘I’m cold’ – I’m here -- ‘hold me closer to the day’; days it’s in your blood; nights you never dreamed (it’s supposed to be a dream); nights lost in the flood, and not lost in the flood. Ah still, summer’s always going, turning everything Canada-gray, and I will miss all the not-knowing of all those summer days, but I swear, I will also take morphine and swim, if you take one more look at him… ah those yellow days. Ah, those yellow days.

 
The Grand Bounce
Night Is For Getting
Here comes the night, with its palace disregard. Another night spent at the ready, to sleep or fight through sound tigers out in the yard. The night is for getting. Night is for getting. Night is forgetting. Here comes the time, for dreaming the dream we are. Another time, til slowly, we weren’t. The way you say, ‘It’s fine,’ calm and enough. Yet, there’s a weird undercurrent -- a we’re undercurrent? -- a weird undercurrent in your voice when you say, “Hush-hush baby, hush! Everything will turn out alright. Hush baby, hush. Now, we really need some quiet.” Here comes the day, dewdrops on the luminous veil. Another day spent in the netting where, you fight - you pay, on spiderlegs, on colder trails. Yeah, but night is forgetting. Night is forgetting. Night is for getting til you say, “Hush baby, hush! Everything will turn out alright. Hush, baby hush. Now we really need some quiet. Quiet. Quiet! Quiet.”

Moonslow Yer Lashes
Where I am, no one makes a sound, no one makes a peep, no one opens their mouth to speak. Oh, the constant idling of winter work, work I recognize and understand. No more, ‘What-must-he-think?’ No more, ‘I-think-he-thinks.’ More, alone and idling in a van. Where I am, no one makes a sound, nobody makes a peep, no one opens their mouth to speak. Oh, the constant sifting for material, oh the constantly in my head (‘Oh, ain’t that uncanny! Ain’t that unnatural!’) taking everything to bed. While Burgundy’s crestfallen, she’s outside herself, saying, “Why do I do what I did? When I get out of High Level – when, not if – I’m just gonna wanna hold and smell and touch my kids. And dance-dance to their timeless trance, and dream-dream to the stone of their dreams. Go on little drunken astronauts, go! Far, straight, forgiving and brief, forget the hawks, jaguars, the knife-lickers and creeps.” Where I am, no one makes a sound, no one makes a peep, no one opens their mouth to speak. Moonslow your eyelashes, fluttering above your cheeks. Moonslow your little lashes, please, go to sleep. Yeah please, go to sleep. Honey please, go to sleep
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The Grand Bounce

IV

‘Love is gratitude for being.’
- Saul Bellow

 
Retrace
High as an elephant’s eye before we even left, and when the party had died, and as we drank the rest, I retrace my steps. Snowy basketball court, cross the cold courthouse steps, hanging on every word, hearing everything you say as I retrace my steps. I retrace my steps, I wear a lonely path, I retrace my steps and back. Woke up this afternoon, a pale sun in the west. I haven’t left my room. I haven’t taken a step, as I retrace my steps.
I retrace my steps until no trace remains and I’ll retrace my steps again. I’ll retrace my steps though I know we’re all saying ‘Goodbye’. You know, I’“ll retrace my steps again, tonight. Tonight.

Broadcast
The sun rises with no sound, and broadcasts only the required amounts. And as it ensouls the lake, we see a small puff of smoke from far away. It’s a Great Laker, pink in the rising sun, dropping off something. A big freighter, pink on the horizon, it’s picking up something. The sun leaves the day denounced and broadcasts only the entire amount. As four apples wash ashore, we look out and there, we see some more. There’s a Laker, pink in the setting sun, dropping off something. The moon comes up big and round and broadcasts only its small amounts. We’re no good but we’re organized, we look out and there, on the lake’s a light. A great Laker’s light, if it’s showing green, it’s dropping off something. If it’s showing red - coming from the right, out of the west, into the night, on the working lake, moving with the wind - it’s picking up something. Our beautiful due, our hearts open wide, just me and you, fourteen inside, standing by the lake, faces to the wind, picking up something.
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The Grand Bounce

Epilogue

“This trailing sash was more than decorative: when
a sash-wearer took a stand in battle he pinned it to the earth
with a lance, signifying that he would never retreat.”
- Evan S. Connell

 
Pinned
I think we got in their heads when we pinned ourselves to the earth, when you said, “We’re lonely enough to be dead, even to be born.’ I was like, ‘I like dark, but that was like, too dark. Lets stay on top of the world and not pin ourselves to the earth. Yeah.’ Those who mourn are blessed. Those who mourn can love, and make music of their language just to hear the sound again. Yeah. I think we got in their heads when we pinned ourselves to the earth, when you said, “We’re lonely enough to be dead and even to be born.” Yeah. Even to be born. Yeah.
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