Coke Machine Glow – Biography

Coke Machine Glow (album)

Over the last decade, there have been few voices with such clarity and resonance that they cut through the buzz of our times, evoke winter and truth and the land, and are uncynical, beautiful and sad in the face of decaying hope and confusion’s whipping axis. One of those voices belongs to Gordon Downie. We’ve heard it out of crackling summer radios, speaker towers planted on festival prairie fields, basement party album sleeves dusted with dope and tobacco, highschool photocopies passed around the room by English teachers whose English teachers once showed them the words to Joni Mitchell songs, and yellow tv screens parked in taverns blinking the wild arms and hiccuping jaw of a dude in a Bruins sweater singing about dead ships and fuzzy dreams. It’s a voice that is his; ours. Words hang off it like shaggy willows suddenly alive in a night’s storm of cheering and drums, and while something about the hornet’s sting and the rocky socket and the phantom power stick to us like sap on a bootheel, it’s really the poetry that sinks into the soft earth of our thoughts and is the grit in our nation’s loam.

I asked Gord why he wrote this book and his answer was, “When Al Purdy died, among the stuff in the newspapers was his answer to this same question: ‘I write like a spider spins webs and much for the same reason, to support my existence.’ I really liked that.” Like Al, Gord is a word man. When he was a kid, he was given Farley Mowat’s “Never Cry Wolf” and “while there were no pictures, I remember that he made the wolf den seem so cozy and that the tundra became this teeming place.” From there, he stepped to Bruno Schulz, Sherwood Anderson, Raymond Carver. In the introduction to “All Of Us” – The Collected Poems of Raymond Carver, poet Tess Gallagher, wrote; “Ray made the ecstatic seem ordinary, within the reach of anyone. he also knew something essential, which is too often sacrificed for lesser concerns, that poetry isn’t simply reticence served up for what we meant to say. It’s a place to be ample and grateful, to make room for those events and people closest to our hearts…” The thought struck Gord to the extent that he pencilled it on a 3X5 card, which he carries around in his back pocket. So really, it’s from his ass that the motivation comes. In concert, words fountain from his point on the stage into pools of prose and verse, only parts of which are sluiced here. Gord says that the difference between rock and roll and poetry is that “one dances, the other wants to,”but in performance, and in this book, those words move across rhythms as if they were players themselves, pushing and pulling the beat, racing and slowing it.

In the beginning of the book, “Clouds full of dimes threaten the dream” while those “whispering transmissions through wet woollen mittens” gaze at a “sky of spilled paintwater.” The poems, at first, float in a place of dreams and architects and children wearing plastic vampire teeth skidding down hills towards the opening and closing of the light. The second section, “A Drop of Audience”, takes the reader through the movements and anatomy of rock and roll life, stopping at the Songwriter’s Cabal, Michigan Roadside’s, Richard Manuel, and Mt. Stage. Gord’s voice is evocative of Lowell George, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Nicolas Cage’s character in “Wild At Heart.” The words of these poems reflect a place where writers “write by lightning” in hotel rooms where “the mouthpiece of my phone reeks of rambling Aqua Velva business.” The tone is stark, full of stale breath and the dragging of time. The jet “climbs into life after death towards that place where all the longing goes” and there are clouds, and more clouds. Below, the land is “a crazy quilt of spearmint” upon which the singer travels in a “van full of balloons” until “the water’s all gone and you’ve wrung your notebook dry/leave the stage behind the audience’s back.” Having spent some days in a place like this, I can tell you: Gord’s mirror shows true.

Dave Bidini
March 2001

Produced by GD, Josh Finlayson, and Steven Drake
Recorded and mixed by Steven Drake at The Gas Station, Toronto, May 2 & 12, 2000
Tracks 1 , 2, 3 ,4, 5, 8, 11, 12, 13 mixed at The Gas Station, May 12th.
Tracks 6, 7, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16 mixed at Greenhouse Studios, Vancouver.
Mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering, Portland, Maine.

All Songs by GD © 2000 Wiener Art (SOCAN) except tracks, 1 and 16 GD © 2000 Wiener Art (SOCAN) / Morningstar Dam Records (SOCAN), tracks 8 and 12 GD © 2000 Wiener Art (SOCAN) / Egoyan Ego Film Arts (SOCAN), track 11 Louie Perez © 2000 Hot Churro Music (BMI) administered by Bug/GD Wiener Art (SOCAN).

This record was brought to you by the letters: W, C and L.

Art Direction & Design Megan Oldfield for Coolaide Design.
Photography Michael Adamson.
Cover concept Carmen Dunjko.

I would like to acknowledge the following people for their help before, during, and after the time of this recording; Laura Usher; Josh Finlayson; David Koster; Ken Friesen; Andrew McLachlan; Aaron Holmberg; Mark Vreeken; Robert Farrell; Shelley Stertz; Justin Deneau; Bruce Levens;

Roger Levens; Gordini at Greenhouse; Michael Adamson; Megan Oldfield; Bruce McCulloch; Donna Ryan; Rachel Pequinot, Gail Ludwig; Jake Gold; Daniel Buckman; Wendy Coombe; The Skydiggers; Jeff Maize; Chris Brown; Kate Fenner; John Fay; Rob Baker; Gord Sinclair; Wayne

Fraser; Allan Gregg; Kim Bingham; Ruth Schneider and family; Don Kerr; Kevin Hearn; Jose Contreras; Julie Doiron; Atom Egoyan; Paul Langlois; Travis Good; Jaro Czerwinec; Andy Maize; Andrea Naan; Adrien Langlois, The Gluttonous Percussionist; Stevie D; Geezer and The Chippewa Cowboy; Nancy Usher; my sisters; my brothers; and my mother and my father.

Cover and book design: Carmen Dunjko

Photographs: Michael Adamson;
Copyright © 2001 Michael Adamson

Vintage Canada Edition, 2001

Copyright © 2001 by Wiener Art

I would like to gratefully acknowledge the following people for their help before, during and after the writing of this book: Laura Usher, Allan Gregg, Susan Roxborough, Jake Gold, Louise Dennys, Shelley Stertz, Paul t. brooks, Michael Adamson, Megan Oldfield, Kate Fenner, Carmen Dunjko, Bea Lorimer, Paul Langlois, Gord Sinclair, Rob Baker, John Fay and my dear mother.

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