The Never-Ending Present

The Never-Ending Present

The biography of “Canada’s band”In the summer of 2016, more than a third of Canadians tuned in to watch what was likely the Tragically Hip’s final performance, broadcast from their hometown of Kingston, Ontario. Why? Because these five men were always more than just a band. They sold millions of records and defined a generation of Canadian rock music. But they were also a...

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Title:The Never-Ending Present
Author:Michael Barclay
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Never-Ending Present Reviews

  • rabbitprincess

    4.5 rounded up

  • Candice

    Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advanced copy of this book - all opinions are my own.

    Michael Barclay completely blew me away with this book. It would be a disservice to pigeonhole this as a biography about the Tragically Hip - yes the focus of the book is the Hip, however it is not just a biography of the 5 guys in the band, rather, of the footprint they made in music history, and that includes an in depth look at every person and event that shaped the band into the 30 year succ

    Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advanced copy of this book - all opinions are my own.

    Michael Barclay completely blew me away with this book. It would be a disservice to pigeonhole this as a biography about the Tragically Hip - yes the focus of the book is the Hip, however it is not just a biography of the 5 guys in the band, rather, of the footprint they made in music history, and that includes an in depth look at every person and event that shaped the band into the 30 year success story they are.

    This book is like a master class on the Hip, and as a fan of both the band, and Gord Downie, having such a deep dive into the band was such an absolute pleasure.to read. This book is sprawling in the history it covers - literally every step on the path, from the inception of the band in high school right through to the last days of Gord's life. Michael left no one out of this retrospective - this is the Hip on the largest scale possible - the band, yes, and of course a focus on Gord, but also the producers, agents, engineers, the bands music peers, family, fans, Hip cover bands, roadies, industry players - the list goes on. So many individuals who played a part in the history of the Hip are included, and that shapes the story in a way that gives it legs, and brings the band to life off the pages.

    This book made me laugh out loud more than once, and unabashedly shed a few tears. This will be a book that Hip fans love, of course, but more than that, this is a book for that anyone with a love and respect for music and music history - Hip fan or not.

  • Paul

    I thoroughly enjoyed the book. As someone who has had an on-again off-again relationship with the band, it was fascinating to read about some of the background behind the band forming, and the recording of their albums. The interview snippets from the people surrounding the band were excellent. I also enjoyed the author's writing style.Each chapter of the book is like a mini-book; they can be read independently of the others. I would recommend this to anyone that is curious about the band and/or

    I thoroughly enjoyed the book. As someone who has had an on-again off-again relationship with the band, it was fascinating to read about some of the background behind the band forming, and the recording of their albums. The interview snippets from the people surrounding the band were excellent. I also enjoyed the author's writing style.Each chapter of the book is like a mini-book; they can be read independently of the others. I would recommend this to anyone that is curious about the band and/or Gord Downie.

  • Susan Visser

    I loved the band and loved the book. I've been to many of the Tragically Hip shows and once met Rob Baker in the airport in Vegas. He was on the same flight as me, so I chatted with him before the flight boarded. I'm embarrassed to say that I asked the stupidest, but most frequently asked question: Why do you think you didn't do as well in the US as you did in Canada? Michael Barclay gives a really good answer to this question... they did do well in the US and may have actually preferred the 100

    I loved the band and loved the book. I've been to many of the Tragically Hip shows and once met Rob Baker in the airport in Vegas. He was on the same flight as me, so I chatted with him before the flight boarded. I'm embarrassed to say that I asked the stupidest, but most frequently asked question: Why do you think you didn't do as well in the US as you did in Canada? Michael Barclay gives a really good answer to this question... they did do well in the US and may have actually preferred the 1000-2000 person venues they played better than the arena shows in Canada. Another observation is that Canadians always wanted the top 10 songs played whereas in the US they could likely play to a less demanding audience. There are always two sides to extreme fame.

    I stopped buying albums after Phantom Power, but listening to this book encouraged me to dust off my old CDs and to download the new ones. I also downloaded Gord's solo albums and am quite enjoying them all.

    I know many people who really didn't like The Hip, but that's too bad for them. This book shows how unique they were in terms of band politics, friendships, song lyrics, and even talent. Not many bands stay together as long as they have and continue to create amazing songs.

    Although I know many of the songs by heart, I didn't always know what they meant. The book dives into the stories behind many of the songs. It's truly amazing how some of the songs turned out to be prophetic.

    I listened to the book, so George Stroumboulopoulos read the book to me. He did a fantastic job and was clearly a friend and fan of the band.

    Although much of the the book centered around Gord, given the circumstances of their final tour, Gord's cancer, and ultimate death, you'll find a lot of great quotes and stories about all the members of the band.

    Since listening to the book, I've also watched the movie "Long Time Running" I enjoyed it and noticed that some of the quotes from the book came directly from the movie.

    I was aware of Gord's involvement in the Secret Path - raising awareness for those who suffered at the hands of residential schools, and I knew that Gord and Joseph Boyden were friends, the book gives more details on how the story of Chanie Wenjack came to be a story they focused on. One chapter of the book is dedicated to this part of Gord's history and it goes into the politics of white people telling stories / raising awareness of Aboriginals. I've the Wenjack novella and plan to get the book and the album that Gord created. It's an important story to tell so that history is not repeated and that we see that Canada has made many grave errors over the course of its history.

  • Lance Lumley

    Since there are not many books on the Canadian band The Tragically Hip, this is the book to have about one of the most underrated bands in music, especially in Canadian Music.

    The book is almost 500 pages, and covers everything about the band , from the early bar days of the members to interviews with former roadies, friends, and musicians. The band did not have any input on the book , but that does not deter from the research the author puts into it.

    As detailed as the book is, sometimes it gets

    Since there are not many books on the Canadian band The Tragically Hip, this is the book to have about one of the most underrated bands in music, especially in Canadian Music.

    The book is almost 500 pages, and covers everything about the band , from the early bar days of the members to interviews with former roadies, friends, and musicians. The band did not have any input on the book , but that does not deter from the research the author puts into it.

    As detailed as the book is, sometimes it gets a little off track with comparisons to other bands that made it in the US from Canada, and some die hards may be put off on the chapters that look at whether or not the band was worth the hype. However this is a book that Hip fans should get, especially since there are very little books about the band. ECW Press has another great book from their company.

    For an in depth review, go to

  • Sonstepaul

    This is a book I don’t feel bad rating maybe a bit higher than it deserves because when it’s good it’s surprisingly good, but there are things.

    I’ll step past talking about the band, Gord, the national discussion, the importance of this book’s existence at all. That’s all obvious and probably a little divisive.

    What’s good is this is a book about Canadian music, with expansive outlining of the band’s peers, and explanations of their connections. So many of these people are interviewed over the c

    This is a book I don’t feel bad rating maybe a bit higher than it deserves because when it’s good it’s surprisingly good, but there are things.

    I’ll step past talking about the band, Gord, the national discussion, the importance of this book’s existence at all. That’s all obvious and probably a little divisive.

    What’s good is this is a book about Canadian music, with expansive outlining of the band’s peers, and explanations of their connections. So many of these people are interviewed over the course of the book—and in some cases like Ian Blurton, who I’ve always adored, promoted—and this gives it a veracity that overcomes one of the failings below. A second strength is the typical history of the band is interspersed with chapters of essay material: Canadiana, breaking in the US, poetry, Truth and Reconciliation, etc.

    The failings? Well, the first isn’t Barclay’s fault. The surviving band members wouldn’t be interviewed for it. All quotes are from other times. Most is the narrative is fleshed out with the many, many quotes outlined above from other folks. But this leads to sometime conjecture. That’s where Barclay strays a bit. He rams a story into an event, but then any writer worth a snot would be inclined to do that. It’s art. And the way Barclay intersperses Hip verses throughout is clever, even masterful. But solid truth? That’s a maybe.

    The biggest issue I had was the one I expected to have. A writer for Maclean’s, and most of our eastern-based journalists, have an inescapable hubris and it’s there. Barclay mostly manages to leave himself out as a character until August 20, 2016, but then he goes overboard in a theme of “this is how I saw that last show.” Then he sort of tries to shade out this ego trip by asking EVERYONE what they were doing that night, which gets a little overwrought.

    His opining—though fairly standard in the bio form—is distracting. He will tell you which are the best albums, which the best songs. Which fail. Phantom Power—which I mostly love—has to be great because it’s a commercial success. And yet he relegated “Ahead By a Century” to nothing but an overplayed and tired pop classic (say nothing of how he casts off “New Orleans”). Anything after 2000 is lesser because it’s not a successful period for the band. So? He pisses all over World Container because of the Bob Rock connection, but we’re down to personal opinion here. I think that’s one of their best albums. But what the hell, we met in agreement back for Man Machine Poem.

    Read this book if you’re one of the many, many of us who cared. Maybe like me you cared a lot and consistently. Maybe you were in and out but also know where you were that day in August 2016. Doesn’t matter. It’s a very dense book and for the most part I like how it’s put together. Trivializing the print of the author on the work makes it a slight distraction, not a fail.

  • catechism

    Two problems with this book: one, the band did not participate and the author had no access, and so, if you are someone who has spent years lurking in Hip forums and read/watched/listened to every interview any of them have done and been to a number of shows high enough you've lost track, there is zero new information. None at all. Which leads to problem number two: padding. There are super long detailed digressions about the guy who engineered one song on some album, and how that guy was in a b

    Two problems with this book: one, the band did not participate and the author had no access, and so, if you are someone who has spent years lurking in Hip forums and read/watched/listened to every interview any of them have done and been to a number of shows high enough you've lost track, there is zero new information. None at all. Which leads to problem number two: padding. There are super long detailed digressions about the guy who engineered one song on some album, and how that guy was in a band as a teenager, and all the people who engineered that album, and maybe a line about how the guy's friend didn't like the Hip much because they were overplayed in the 90s. Okay!

    So anyway, if you are a casual fan with skimming skills, then to you I recommend this book. Hardcore fans might want it for the sake of completion, and for crying into your Molson as you relive Kingston.

  • Janet

    I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    From the publisher ---

    The biography of “Canada’s band”

    In the summer of 2016, more than a third of Canadians tuned in to watch what was likely the Tragically Hip’s final performance, broadcast from their hometown of Kingston, Ontario. Why? Because these five men were always more than just a band. They sold millions of records and defined a generation of Canadian rock music. But they were also

    I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    From the publisher ---

    The biography of “Canada’s band”

    In the summer of 2016, more than a third of Canadians tuned in to watch what was likely the Tragically Hip’s final performance, broadcast from their hometown of Kingston, Ontario. Why? Because these five men were always more than just a band. They sold millions of records and defined a generation of Canadian rock music. But they were also a tabula rasa onto which fans could project their own ideas: of performance, of poetry, of history, of Canada itself.

    In the first print biography of the Tragically Hip, Michael Barclay talks to dozens of the band’s peers and friends about not just the Hip’s music but about the opening bands, the American albatross, the band’s role in Canadian culture, and Gord Downie’s role in reconciliation with Indigenous people. When Downie announced he had terminal cancer and decided to take the Hip on the road one more time, the tour became another Terry Fox moment; this time, Canadians got to witness an embattled hero reach the finish line.

    This is a book not just for fans of the band: it’s for anyone interested in how culture can spark national conversations.

    I need to break this MY OWN PERSONAL HONEST OPINIONS in this review down into points lest this seem all over the place and dis-jointed.

    1. I am guessing that The Guess Who, Rush, Arcade Fire, The Band, Blue Rodeo, BTO, Loverboy, BNL, (etc. etc.) .... goodness even Nickelback … may disagree with not being called “Canada’s Band”. Saving grace? We are taking about a band and I do not have to add The Biebs into that conversation!

    2. When I heard that Gord Downie was sick I realized, that with the help of YouTube, that I didn’t know a single Tragically Hip song…and that “Bobcaygeon” made my cat howl and hiss at the computer. It’s very --- nasal. Yet people loved The Hip.

    3. Terry Fox died making money for cancer research to compare themselves to him (again, my opinion) is disingenuous as The Tragically Hip raised just over a million dollars for cancer research – all from concert goers donations made online or from parties held before the concerts. Considering that the ALC ice bucket challenge raised $120MILLION worldwide it looks like the donations were tiny in comparison. I am guessing that the Hip didn’t donate any money from the ticket sales or merchandise as this amount is miniscule.

    4. Downie is remembered as a passionate advocate for Indigenous rights and reconciliation: maybe our politicians should work on that a little harder instead of relying on celebrities (and authors like Joseph Boyden) to do that. Cry less, Trudeau, and do more work. Then again, I am not sure that it was Downie’s place to speak as he was a rich, white man much like our politicians are.

    5. I never want to see another purple spangled shirt and white hat combination outfit again in my life.

    This book annoyed me: 524 pages was about 500 pages too long. And that about sums it up as I just skipped and skimmed as I just didn’t get the book or the love of the subject at hand.

  • Wendy

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