An Inch An Hour references


" bag of words, no costume trunk"

They say Ernie Coombs played a role in the development of generations. Having begun his television career alongside Fred "Mr." Rogers, Coombs went on to create and star in "Mr. Dress-Up" on the CBC. His program spanned five decades and remains one of the most popular and fondly remembered television shows in Canadian history.

While Mr. Rogers taught viewers his words-of-the-day, Mr. Dress-Up made his costume trunk, "the Tickle Trunk," the focal point of his daily broadcasts.

" inch an hour, two feet a day"

A Hip Head found this interesting reference in a study of Ruskin:

"To give a sense of such slowness, Ruskin cites measurements -- the glacier moves two feet a day, an inch an hour, three times slower than the minute hand of a watch -- then concludes, "Between the shores of the vast gulf of hills, the long wave of hastening ice only keeps pace with that lingering arrow [i.e., the minute hand], in its central crest; and that invisible motion fades away upwards through forty years of slackening stream, to the pure light of dawn on yonder stainless summit, on which this morning's snow lies -- motionless" (XXVI, 135). "

" bemused Trudeau
No solitary walks through vacant lots
in moonglow"

Pierre Elliott Trudeau was Canada's 15th prime minister. A bachelor and captivating figure at the time of "TrudeauMania" in 1968, he became a cultural icon and symbol of the energy, attitude and sexual freedom of the 1960's. Trudeau famously arrived in Canada's capital "like a stone through a stained glass window."

Like most successful and accomplished politicians, there is no apathetic middle ground when it comes to Trudeau. His supporters deify him, his opponents loathe him, and history records that his impact was true and lasting. His political philosophy was to act in order to affect positive change, and act he did. A student and admirer of Plato, Mill, Locke and the classics of moral and political thought, Trudeau lead and legislated in the manner he thought would bring about the greatest good. He was called Canada's philosopher king.

After years as an outside academic, a critical observer of politics, Trudeau brought a simple creed to Ottawa that often earned him the tag of aloof and disengaged: If Canadians agreed with him and his party's policies, they could vote for him, if they didn't, they could vote for somebody else. Simple enough, yet it allowed Trudeau to initially avoid the maneuvering and pandering that affect so many politicians after arriving in office. Trudeau had goals, and he was determined to achieve them. This type of drive, idealism and vision were rare in Canadian politics, and provided the standard by which all Canadian prime ministers have since been judged.

Trudeau's record in government included the re-working of the criminal code to decriminalize homosexuality and abortion. Restructuring the internal workings of departments and the civil service. Implementing Lester Pearson's medicare program. Increasing social spending, and as a result: Canada's debt. Abolishing capital punishment. Creating official bi-lingualism. Creating the Canadian multiculturalism policy. Controversially implementing the War Measures Act to fight domestic terrorists in 1970. Proposing to expand Canadian trade beyond the United States. Proposing to re-work the governments Aboriginal policies. Winning the fight against the separatists in 1980 while delivering his "mon nom" speech, perhaps the greatest speech in Canadian history. Repatriating and updating the Canadian Constitution. Giving Canada its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Oh, and he also instituted a protectionist Canadian content policy when it came to radio broadcasting. Thus allowing the Celine's, Shania's and Avril's of the world to gain a global footing... which may or may not outweigh all the good stuff.     

In 1984, with 15 years as prime minister behind him, Trudeau decided to retire after his famous "walk in the snow" in the middle of the night through moonlit and deserted downtown Ottawa. This stroll could be the inspiration for the above lyric. His only high profile appearances after '84, were his sometimes bemused, sometimes impassioned, but always eloquent warning's against the slippery slope of decentralized federalism, in-equal rights and special status being considered in the Meech Lake Constitutional Accord.

"...You can see your breath in Springside park
coffee coloured ice and peeling birch bark.
Sound of rushing water in the dark."

Speaking of Avril Lavigne, her hometown of Napanee, Ontario is also the location of Springside Park. Napanee is not far from Kingston, and legend has it, that Canada's first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, stumbled (That's probably more true than anybody would like to admit) upon the town and founded it in his youth. Springside Park is located near strong rapids and was once the site of a lumber mill that served as Napanee's main employer.

Birch bark in itself played an important role in Canadian history. It was the material used by Algonquin, Iroquois and Huron Natives when building canoes. And is still used today to fashion trendy vessels like the one Pierre Trudeau owned. Natives also used the sturdy wood to draw maps for Europeans on fur trading routes and as canvas to engrave paintings of their battles, achievements and historic events.   

"...You see, I don't know Neil. I don't know Neil."

Speculation has ranged from everybody from Neil Armstrong to Neil Pert to Neil Young. I don't have a clue and the song doesn't seem to give many hints. So, until we crack this one, here's a few more famous Neil's courtesy of Google Images just for the hell of it:

Neil Patrick Harris in the role of Bart Simpson

Neil Diamond: lookin like this, you'd BETTER have one helluva voice

According to Google, this guy: who has obviously been stricken with that tragic Michael Jackson skin disorder

You probably don't wanna know this Neil

Hip Head "GoToads" from Detroit has this interesting theory. Maybe he's on to something:

I think this is 100% in response to Neil Young. There is a rather HUGE hint, right before the Neil reference. The word "helpless" is the key. I feel it is a direct response to Neil Young's song "Helpless" by CSN&Y. I'm sure you are familiar with it. In the song, Neil talks about being "helpless" in a town in Ontario. The song "An Inch an Hour" also takes place in Ontario, not all that far from where Neil grew up. (Editors note: ehhhh... kinda far, but still holds). I saw this as a direct response ever since I bought Day for Night back in 1994 and heard the lyrics.

but i'm helpless more with the people
than the space
I mean I'm helpless less with the people
than the space

You see, I don't know Neil
I don't know Neil

In November of 2019, I received this email from Neil Thomas. I want it to be true:

Hello Stephen,

My Name is Neil and I would like to maybe give some insight into the Inch an Hour Neil that Gord is singing about on this track. As a young man of 26 in 1991 I was infatuated with The Hip (still am). I lived at Queen and Logan in Toronto and worked shift work so when coming home after working midnights I would hit the beer store at 10:00am, have a couple of pints and of course listen to The Hip on my back terrace, as it were. Actually it was the fire escape landing as I lived above a restaurant.

Anyway, one day while listening to Road Apples I was reading the liner notes in the CD booklet and there was an address were you could drop the guys a note if you were so inclined.

Well you can imagine the content of that letter as I remember writing how much it scared the living shit out of me how obsessed I was with them and how I did not listen to anything else but them and how I could meet them and well you get the picture. All the while, in a script (as it was hand written) that looked like someone who had had a few pints of said beer from the beer store that had opened at 10:00am after working a midnight shift.

I do know this as I closed the letter I wrote, Well I got to get going, an inch an hour two feet a day and that is all I have to say.

I remember being quite proud of myself as I thought it to be quite clever.

Then as you can expect after having a few pints and posting a drunken letter to the band you are obsessed about, you forget all about it as life goes on. You fall in love, get married, buy a house and then one day a couple of years later while listening to Day for Night for the first time it all comes rushing back when you hear your name being sung by the lead singer of the band you are obsessed with.

Now you are probably thinking why now after all these years am I coming forward with this, especially after perusing your most excellent website Museum after Dark many many times even before the part about the glacier was added, and you have no way to verify anything I just wrote.

Maybe because I am getting older and as we age we get nostalgic and we remember the salad days of our youth. Maybe it is because I miss the inevitable release of a new Hip album every couple of years and the fact that will not be happening anymore. I think it is probably because of the words of Gord on his last album, Introduce Yerself. So I just thought one day as I looked down at my hand while listening to this song that I should introduce myself.

So as I stride to the microphone and I have to say

This ones for Gord

Hello Stephen, my name is Neil

It is revealed, I could never hate.

Play Song