#318: Sinking Like A Sunset by Tom Cochrane
Tom Cochrane was born in Lynn Lake, Manitoba, in 1953. When he was eleven he got his first guitar. In his late teens and early twenties, he performed in coffee houses across Canada in the early 70’s. His debut album, Hang On To Your Resistance, was released in 1974. Then Tom Cochrane made his way to Los Angeles. In 1975, Cochrane got work composing theme music for the movie My Pleasure Is My Business. This was a film about Xavier Hollander, the call girl and adult film star who authored her own memoir, The Happy Hooker, in 1971. Unable to get subsequent work in Hollywood, Cochrane returned to Canada for drive a taxi and work on a cruise line. At a concert at the El Mocambo for Red Rider in 1978, Tom Cochrane met the band. Soon after Cochrane was invited to join Red Rider.
Red Rider formed in Toronto in 1975. The band consisted of 1975 when lead vocalist and keyboard player Peter Boynton, guitar, keyboard and backing vocalist Ken Greer, guitarist Arvo Lepp, bass player Jon Checkowski and drummer Rob Baker. By the time Red Rider brought Tom Cochrane on board in 1978, the lineup consisted of Boynton, Greer, Cochrane, baker and former bass player with Rush, Jeff Jones. Red Rider released four albums between 1979 and 1984.
The band’s first single “White Hot” was a Top 20 hit across Canada, and climbed to #5 in Vancouver in April 1980. The single also climbed to #48 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single was from the debut album by Red Rider titled Don’t Fight It. Then on May 10, 1980, Red Rider appeared in concert at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. A second album released in 1981 titled As Far As Siam expanded their fan base. And on September 5, 1981, Red Rider gave a concert at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.
And in 1983 Red Rider’s third studio album, Neruda, featured the single “Human Race”. A fourth album, Breaking Curfew, didn’t sell very well. In 1986, they released the album, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider. One of the songs on the album was “Boy Inside The Man“. And later that year on October 23rd, the band performed in concert at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium.
In 1988, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider, they released Victory Day. Their debut single off this album was “Big League”. By 1988 Tom Cochrane & Red Rider consisted of Cochrane, Greer, John Webster on keyboards and synthesizers, Ken “Spider” Sinneave on bass, Randall Coryell on drums and Peter Mueller on guitar. In the studio production of Victory Day, Denny Fongheiser and Mickey Curry also added drums to the tracks. Victory Day earned Tom Cochrane & Red Rider three Juno Award nominations. On March 2, 1989, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider performed in concert at the Orpheum in Vancouver.
After “Big League”, Tom Cochrane went on to release a solo album in 1991 titled Mad Mad World. The studio recording featured Red Rider bandmates Spider Sinneave and John Webster. On the album was a single release titled “Life Is A Highway.” In early 1992 the single climbed to #1 in Canada and #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The albums’ follow up singles were “No Regrets”, “Washed Away” and “Sinking Like Sunset”.
“Sinking Like A Sunset” was written by Annette Ducharme, a Franco-Ontarian born in Windsor. In addition to Tom Cochrane, Ducharme has written songs recorded by Lawrence Gowan, and the Paperboys. Between 1989 and 2019 she had released six studio albums.
“Sinking Like A Sunset” is a song about a couple in a relationship. The woman in the relationship is caught up in stories like that of Cinderella. Around the world there are over a thousand variations to the Cinderella story. One of the earliest from 7 BCE has a Greek slave girl, named Rhodopis, who marries the King of Egypt. The earliest version in Europe is from Italy in 1634 about a girl named Cenerentola. She often arises covered in ashes, giving rise to the mocking nickname. A common theme in the story is about a young girl who unexpectedly achieves recognition or success after a period of obscurity and neglect. While not all stories have a wicked stepmother (some stories have an oppressive stepfather), most do, as well as older sisters who force Cinderella to do chores while they lounge around. As well, while many Cinderella stories feature glass slippers as the key to her identity for the prince to learn who she is, other stories have instead either a ring, an anklet or a bracelet (sometimes gold).
Another story that fascinates the woman in the relationship in “Sinking Like A Sunset” is about Don Juan. First published in Spain in 1630, the story of Don Juan is about a wealthy libertine who devotes his life to seducing women. He takes great pride in his ability to seduce women of all ages and stations in life, and he often disguises himself and assumes other identities in order to seduce women. Don Juan’s life is also punctuated with violence and gambling, and in most versions he kills a man: Don Gonzalo, the father of Doña Ana, a girl he has seduced.
For the man in “Sinking Like A Sunset”, his female partner’s preoccupation with stories of a handsome prince who marries a simple commoner, or a wealthy man who is sexually unrestrained seducing countless women, is a distraction. He tries to tell her that “the true verse of life is written” “out on the streets.” In the song the guy thinks of himself as an “old sergeant” and she is an “angel.”
“Sinking Like A Sunset” climbed to #7 in Vancouver. It peaked nationally in Canada at #2 on the RPM Top 100 Hit Tracks chart.
Cochrane followed up with an album in 1995 titled Ragged Ass Road, named after a street in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. It included the top ten hits on the Canadian RPM singles chart “I Wish You Well” (#1), “Wildest Dreams” (#5) and “Dreamer’s Dream” (#4).
On July 1 the band performed in concert in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey at Surrey Canada Day 2006. On February 18, 2008, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider gave a concert at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.
In all, Tom Cochrane has released seven studio albums as a solo artist. Separately, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider released three albums, and Red Rider released four albums. (So, Tom Cochrane has been featured in 14 studio albums).
On February 24, 2015, the band performed in Vancouver’s suburb of Coquitlam at the Hard Rock Casino. August 29, 2015, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider appeared in concert at the PNE Amphitheatre in Vancouver. In 2016, a stretch of highway between Lynn Lake and Thompson, Manitoba, was named the Tom Cochrane Life Is A Highway. On March 2, 2017, at the Abbotsford Centre, in the city of Abbotsford – a one hour drive east of Vancouver. August 29, 2017, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider performed in concert at the PNE Amphitheatre in Vancouver. On August 17, 2019, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider appeared in concert in West Vancouver’s Ambleside Park.
April 26, 2021
“About Tom Cochrane,” Tom Cochrane.com
“Interview: Tom Cochrane,” The Wire, Peterborough, Ontario, July 1, 2017
“Tom Cochrane: ‘You Sometimes Write the Happiest Songs When You’re Down’,” CBC, December 7, 2016
Terry David Mulligan, Tom Cochrane Interview – 2014, Mulligan Stew, January 31, 2015
David Friend, “Tom Cochrane reflects on success of ‘Life is a Highway’,” Toronto Star, Toronto, ON, January 5, 2017
Xavier Hollander, The Happy Hooker. Xavier Hollander.com
Tom Cochrane & Red Rider – Credits, Victory Day, Discogs.com
“Tom Cochrane has Stretch of Manitoba Highway Named After Him,” CBC, October 31, 2016.
“Tom Cochrane & Red Rider,” setlist.fm.
“Don Juan,” Wikipedia.org.
“RPM 100 Hit Tracks,” Library and Archives Canada, June 13, 1992.
For more song reviews visit the Countdown.