#567: Twist My Arm by Tragically Hip

Peak Month: August 1991
9 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG’s chart
Peak Position #5
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube.com: “Twist My Arm
“Twist My Arm” lyrics

In the early 1980’s bass player Gord Sinclair and guitar player Rob Baker were students at Kingston Collegiate Vocational Institute in Kingston, Ontario. They had performed at the collegiate’s Variety Show in a band they called The Rodents. In 1984 Baker and Sinclair were in their early twenties. The Tragically Hip formed in 1984 in Kingston, Ontario when the duo added drummer Johnny Fay and lead singer Gordon Downie. Their name came from a skit in the movie Elephant Parts, directed by former Monkee’s guitarist Michael Nesmith. The Tragically Hip added Paul Langois, a guitar player, to their line-up in 1986. When they performed at the Horeshoe Tavern in Toronto in the mid-80’s, they were sign to a recording contract with MCA after the company president, Bruce Dickinson, saw the band at the tavern. A self-titled EP (Extended Play) was released in 1987 with a couple of singles that got some airplay. The group was launched.

In 1989 the band released their first studio album, Up To Here. The Tragically Hip proceeded to release five singles from the album: “Blow at High Dough”, “New Orleans Is Sinking”, “Boots Or Hearts”, “38 Years Old” and “Trickle Down”.  The first four of these singles received respectable airplay across Canada. “New Orleans Is Sinking,” a fictional tale, got some airplay on mainstream rock stations in the USA. Of the songs off their first studio album, “Boots Or Hearts” charted the best here in Vancouver.

In 1991 the band released Road Apples which featured the hit singles “Little Bones”, “Twist My Arm” and “Three Pistols”. They released four more studio albums during the 1990’s.

Twist My Arm by Tragically Hip

“Twist My Arm” was co-written by bandmates Gordon Downie and Rob Baker. The song is about conflict and drama that people get caught up in competing memetic desires, needing to score points at others expense, or play the victim. The Tragically Hip sing about “double dares, memorized stares” and confide “martyrs don’t do much for me.”

Is it possible to move beyond being a victim of others’ aggression? How do we set boundaries and put an end to escalating conflict without becoming a milk toast or a martyr? In his article in Psychology Today titled “How to Stop Playing the Victim Game,” Dr. Robert W. Firestone advises that individuals need to step back and take an inventory of the negative voices that encourage passivity and helplessness. It is important to articulate and imagine how to take action to change a situation where you feel dissatisfied. Imagining how to assert your own needs is a good first step in reclaiming your life instead of getting tied in knots or getting your arm all twisted in order to please or placate others.

“Twist My Arm” climbed to #5 in Vancouver and #13 in Hamilton (ON).

The Tragically Hip charted 16 songs into the Canadian RPM Top 30, including seven Top Ten hits with “Ahead By A Century” being their first #1 hit in Canada. They repeated their feat of getting a chart topping single in Canada with “In View” in 2006. Between 1990 and 2017, The Tragically Hip have received sixteen Juno Awards in Canada for a range of honors including Best Single, Best Rock Album and Group of the Year.

In 2016 Gordon Downie was diagnosed with cancer and the Tragically Hip did what the media billed as a farewell tour. Downie died in October 2017.

August 30, 2019
Ray McGinnis

Michael Barclay, Remembering the Life and Legacy of Gordon Downie (1964-2017), MacLeans.ca, October 18, 2017.
Tragically Hip bio, Canadian Bands.com.
Robert W. Firestone, “How to Stop Playing the Victim Game: Challenging Negative Voices is the Way to Overcome a Victimized Orientation,” Psychology Today, April 30, 2013.

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