"Pigeon Camera" as written by Robert Baker, Gordon Downie, Johnny Fay, Paul Langlois and Gordon Sinclair....
It was handsome at the auction,
Oh but when we got it home,
It grew into something we could
No longer contain
Where's our pigeon camera,
By now he could be anywhere
And after all that training.
And after all that training,
Something we could no longer contain.
It's boring, I'm embarrassed,
I don't endorse that, I didn't want this

This house it has it politics;
Over there that's my room
And that's my sister's.
And that's my sister,
Something we could no longer contain
It's boring, I'm embarrassed,
I don't endorse that; I didn't want this,
It's horrific, I'm embarrassed,
I didn't want that, I didn't want this
It's like we burned our boots with no
Contingency plan

Lyrics submitted by black_cow_of_death, edited by koolmak

"Pigeon Camera" as written by Gordon Sinclair Gordon Downie

Lyrics © Peermusic Publishing

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Pigeon Camera song meanings
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  • +1
    Song FactOk, strap in. Cuz this will take some explaining...

    I remember hearing an interview with Gord Downie many years ago and he mentioned that there was a song on this album about Quebec. That was all he said. No more detail than that. Having listened to the other tracks numerous times, I have a hard time believing that any of the other songs on the record are about Quebec, so by elimination, that leaves Pigeon Camera. So lets explore this as a possibility, because I think the other "interpretations" I've read are, quite frankly, ridiculous. (Incest? Really? Please.)

    For you non-Canadians, you need to first understand that the relationship between Quebec (our predominantly French-speaking province) and the rest of English Canada has always been a strained one. Primarily, the tension comes from the economic burden associated with protecting, preserving and even mandating what I'll call the "French-Canadian culture". It goes far beyond just being a bilingual country and it's an enormous national expense paid for by every tax payer, not just the ones in Quebec. So in a grossly oversimplified nutshell, the Quebecois want their french language and culture preserved but the rest of Canada doesn't want to have to pay for it. So how does that play into these lyrics?

    Well, first let's give Mr. Downie the credit he is due. He's an outstanding lyricist with excellent command of imagery and (particularly in this case) subtlety. So I'll deconstruct some of these lyrical images from the standpoint that this song IS about Quebec.

    The "big picture" image is the title itself. In this song, the pigeon camera is not an actual device. It has nothing to do with actually spying on someone's sister. It's about foresight. It's about seeing what lies ahead. In 1867, Canada more or less became "officially" bilingual, securing in the Constitution Act that both languages may be used in Parliament and any government documents will be produced in both languages. A good idea at the time, right? Maybe....but an expensive one. Nobody really understood the ultimate cost of being officially bilingual. Every future government publication, every future road sign, every future national broadcast...these are things which in some cases didn't even exist yet! So how does one foresee the implications of such a decision?

    "It was handsome at the auction"
    "Oh but when we got it home."
    "It grew up into something we could no longer contain."

    Makes sense, right?

    Kind of like saying..."it seemed like a good idea at the time, but holy crap what did we get ourselves into?"

    Next comes the national, cultural tension part. So here we have a vastly expensive national policy. Quebec feels that the government doesn't do enough to preserve French language and culture while many in the rest of Canada resent their tax dollars going toward preserving a language and culture they will never use or experience. What's the outcome? Politics. Separatism. Infighting.

    "This house it has it's politics." - no brainer
    "Over there, that's my room." - Separatism
    "And that's my sister." - More separatism. Still related, but different and apart.
    "I didn't want this. I don't endorse that." - Fighting, disagreement, finger pointing
    "It's boring. I'm embarrassed..." - possibly echoing the feeling of many Canadians who are just tired of the same old stupid arguments.

    So for me, ever since I heard that interview with Mr. Downie, the Quebec theory just seemed to jump out of the song. I think the incest / sexual abuse thing is just low-hanging fruit and Gord has way more talent than that.

    Lastly, I'll just say that yes I am an English Canadian. And I've been to Quebec several times and it's a wonderful place. I love the place, I love the people and I love the culture.


    GardenWeaselon August 18, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentA pigeon camera is a low-tech spying device used "back in the day". A small automatic camera was attached to a homing pigeon set to fly over the area in question. The resulting images were used in strategic planning.
    Scottitudeon February 08, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commenthipmuseum.com/…
    OpinionHeadon January 10, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI never got the "by now he could be anywhere" line until I read HipAnon's analysis...good job.
    mhareon March 27, 2007   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningWhile visiting the Smithsonian Air
    janageorgeon September 20, 2012   Link
  • -1
    General Commentthis song is about sexual abuse
    hiploveron May 10, 2004   Link
  • -1
    General CommentThe second verse is pretty straightforward on that part. What is a pigeon camera specifically?
    OpinionHeadon November 22, 2004   Link
  • -1
    General CommentPossibly, since pigeon cameras are small and unobtrusive it was used to take photographs of his sister in an unclothed state. But the pictures have to be developed somewhere... If his parents found out, his camera could be anywhere now. It's just a guess.
    HipAnonon January 09, 2007   Link
  • -1
    General Commentyeah most likely about sexual abuse, and "something we could no longer contain" maybe referring to a resulting pregnancy.
    jrljackon October 27, 2011   Link
  • -1
    Song MeaningThis song is clearly about incest . The Pigeon camera was used by CIA in WW2 to spy on enemy location. This would lead one to believe that there was a "beeping" element to the incestual relationship depicted in the song.
    luchowskidon June 15, 2015   Link

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