Imagine a boy, where it all began. He liked music, and grew up listening to the ’70s music his three older sisters brought home. He learned much about love and romance and heartbreak and going where the stallion meets the sun. He didn’t know any better.
Then one day, playing D&D at a friend’s house, he heard some rock music that stuck with him, so that days later he got a ride to the mall from his grandmother, so he could buy the vinyl album. On the way home, he read the liner notes. He found that the song he liked best was based on a science fiction short story! Holy crap! Was this even legal?!? He looked up at his oblivious grandmother, wondering if the album in his hands was some sort of forbidden message, secretly sent from another existence.
That boy was me. That album was Moving Pictures, by Rush.
Rush’s music was different from anything I’d ever…heard, but the reason I’m such a big fan is that they seemed to write music just for me. Their songs spoke to me, were about me. I was the Analog Kid, the New World Man, I had Middletown Dreams, I cared that the Snow Dog won. Looking back, Rush seemed to carry me through parts of my life. They certainly were the soundtrack of my journey into manhood.
I’m sure everyone has this experience, everyone has a favorite band. All music speaks to someone, and everyone feels like a certain song is about them. So why am I talking about Rush now, on this blog?
Well, I just completed my collection, and now have every song they produced in studio, as MP3s (about 150 songs). So I put it all on my iphone today, and put it on random play, listening to ALL of Rush during work and while driving home. And I teared up so much I was worried about seeing the road.
It’s just so damn beautiful.
How can three guys create something so big, so precise, so complex, so powerful? Neil Peart is a universally revered percussionist, with unearthly speed and precision. He’s also the lyricist for the band. Geddy Lee is the singer, bassist, and keyboard player. His shrieks and wails were just right for offending my parents, and for releasing the teenage angst inside of me (then and now). His bass playing is lightning fast, but fun and spritely, while still somehow providing the support a bass is supposed to. Alex Lifeson "just" plays guitar, but his one guitar sounds like three, with a precision that matches his bandmates.
And lyrically, Rush still has a unique voice. After Billy Joel, Niel Diamond, and Air Supply, Rush was a revelation. Their songs were about fantastic worlds and alternate realities, politics and adventure, China and suburbs, elves and nukes, robots and gods, Witch Hunts and Vital Signs, Marathons and the Working Man.
I’ve remarked about how musical genres can be differentiated by one question: How do they treat women? Rush has insightful and powerful songs about relationships, but they have so much more! Even modern rock and pop is still JUST about relationships, and there’s not a lot of unexplored territory there.
I remember trying to explain what I liked about Rush to my mother. I blurted out that their music was "masculine". My mom scoffed, and asked how music could be "masculine". I didn’t have a ready answer for her then, but I was right. Rush helped me define masculinity for myself; masculinity means precision control of power, and that’s Rush in a nutshell.
My sisters didn’t really get it either. I got a White Snake album from my eldest sister one Christmas. I tried really hard not to look dismayed, but failed, and embarrassed her. My youngest sister (still older than I) loves Rush too, but not in the same way. I doubt she ever felt she was the New World Man.
I was never much of an evangelist for Rush, never wore a Rush shirt proudly, never went to a live concert. For one thing, since I was a pariah in school, everything I wore or expressed was also uncool. But I quickly found out that Rush was liked by lots of scary bullies and older brothers, too. This distressed me. Not only did I have to share Rush with others, I had to share them with people I didn’t like, people I felt were unable to grasp Rush’s true greatness.
Now, as an adult, I’m not threatened by Rush’s popularity. I recognize that Rush and I don’t define each other, we’re just connected. But driving home today, I was reminded just how deep that connection is. Wow.