It’s one more Geddy than 10!
First, the bad news. My house drama had gotten more melo than mellow. It’s quite possible that this second deal may fall through because of a combination of greed and gall on the part of the buyers. I can’t tell if that is an upgrade from phantom cat pee as a reason to walk away from the deal. Actually, it is an upgrade, because then it’s most definitely them and not us.
I was rather depressed about this last night, as the thought of having to start all over again with selling the house made me want to just cave and get it over with. But The Lovely Becky (aka the Strong One) responded with “fuck them” (I may be paraphrasing). And she convinced me to say fuck them, too. It may be a buyer’s market. I may be somewhat desperate to sell, especially before the big, bad U.P. winter arrives. But the difference between accommodating and butthurt is consent, and I’m not consenting to being butthurt. I feel like I’m fighting off The Sisters in Shawshank Penitentiary. Maybe I’ll win, maybe I’ll lose, but at least I’ll take a swing.
However, the good news: I am going to see Rush this weekend!
I’m off to catch them with my old dungeon master, to revel in nerdom, to frolic in geekery, and maybe, just maybe, dine on honeydew. So this early edition of the Friday Random 11 will focus on my favorite band and my 30-year relationship with their music. For the h8rs, I will at least try to make it entertaining. And, as always, I welcome your ridicule in the comments.
1) “Tom Sawyer” Even my iPod knows where to start on a Rushdom 11. It’s the song that got me and millions of other budding nerds into the band. When I heard they were touring, I initially didn’t plan on going. Then I read that they were going to play ALL OF MOVING PICTURES! EVERY LAST SONG, EVERY LAST NOTE! OMFG!
Ahem. So I called my friend Tom, because the guy I had to go see Rush with was the guy I used to roll twenty-sided dice with.
2) “The Trees” The last time I saw them play this live, I yelled out “Fuck yeah!” as loud as I could. It was completely involuntary, like breathing or falling asleep after sex. It’s about trees and socialism and Canadian nationalism and lumberjacking. It’s fruitier than a mulberry bush. And yet I don’t care, because I air-guitar that solo every single time.
3) “Cinderella Man” My musical obsessions started in the fifth grade, after my parents gave me a boom box for Christmas. After an initial dabbling with Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits, I moved on to The Beatles, because I’d heard so many songs and thought Yellow Submarine was an awesomely weird movie. That gave way to months-long obsession with REO Speedwagon’s Hi-Infidelity, which in turn got me to pay more attention to new music and start taping off the radio. I liked a lot of rock and pop music, and I was just as likely to record AC/DC as I was Juice Newton.
One day I heard “Tom Sawyer” and really dug it. Rush was hitting their most popular stride, and one night the classic rock station set aside two hours to play all Rush (back when radio stations could do cool stuff like this). I took two of my Memorex tapes, full of The Knack and The Police and even Kool and the Gang, put scotch tape over the recording holes, and erased them so I could record the Rush marathon.
That’s when this Rush fan was born. I had no money then, and my family wasn’t that well off, so there were not many opportunities to buy albums. Instead, I played those two Memorex tapes over and over again for the next several years, until I got a job in high school and eventually acquired every Rush album. “Cinderella Man” was one of the last songs in the marathon and is the only time I’ve ever heard it on the radio.
4) “Between the Wheels” I was in eighth grade when Grace Under Pressure came out, and it was the first Rush album I bought on the release date (I saved my birthday money for the cassette.) My interest had been peaked by this song getting played a lot on the radio before the album came out. My mom took me to the record store (remember those?), and when we got home, I popped it into my boom box. I spent hours, literally, sitting on my bed listening to the album, just doing nothing but listening to it and letting my mind wander.
They dug this song out on the R30 tour (which I also saw with Tom), and it took me back to that time, to sitting on my bed and letting my mind make its own music video. I miss both having the time and the right imagination for doing that.
5) “Vital Signs” Did I mention that we’re going to he concert IN A LIMO? With a GIRL RUSH FAN?
Here is one of the great things about persecuted for your musical beliefs: You instantly bond with your fellow Rush nerds. Tom was having a neighborhood barbecue with his neighbors, including one woman named L. Somehow the subject of Rush came up (ed.-it was probably destiny). Tom sheepishly revealed he was a Rush fan. L revealed that she, too was not only a Rush fan, not only born with girl parts, but was also Canadian! That’s like finding a black unicorn.
L, it turns out, has some connections, and through said connections had limo to take her and some fellow fans to the concert. She invited us to come along. So I will get to drink and not drive to the concert in style. I may even stand up in the sunroof and take my shirt off.
Anyway, the reason I mention this is because Rush fans finding each other are like two Masons meeting in the produce section. They may keep their secret hidden, but they sense a force in the other. Tentatively, they make gestures and before you know it, they’re behind the bananas engaging in the secret handshake. And then sharing a limo to the next temple meeting.
L said she is dying to hear this song live, and because she has added an enzyme to my Rush digestive process, I hope they rock the shit out of “Vital Signs” for her.
6) “The Spirit of Radio” I also watched the new Rush documentary, Beyond the Lighted Stage, this week. My review would be, “Come for the kimonos, stay for the insightful interviews.” It was a great documentary, not just for fans, but also in examining how three Toronto misfits formed a super popular band by playing rock music that almost guaranteed its listeners would not get laid.
There’s a point, after they discuss Hemispheres—the album where the 18-minute title track details a battle between Apollo and Dionysus for the soul of humanity (no, really!)—that they said they were through with those kinds of albums. “The Spirit of Radio” was the first song off the next kind of album they were going to make. This song is not about Greek Gods or battles or black holes (also part of the story). Instead it’s a jab at the music industry and a celebration of music, wrapping up a cool riff, a catchy chorus, and a reggae-ish finale in five minutes. They would make those kind of style shifts every few albums.
I know a lot of Rush fans who long for the Hemispheres days, and who hate the style shifts, who wish they had made Hemispheres over and over again (a sentiment shared by some of the people interviewed in the documentary). But even though I dig the old stuff and haven’t always liked their shifts, I like that Rush keeps trying new things. It keeps them interesting to me, it keeps me buying their albums, and it ensures that no matter what they play on Saturday, I’ll be into it. Bonus: a little "Paint It Black" before they start the song.
7) “2112” (so long it takes two videos!) Twenty minutes. Seven parts. Three kimonos. Two instrumentals. One pentagram. This song is more or less a blueprint for why I became a Rush fan:
--It rocks hard. The problem I had with a lot of prog was that it was too soft. I was in junior high and, despite liking sports and being one of the bigger kids in class, I was kind of sensitive. I was a class clown buy not assertive. I liked music that had balls, because it made me feel like I had balls. This was pretty heavy stuff back in the days before Metallica. And...
--It’s chock full of science-fictiony goodness. I was always very creative, and between the ages of 10 and 15, my creativity was channeled mostly into fantasy and sci-fi stories. Because those stories are full of heroes, confronting cosmic evil, yadda yadda yadda. Plus, the hero in this story, after confronting the cosmic evil, kills himself at the end because he couldn’t quite overcome his evilness. That fed into my growing love of anti-heroes. Plus...
--It annoyed the cosmic shit out of my mother. What good is rock music if your parents like it?
8) “New World Man” The fantasy epics may have been what hooked me, but songs like these are why I stayed a fan. One of their songs I always prefer live because they crank up the rock quotient more.
9) “One Little Victory” It’s tough to rock out as you get older. First, I think there’s a natural impulse to mellow with age. Second, there’s perhaps a self-consciousness about trying to look young and instead looking like an old fool. Third, you are more likely to pull something.
In 2002, after a seven-year layoff, after their fiftieth birthdays, and after Neil Peart lost both his only daughter and wife, Rush came back with this song, a raging slab of heavy rock that kicked down the door. I may borrow that approach when I turn 50.
10) “Cygnus X-1” Even I have my limits. I didn’t even like this screeching sci-fi epic when I was in the target demographic for it. I’m taking a mulligan.
10) “Finding My Way/In the Mood (Live)” Much better. Dare I say catchy. This is the old, pre-Neil Peart Rush, singing about workin’, drinkin’, and amazingly enough, screwin’. They were practically slaves to their influences, and it reminds me of the early stuff I tried to write, where I was aping epic fantasy novels and gory horror stories. They do have riffs and chops galore, which I did not have way back then, and while riffs and chops alone may not make great music, they will get me on my feet and waving my hands in the air.
11) “Resist” And we go out with the lighters in the air. I would be lying if I said this doesn’t get me in the gut a little, especially with the unplugged treatment. Because, as I’ve said before, this band is the soundtrack to my life. I’ve moved a dozen times in the 30 years I’ve been a Rush fan, and for each of those moves, there’s a Rush album to go with them. Do I really think they’re the greatest band of all time? No. But are they my all-time favorite band? Hell yes. Every time I get some variation of the desert island album question, Moving Pictures is always at the top of the list. And now I get to go see them perform that all-time desert island disc in its entirety with a friend who has shared my Rush fandom for three decades.
Have a great weekend.