Friday, June 18, 2010

Rush Hour

"Suddenly you were gone
From all the lives you left your mark upon"

 - Neil Peart, Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee

I was receiving subliminal messages through my iPod to keep conversing about Rush today (it shuffled in Ghost Rider followed immediately by Ceiling Unlimited at work, and then when I went to work out, it began with Afterimage and then spit out Distant Early Warning, so I decided it was a good idea to obey the persuasive powers of the inanimate object).  Much better than dwelling on the particular anniversary we're staring into this weekend anyway.  Much more fun.

So, why don't I tell you how I became a Rush fan?  The fact that a late middle-age suburban former Disco Queen listens to a band like that is in and of itself interesting, but considering how I could not STAND them in high school, it's actually all the more so.  I wonder sometimes at the look of disbelief and horror I would have engendered if I could somehow travel back in time and tell my 17-year old self that I would one day be so utterly enamored of the band and their music that tears of joy would well up in my eyes when they took the stage.  The younger me never would have believed it.  The younger me not only did not like them, it felt an active disdain bordering on disgust.

I definitely knew who they were back then.  Bozeman is on the southwestern side of a very large state, but Canada is our northern neighbor, and we were exposed to a lot of their culture.  We had a Canadian television station (that showed uncut R rated movies, by the way) and lots of travelers back and forth.  Some Canadian passions caught on and some didn't.  Hockey, ironically enough, didn't back when I was growing up.  Not really.  But I did know and understand the game better than I do even now.  I think the Canucks just sort of radiated Hockey-ness, and we were bound to pick it up almost by osmosis.  And Rush is a Canadian product that they are very proud of.

We were also close, relatively speaking, to Seattle, which always claimed to have introduced Rush to America and really nurtured their beginnings here.  The documentary I saw over the weekend gave the credit to Cleveland, but I'm happy to believe the Seattle version for a couple of reasons.  (Yes, one of which is because Cleveland is home to the Browns, okay?)

Anyway, and however it happened, they had an early fan base in some of the kids I went to school with.  I referred to them as the Black Lit Poster Crowd.  The kind of nerdy malcontent male who is surly, ill mannered, ill kempt and consistently stoned.  The kind of guy that I had the mental image of being locked up in his room with his black lit posters and lava lamp, sneaking joimts, being anti-social.  And, to a large extent, I probably wasn't far off the mark.  There were other Black Lit Poster Acts:   Alice Cooper, Meatloaf, Black Sabbath to name a few, but to my mind Rush was the head of the pack.  That cover art - the naked man in front of the Pentagram - what was up with that?  And then that lead singer!  He sounded like he was a cat being strangled!  What a joke.  I couldn't stand them.

I remember specifically a special on Canadian television featuring Rush in their new studio.  As I mentioned, they were already Canadian icons, so they got a prime time gig to talk about what would end up being the Moving Pictures album.  The all-time definitive Rush album.  The album that gave you Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, YYZ and Limelight - and that was just on the first side.  But, at the time, all I could think of was what a waste it was that such a beautiful studio was being used by such a horrible band.

Not long after I saw that, I moved down here and began listening to the local rock station KLBJ.  By then, those songs were all getting ample radio play, and I found I didn't hate them.  As a matter of fact, that Tom Sawyer ditty was actually kind of catchy.  Then I noticed that everything they followed it up with I actually liked.  Hmmm.  Maybe they were changing, I thought to myself.  Yes, they were, but so was I.

Then it happened.  One Sunday afternoon I was at our little rent house, a newlywed, polishing a bookcase I kept in our hall that had belonged to Greg's grandfather, who was due for a visit, and a song came on the radio.  Mystic Rhythms.  And I was in love.

Hardcore and long term Rush fans scoff at the period that produced Mystic Rhythms, but that's probably also when the band picked up most of the female fans it has.  It worked on me to be sure.  I still resisted for a while.  Presto had to come out before I actually bought a CD, but I've been slavishly devoted ever since.  Mainly because they are amazingly talented musicians, but also because their lyrics speak to me.  They have touched on everything from politics, relationships, genocide, suicide, vanity, global warning and free will.  I can find a Rush song to meet any mood I am in - funny, sad, angry, introspective, you name it.  And, in the last year, I can particularly relate to some of the lyrics, particularly those Neil wrote after coming off his long time on the road.  This statement would make them uncomfortable I think, but their music is me.  And I am their music.

I love a lot of music - I was pretty ecstatic over Tears For Fears in the 80's to the point where I read about Primal Scream Therapy (what a crock!), and I love U2, the Moody Blues, the Foo Fighters, and the list could go on.  But none touch Rush.  I am never without their music.  Long before there was an iPod to send me messages through song choices (and, yes, I'm kidding - I'm not totally nuts - not totally...), I took Presto with me everywhere.  When my dad was in his last days, I found a copy of Power Windows and held it.  Not having a way to play it, just having it was comforting.

But, they're not for everybody.  And I get that.  The beauty of music is it's so individualistic.  I still think Black Sabbath sucks, for instance.  But, I have dear friends who love that crap.  They hear something completely different than I do when it comes on.  And that's cool.  It's hard to define the power of music in a blog that's already too long and rambling, but you know it when you experience it.  And you know what it means to you.  It's the soundtrack you live your life to.  It's what sustains you through hard times and makes happy times happier.  I love music.  Kelsey loved music.  She loved Rush.  How could she not?  Everything she did as a young girl was punctuated by their music.  It united us through all the horrible years.  We never lost that.  And maybe I love them most of all for that.

Whatever it is you listen to, may you always Rock On.

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