Thursday, April 05, 2007

Rush (1981)

There's no doubt in my mind as to who it was who introduced me to the band that holds the distinction of the second longest run as my favorite artist. Of course, that's like owning the second most World Series rings to the Yankees. Incidentally, last year, the Cardinals broke that second place tie (with Oakland) by winning their 10th. That person would, coincidentally, happen to hold the distinction of being my second oldest friend. Sorry Len, but Rob's parents pulled down the driveway in that little red MG convertible to the house next door two years prior to meeting you in kindergarten.

There seems to be a trend here...three bands in a row, and four out of six, who I became a fan of in a year that they released two very good albums (one with new material). In 1981, Rush released both Moving Pictures , which contained the single that I have to admit started it all, "Tom Sawyer", and the live album Exit...Stage Left.

I had been friends with Len for years, but I started hanging out regularly with him, his younger brother Mark, Luis Mejias and Johnny Kranik, after a falling out with Victor Feliciano. To this day, Victor is the one person whom I consider my mortal enemy. There were several almost run-ins during the high school and post-college years. One incident that comes to mind was when several of us crashed Victor's party, and after Beau and I performed the black knight sketch in his living room, Jackie Wilson, a friend of both ours and Victor's, told us we'd probably better leave. I think crashing parties where we didn't belong was the foundation of my friendship with Beau. Another time, we crashed a party thrown by one of Dan Hickey's best friends, did tap hits with a drunken Dan, and then left before anyone remembered that they wanted to kick our asses. This was after the billy club incident. But, obviously, none of this has anything to do with Rush.

"Tom Sawyer" had caught my ear before Len played Moving Pictures and Exit...Stage Left for me, but those albums reeled me in. I don't recall if Len already owned 1980's Permanent Waves as well, but I know we immersed ourselves in their entire prior history after that. 2112 was a no-brainer, but my purchase of their first live album, All the World's the Stage, turned us on to their first three studio albums.

We were enamored with the supposed lyrical depth of their concept albums, although we were well aware that Hemispheres and 2112 were really just concept album sides. We nicknamed Len's car "Red Barchetta" after the song on Moving Pictures. We even named Dungeons & Dragons characters after our beloved Neil Peart, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson...God, it's painful to admit that. Most importantly, though, we scoffed at anyone who dared claim that anyone but Mr. Peart was the greatest drummer in rock and, predictably, we quoted Neil in our senior yearbook.

Signals came out in 1982, and in 1983 we saw Rush at Radio City Music Hall. We were blown away, but we did observe that Geddy's vocal range was not what it was when he was belting out "Temples of Syrinx" back in 1976. I liked 1984's Grace Under Pressure even better than Signals. Some might call me crazy for saying that, but I still do. By the time Power Windows came out, we were already off for our freshman years in college. Maybe it was the fact that I wasn't hanging out with Len on a regular basis anymore, or maybe it was because Power Windows kind of sucked, but I started to lose interest in new Rush material after that.

I know Len stuck it out with them for a little while longer, and even claims that Roll the Bones is a really good album, but I honestly have not listened to a single post-Power Windows album in its entirety. I intend to break that trend this year, when on May 1, Rush releases their 18th studio album, Snakes & Arrows. I'm not sure just what to expect, but I'm checking it out, maybe just for old time's sake.

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