Goodbye To A Poet And Philosopher

This Note Is Added After I Made This Post:

No disrespect meant, but I'm not going by the symbolism of colours in this post. I say this because I don't want people to think that I'm "sucking blood" by speaking highly of people who influenced my youth. Especially musically. The cover for the album Moving Pictures is red and black for the most part. I just happen to live near people who immediately assume that if you present something of those colours, that you're on the red-black/blue-white team. I'm not. I never will be. The reasoning being that to such people is that if you speak highly of anyone, you're sucking blood.

Ie you'll be laden with whatever their particular burdens happen to be, and you'll be harassed excessively about those burdens or at least I am where I live where there seem to be people employed full time for that purpose. So I don't go by colour symbolism at all for that reason. I'm free. 

So in other words, my hate doesn't mean love and my love doesn't mean that I'm sucking other people's blood. I strongly believe in sincerity before polarity, and polarity rarely if ever at all unless of course, you're speaking of transmitting electric power long over distances through cables. Then I'd have to go with Tesla on that count because that's how our alternating current system of power works.

I don't need other people's blood to fuel my life thank you very much and I've never been a member of any ideology or religion that operates that way. When I produce something, it comes from me, not other people or their blood. 

I'm sure that there are many people who know what I mean and why I am saying this. I don't believe in the Holy Spirit and I'm not a member of Prince Hall or a Jehovah's Witness. In fact, I'm a Secular Atheist Taoist Buddhist (Humanist). Something I've been trying to explain to abusive people for a very long time in order to get them to stop abusing me. 

Saying this doesn't usually do much to stop it, but its all I've got. I'm sure that Neil would understand as apparently, he used to go through the same thing. If I didn't then most people would believe that I'm being possessed and controlled by other people and they'd proceed to steal the credit for anything I produce because that's the kind of scumbags they are. So please take note and I mean no disrespect or offense.

Thank you

Brian Joseph Johns

Rush ================================================

I started listening to Rush when I was around 11 or 12 years old. In 1981, when I was 14 years old I received the album Moving Pictures as a gift during the holiday season. At that time I had been into a mix of different music which included Duran Duran, Supertramp, Heart, April Wine, Max Webster (with whom Rush recorded a song)AC/DC, Styx, The Fixx, Big Country, The Specials, anything by John Williams, Gagarin Holst, Piotr Tchaikovsky and a variety of other classical and jazz music, believe it or not. I had a wide variety of musical tastes. I was just around the corner from getting into Siouxie And The Banshees. Bauhaus. Joy Division. New Order. David Sylvian and Japan. During the late 90s it was all about Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Sheryl Crow (thanks Lillian) and likely many others I've forgotten to mention. Sometimes proper odes escape you like episodes of stage fright. Foo Fighters! Sorry Mr. Grohl!

I had several radio stations that I'd listen to. CFNY which I'd turned on to in 1983, Chum-FM which was an AORP station at the time (Adult Oriented Rock and Pop) and of course the classic rock station Q107. I'd heard Rush before but most on the radio and hadn't really had a chance to really hear the band.

Courtesy Wikimedia. Anthem. Mercury.
I had acquaintances at school who were into Rush but most of them were part of a crowd of whom I was terrified. That had a tendency to affect what music I'd allow into my life which when you think about it, that's a pretty big travesty that our tastes during early life are so much influenced by cliques. I pretty much had to keep it in the closet that I was still a big fan of the Muppet Movie soundtrack, which is mostly written by veteran songwriter Paul Williams. Had that gotten out into the school I'd have likely paid for it. Especially at that time which is why I am so much for youth developing a sense of self-confidence and independent thought from early on rather than one of social approval.

So when I got Moving Pictures I finally had a chance to listen to the music and more importantly the lyrics, which have always been a prominent part of the Rush experience. Music was a much different experience back in those days as listening to an album was more like watching a movie. This was the case with the music of many bands of the time. Pink Floyd (Dark Side Of The Moon). Supertramp (Breakfast In America). Electric Light Orchestra (Turn To Stone). Tears For Fears (The Hurting). Meat Loaf (Bat Out Of Hell).

Courtesy Wikimedia
Moving Pictures is just such an album so I was fortunate that my parents had picked that one up for me, rather than one of their earlier albums because Moving Pictures is the perfect entry point into the Rush experience. It begins with Tom Sawyer, a song about the independence of the mind and free will of a young person that you couldn't quite call a rebel. Tom Sawyer was his own thing, though he was mostly the product of Huckleberry Finn who was the real outcast and rebel if you've ever read any of Samuel Clemins' works. The lyrics really reflect this sentimental admiration of classic fiction and heroes like Tom Sawyer, but the music never took back seat to the lyrics. Rush's music is a perfect balance of both with the lyrics being delivered by Geddy Lee's incredibly piercing voice. That's a sincere compliment by the way. Tom Sawyer is where you'll get your first introduction into the rhythmic acrobatics of Neil Peart. Both the lyricist and drummer for Rush.

Courtesy Wikimedia
The song following Tom Sawyer begins with a simple melodic motif carried by the harmonics of the bass, played by Geddy Lee. They're slowly accompanied by a series of plucked guitar chord arpeggios that set the tone of the verse for the song. Peart's drums slowly come in with percussive accents and a variety of seldom used percussion instruments punctuating the pace before they come in full, kick and snare. "My uncle has a country place, that no one knows about..." sings Geddy. From that point the song slowly reveals the mystery and wonder that the protagonist has for red, in the form of a brilliant Barchetta. Not all Rush music follows the standard verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, bridge, chorus to fade model often tread by the majority of pop music. It generally tends to follow its own thing but has distinct sections. This song happens to be one of the few from their older library of music that follows that model. By the time the song reaches the first chorus of the song, the protagonist is already dreaming of what it would be like to drive this Barchetta. Of course by the second verse, he gets his wish, with the music telling this story as much so as do the lyrics, where he encounters a challenge of the likes of which he'd never dreamed. When the song finally ends, if you'd been listening to the song, you'll feel like you've lived an adventure. This piece is a must for any Fast And The Furious fan, though I'd highly suggest that you don't listen to this while driving. Actually, the song should have a Surgeon General warning to that effect.

Courtesy Wikimedia
After a moment of silence and the crackling of the record needle on vinyl, they jump hard and heavy into the diablus of music, the dreaded half-octave, the devil in music as it was referred to by Gregorian Monks who worked their music in counterpoint. A "holy" structure and framework designed to prevent composers from using intervals and other compositional devices that attracted the devil into the world. In other words, severe censorship at the level of composition imposed by the ruling Church of the time. Hence, music composed outside of the Church has always been a protest of censorship and a symbol of freedom. Something I tried to slowly reveal and write into my story, The Devil In Music which I may finish and republish at some point.

Rush slams right into the music with the guitar and bass running a riff off the half-octave (augmented or sharp fourth) while a synth in the background counters with an equally dissonant and eerie linear pad, all at 10/8 key signature (though I would have guessed 5/4 myself which is correct too if you double the tempo). After a few bars of that intro, they bridge it with an acrobatic run sounding like a cross between Frank Zappa, Yes with a little Chick Corea, thrown in for good measure and off they go into the consonant stretch. A portion of this hectic song that actually sounds like a fast-paced groove from the seventies. There's no lyrics in this piece but the band really kicks it. From there it eventually finds its way into an eerie and swooning melodic section before it jumps back into the clamour of all that is the song and place, YYZ.

Courtesy Wikimedia.
English Pamphlet from Limelight in Japan
The next song is an ode to everyone seeking success in the entertainment industry and really, its good advice to anyone seeking success. Lyrically its as much a masterpiece as any Rush tune, yet it requires little investment on the part of the listener compared to most of their other material. This made the song a hit on the radio, at least as much so as the song Spirit Of Radio from the album Permanent Waves. Give it a listen and perhaps one day you too will be living in the Limelight.


At that point we reach the intermission. You see, back in the early 1980s we were mostly relying upon the phonograph. The record player. So that would be the end of side A of the album. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s this would be called intermission much like at a drive-in theatre. Or if you're courageous enough to go see a Symphony, Ballet, Opera or live theatre, despite what your friends think, you'll reach a point where the orchestra and conductor take a break. Everyone steps out for a breath of fresh air or a glass of wine. Of course, I was far too young to partake of alcohol at that time so I'd usually just turn the record over and begin side B. At which point I'd be greeted by more crackling and then a very cool synth intro.

Courtesy Wikimedia
We'd be into the Camera Eye. A relaxed and hyper piece that centers on the art of photography and being at the center of attention. Points of calm through which one can collect oneself and points of sheer frantic crowds and flashes and lenses. This piece is one of the longer pieces of the album if memory serves me correctly but its all worth it. Once again Peart is back with some mind-altering lyrics and we're left to think as the song fades.

Courtesy Wikimedia. Baker, Joseph E., ca. 1837-1914, artist.
Once again we're greeted by what sounds like a fireside ritual, perhaps something you'd hear on Halloween and as it turns out, you wouldn't be far from the truth. This is perhaps one of their most insightful and critical pieces of human nature. This song certainly inspired much of what I wrote in A Lady's Prerogative II: Wounded Aerth and aptly so, though the time between my having heard this song and my writing that book would be thirty-three years after which I'd written the very first A Lady's Prerogative story. The song being Witch Hunt.

Courtesy Wikimedia
The final piece on the album is somewhat more esoteric and even a bit more tense from the warm welcome we get from the album's entry: Tom Sawyer. This song begins with an arpeggiated synthesizer riff and ironically the piece is a sort of halfway point between real life and technology. Remember that they were producing music in 24 track recording studios and the home studio though present, was generally limited to 4 tracks at the time and those who had a home studio were few and far between. Most digital music of the time was being produced on computers like the Commodore 64 and generally not for professional release but for technology enthusiasts.

I myself used to have a friend, Chuck Knights, a guy who would take existing popular sheet music and transpose it to computer music notation using an ancient Electronic Arts music notation software on his Commodore 64 and then upload it to existing bulletin board systems which made up the entire online world before the internet. This was very close to the birth and arrival of MIDI. Something my parents began using more and more with their use of synths and something of which I became familiar prior to its full standardized release thanks to my parents.

Courtesy Wikimedia
Sure, the Atari 520 and 1040 ST and the Amiga were just around the corner, but digital music did not exist. Every synth band was producing music using analog synthesizers and analog recordings rather than their digital counterparts. So the art of recording music was going through a big revolution at the time of their recording this album. Peart penned this song to reflect upon this change of moving from the analog to the digital, something he'd explore in their following album Signals. Moving something from the state of human being which ultimately is analog and infinite into a pixelated representation of infinity, much like the pixels on a digital image. That's what was happening to music as it transitioned into the world of digital. Compact Discs. Digital Mastering (enter legends like Bob Clearmountain).

For artists, digital recording seemed like it was taking something away from the end product solely because most artists believed that through this process of analog to digital, something was being taken away, which they are correct though their beliefs of this are founded in something mystic, almost esoteric. Perhaps justifiably so or perhaps superstition and fear of change. That would aptly describe the song Vital Signs. A song that reflected the band's struggle between technology and the purity of their sound and the instruments producing it. This was most felt between the guitarist Alex Lifeson who opposed Rush's music becoming drenched in synthesizers because he felt they weren't real instruments versus Geddy Lee who embraced the technology and enjoyed writing and producing with it. I'm certain that Neil was caught between this disparity and Vital Signs was born.

At that point, the music would end and the sound of the record needle bouncing against the sticker label affixed to the actual vinyl could often be heard. There would be nothing left except awe and wonder and most of all, anticipation of our next listening session if not to recapture that feeling again, to keep us warm while we waited for their next album.

Rush has never left my life, though from my mid-twenties onward I tended to diverge and expand my growing tastes in music, leaving me little time for nostalgia, but they were always there. They resurfaced in my life when I reached 40. They became a secret treasure. An escape from this world of which I was and still am becoming less familiar every day. More and more of the people I grew up with have gone. More are sure to follow. Neil Peart's recent departure from this world is really quite sad. We've lost a big part of our living history to become recorded history. The only way in which we know that someone was here and affected us in some way. That's a place that we'll all be going. With his departure, that's just one more friend I'll be looking forward to hearing from again in whatever comes next. If what comes next is nothing, then we'll have to cherish what we have now until it's all gone.

Perhaps this is just the needle bumping into the label at the end of side B. Perhaps there's a side C where we'll find Neil and everyone else?

If so, we'll see you soon Neil. Until then, we'll miss you.

Brian Joseph Johns

200 Sherbourne Street #701
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M5A 3Z5