Goodbye To A Poet And Philosopher
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.
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.
Brian Joseph Johns
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.|
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).
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.
English Pamphlet from Limelight in Japan
✨✨✨Intermission✨✨✨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. Baker, Joseph E., ca. 1837-1914, artist.|
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.
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
Canada M5A 3Z5