Tuesday, May 01, 2007

RUSH: Snakes And Arrows

Snakes And Arrows, the latest studio album from RUSH is in stores today. New music, and a tour that brings them to Tinley Park in September, makes me a happy man. I mentioned RUSH in a previous post, and I mentioned how I'd eventually get around to giving you more info on how and why this band is one of my faves.

I'm not exactly sure where to start. I guess you need to know how my musical tastes changed as I was growing up. My first recollection of listening to radio and paying attention to new music was 1980. Even today, I'll hear songs that came out that year, and I feel like I'm nine years old again. I listened to mainly the Top 40 stations back then, and most of the songs that I remember listening to include gems like "Upside Down" by Diana Ross, "Fantasy" by Billy Joel, "Magic" by Olivia Newton-John, "Just Like Starting Over" by John Lennon, and "Turn It On Again" by Genesis.

As I grew up, I stayed with Top 40, for the most part, until I was in high school. Thanks to the influences of some friends, I branched into "classic rock" mode. Plus, I was now old enough to drive, so I was able to spend more time listening to radio. So, in a matter of years, I went from tapping my toes to "I Want Your Sex" by George Michael, "Heart And Soul" by T-Pau, and "The Miami Vice Theme" from Jan Hammer, to an overdose of Clapton, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Allman Brothers, etc.

It was an awakening. I can remember sitting with my mouth open listening to "Jessica" by The Allman Brothers for the first time. Same deal for "Layla" (Clapton), "Stairway To Heaven" (Zeppelin), "We Won't Get Fooled Again" (The Who), "Deacon Blues" (Steely Dan), "Do You Feel Like We Do" (Peter Frampton's live version), "Angel" (Hendrix), and "Tom Sawyer", by RUSH. Wow, now THIS was music. So long, Nu Shooz, hello Purple (and Patti) Haze.

Classic rock is like getting an education. You reach that certain age, you discover classic rock, live it, love it, learn about it, grow out the hair a bit, buy the tie-dye shirts, and become a scholar in everything from AC/DC to ZZ Top.

At this same time, I was in a band. However, I played keyboards. I say "however" because playing keyboards isn't really the cool instrument. To me, at least. I'd much rather be the guitarist, or the drummer. But, keyboard was the instrument I had access to growing up, and I learned how to play it adequately enough to play along with many a rock song. I enjoyed it, howver, during the mid-80's, before I discovered classic rock, keyboards in music always sounded cheesy. Then I started listening to The Doors, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, and Genesis to name a few. Keyboards sounded cool in songs by these groups..

Back to RUSH. By the latter half of the 80's, I was starting to hear RUSH songs on the classic rock stations. "Tom Sawyer" was usually the song that was played. I didn't know much else about the band at this point. Then one day, one of the dudes on my bowling team gave me a RUSH cassette. He liked the band well enough, but never listened to the album. He asked me if I wanted it, and I said yes. The album was Grace Under Pressure.

This was the defining moment that moved RUSH from intriguing band with a killer song that I liked alot, to the status of THAT band, and one of my all time faves.

I got home, put the tape into my walkman, put on the headphones, and for the first time in my life, heard what I thought was the perfect sounding band. I had always pictured RUSH as being more of a hard rock band -- with only having Tom Sawyer, plus a still building knowledge of classic rock to go by -- but when I started Grace Under Pressure, I heard the sound of a band that I would love to play in. It was the perfect use of synthesizers, with plenty of guitars, and of course amazing drumming. It was as if I had found the perfect sounding band for my tastes.

I wasn't expecting that sound from that band. From that point on, I started ingesting as much RUSH as I could. That's when I discovered the epic 2112 album, and we even took a stab at playing it in our band. Somewhere out there is a tape of us playing that, and me trying to sing "Tom Sawyer" as well. Hopefully it is eroding at a very rapid rate as you read this.

As the years have gone by, I've been to several concerts, have all of their music, a DVD or two, and will probably go see them in September. They might not be as popular as other bands of that era, but they garner tremendous amounts of respect within the music industry, mainly from other musicians, and rightly so.

They've basically been together for the duration. Their first album came out in 1974 -- aptly entitled RUSH -- then they switched drummers, and have been a tight threesome ever since. Geddy Lee on bass and vocals, Alex Lifeson on guitars, and the amazing Neil Peart on drums. Their music is certainly unique, and thanks to my stoner friend, Kerry, who didn't want his cassette of Grace Under Pressure, their music inspired me, and still does today.

I'll leave you with some Youtube clips for you to enjoy:

"YYZ" - Rush In Rio DVD - Simply an amazing instrumental (RUSH has many), and the energy of the crowd is incredible.

"Tom Sawyer" - Rush In Rio - Their most well-known song, again, in front of a frenzied crowd.

"The Trees" - Gotta love the late 70's hair.

"Freewill" - One of my favorite RUSH songs, and one of the songs that elicits a tremendous amount of air drumming at concerts.

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