In the spring of 1978, I saved my confirmation gift money to purchase my first all in one, turntable, cassette deck, am/fm stereo and speakers by Sanyo. This wonderful device gave you the opportunity to make mixed tapes from records but also to record songs directly from the radio. With my Courier Express paper route income, it afforded me about an album a week, or a three pack of TDK SA90 cassettes and the chance to hone my recording skills.
I know I am aging myself when I tell you that I was not alone in this early pirating of music, but it made listening to Rock-n-Roll Animal that was 97 Rock an art form, fingers waiting like a recording engineer ready to press that red “record” button at the split second before the deejay stopped talking and the music started. If you were lucky, maybe you would get two or three songs in a row you liked without a break, or ended up recording a “new” song which you had not heard before.
It was during one such recording that side one of Rush 2112 was introduced to me. As a seventh grader going to a new school, moving to a new neighborhood, and working my way through the machinations of my parent’s painful divorce, 2112 was an epiphany, and I had it on tape.
I must have listened to it a hundred times before I finally went to the Seneca Mall Cavages Records and bought the album, and in the following months, every other album Rush made to that point. I was hooked, a self-described “Rushaholic”.
In retrospect, I found Rush at the perfect time of my life, as at that impressionable age before high school, the words of the late Neil Peart spoke to exactly who I was and what I wanted to do. While Queens album “News of the World” was becoming the anthem of my classmates, I was looking to songs like “Cinderella Man” and “Fly by Night” to inspire me to become an artist, and with the help of an amazing art teacher, apply to the new Buffalo Academy of Visual and Performing Arts for high school.
Once again, the lyrics of Neil Peart and the music of Rush was first and foremost the soundtrack of my teenage life. I was in deep, and prided myself on getting their newest album the first day it came out, standing outside Central Ticket Office on Chippewa all night to get good seats for their upcoming concert, and always knowing deep down inside, that each song offered a new lesson to challenge your perspective, extend your horizon and help define your place in the world. The words of Neil Peart in many ways helped define the man I would become.
Neil made being smart cool, opened the idea being an avid reader, and that making art is a gift, and that what is learned in the process of doing it, is far richer than what it produces.
As my musical tastes expanded, the music of Rush did as well. When progressive rock was dying, they created a permanent wave of music, always open to new technology like keyboards, sequencers, and electric drums, but doing so at a level of musicianship that not many could emulate. From bad new wave hair, thin ties, mullets, goatees and kimonos, these guys were chameleons of genre and capable of playing anything. Not all fans of the band followed and accepted their adaptations over the years, but that was never the case for me, they were “my band”.
The wrecked building featured in the photo on the front of ‘Farewell to Kings’ cover was taken in Buffalo. The sky is Toronto, but where the throne and king sit is actually the remnants of the Century Theatre, where Rush played on the 2112 tour.
Rush fans have been so lucky in life, to actually have a musical inspiration that continues to produces music throughout four decades of your adult life. Rush fans can identify inspiration in so many songs that reflect how old you were when you heard it. Luckily, I feel like I was always their target audience, from high school, through college, becoming a husband, a father and finally a middle aged man. During that times I had seen them multiple times, in multiple venues with multiple friends, some fans of the band, others to hopefully turn them on to their secret greatness. After an invigorating show during the R40 tour in Toronto, and being lucky enough to sit third row center, I knew it would never be as good as it was at that moment. In the words of Neil, “Time Stood Still” and I had one of those amazing moments where you are so thankful to be where you are, at peace with the universe, witnessing and taking part in that deep groove of simpatico.
The cover of the double live album ‘Exit Stage Left’ features the interior of the Memorial Auditorium from the stage during the ‘Moving Pictures’ tour.
So as it has been well documented and shared all over social media, the passing last Tuesday of Neil Peart touched millions of people. I have read a lot of dedications, from people lucky enough to have met Neil, play with Neil and to have interviewed Neil. For a man who steered away from the limelight, the outpouring of love and respect for him would have surely touched him.
As simply a fan, it is hard to not want to write something, as Rush and Buffalo have a long history intertwined not just in musical performances, but in art. Not many know that the wrecked building featured in the photo on the front of “Farewell to Kings” cover was taken in Buffalo. The sky is Toronto, but where the throne and king sit is actually the remnants of the Century Theatre, where Rush played on the 2112 tour. The cover of the double live album “Exit Stage Left” (photo – inset right) features the interior of the Memorial Auditorium from the stage during the “Moving Pictures” tour, and in turn features me and a good friend somewhere out there in the blurry gold seats.
So this is my big “Thank You” to the members of Rush. I would not be the man that I am, or taken the path in life I have taken without you. I hope that those of you out there that feel the same way will find the time to write your thoughts down somewhere, and raise a glass of The Macallan Single Malt to the amazing man that was Neil Peart.
Lead image: Photo by Tobias Tullius