rush

Live Stream – “Nigel Tufnel Top Ten” RUSH albums & more! – Saturday May 16

Missed the May 16 live stream? No problem. Watch LeBrain and special guest Uncle Meat below, discussing favourite Rush albums. Then LeBrain dives into Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath singles, and finally makes a surprise purchase live on the stream! We also pay tribute to Fred Willard who passed away at age 86. We’ll miss you Fred.

There has been an audio lag issue with the Facebook live streams which looks like an issue that happens when one person leaves during a split screen.  Going forward I will either have to reboot the stream at that point or use another platform.  Apologies for the audio lag.  Enjoy the show.

 

REVIEW: Max Webster – Diamonds Diamonds (1981)

MAX WEBSTER – Diamonds Diamonds (1981 Anthem)

What a title for your first “greatest hits” compilation, eh?  Diamonds Diamonds emerged the year after Max Webster broke up, with no songs from the final album Universal Juveniles, the only one without Terry Watkinson.  Even though these kinds of posthumous records are usually not very good, Diamonds Diamonds is an exception.  It’s also one of the hardest Max Webster albums to find on CD, but a generous slice of vinyl at 13 tracks and 47 minutes.

“What do I know?” asks Kim Mitchell in the opening line of “Gravity”, the debut number.  Kim knew quite a bit actually, including how to write catchy music without it being overtly commercial.  He knew how to challenge listeners while delivering the hooks they craved.  “Gravity” is one such slice of brilliance.   It’s complex pop.

“High Class in Borrowed Shoes” is a classic rocker from their second album in ’77.  As much as it kicks, the lyrics and keyboard arrangement are not typical.  The title track “Diamonds Diamonds” followed “High Class” on the original album and it does again here.  Like a lullaby, “Diamonds Diamonds” floats on the wings of the backing vocal arrangement.  Next is “Summer’s Up” from the incredible debut Max platter.  Jangling guitars and dreamy keyboards make for a summer scene by the pool side, with drinks.  “Blowing the Blues Away” has a more traditional feel, country and blues and pop rolled into one, with a side order of quirky tones.  But it’ll make you feel good.  Continuing the feel-good celebration, it’s “A Million Vacations”, one of the greatest Canadian party songs of all time.  Kim Mitchell’s guitar work is sublime and baffling at once.

Side A ends with one of Max Webster’s most significant songs, “Let Go the Line” with lead vocals by Terry Watkinson who wrote the song, music and lyrics.  In Max Webster, lyrics were usually handled by the poet Pye Dubois.  In fact he wrote all but two of the lyrics on Diamonds Diamonds.  The two he didn’t (“Blowing the Blues Away” being the other) were written by Watkinson.  “Let Go the Line” could not be improved upon if you tried.  Kim’s regal guitar line, Dave Myles bass pulse, and the thrift of Gary McCracken’s drums are all flawlessly and perfectly fit to Terry’s ballad.  If Max Webster only had one “perfect” song, it’s “Let Go the Line”.

Fearlessly opening side two with furvor, it’s “The Party”!  It’s the off-kilter musicianship on tracks like this that had fans often comparing Max Webster to Frank Zappa.  Frank liked to have fun, too.  Well Max really liked to have fun!  “We’re all here for a celebration, the madcap scene and the Max Machine!”  That says it all.

Every decent “greatest hits” album needs unreleased songs.  Diamonds Diamonds has two decent ones, good songs that might be a bit too mainstream for a Max studio album.  “Hot Spots” is the first, a rip-roaring boogie of a good time.  By comparison, Kim could have recorded it on one of his early solo albums if Max didn’t release it on this.  It is chased by the outstanding “Paradise Skies”, another summery Max hit that keeps Canadian radio stations in business.  Melody and musicianship — that should be Max’s calling card.  The second of the new unreleased tunes is “Overnight Sensation”, the most ordinary (or forgettable) of the tracks.  The bassline really hops, and there’s even some cowbell, but the song isn’t comparable to something like “The Party” or “High Class”.

Although it’s better as an album opener, “Lip Service” (from Mutiny Up My Sleeve) is a bouncer.  “Socialutions, written down in our teens.  I mailed them to Kennedy, I typed them for Tito.”  Brilliance in a pen by Pye Dubois, barely contained by the bopping bass and upbeat keys.  Then before it’s all over it goes into a brief jazzy jam!  Finally it’s “Hangover”, also traditionally an opening song.  It’s the hardest rocker of the bunch, quirky as all hell and actually a good closer too!

Diamonds Diamonds still an important record today because “Overnight Sensation” and the outstanding “Hot Spots” haven’t been reissued on anything else.  You can’t say that about any of the songs on The Best of Max Webster (1989).  This is the one to get.  If you find one on CD, you’ve got yourself a good one.

4.5/5 stars

#826: Promo Postcards (From the Edge of Rock)

The trick is hanging onto the good stuff and throwing out the junk!  I’ve accumulated a lot of junk and not always made the wisest decisions when I throw things out.  Keeping things that don’t take up a lot of space is easiest, and postcards take up very little space.

These postcards came from a variety of sources and only one could be from the Record Store!  I’ve said it many times:  a used CD store gets nothing promotional.  Record companies assumed we would just turn around and sell it.  Which we made a point of never doing anyway.  But we rarely got anything from bands that I liked when we did get promo material.  It was the 90s after all.

I have two of these Test For Echo postcards from Rush.  You can tell I didn’t get them from my store since they’re from Future Shop for a MuchMusic contest.  I don’t know how I ended up with two.

I also have two of these Slik Toxik postcards.  My best guess is that these were packed inside my subscription of M.E.A.T Magazine.  There were perks to subscribing and I didn’t let my subscription lapse.  Slik Toxik were one of M.E.A.T’s pride and joys.  They were behind the band from a very early stage.

Another pair of postcards!  Deadline sent these to me for my birthdays in 1994 and 1995!  Little did they know that I’d still be promoting their band, 25 years later and long after they disappeared.

Then and now, I think this is a really cool touch.  It’s not like today, seeing somebody’s birthday on Facebook and wishing them a happy one.  Somebody had to keep a file with the fan club birthdays and mail these out at their expense.  Glad I hung onto these treasures; I even have my membership card!

 

Finally, the last few postcards here are from a mixture of sources.  I was a Sven Gali fan club member, and for Christmas they sent out of a fully signed postcard.  My membership must have expired shortly after.  The W.A.S.P. card is from their dreadful K.F.D. album, not a disc that I particularly treasure.   This is the only one that could have come from the Record Store, though it’s an unusual item for us.  And the Star Trek shuttlepod is there because I had room on the scanner bed.  No story; no idea where it came from.

REVIEW: Rush – Rare Rush (bootleg)

RUSH – Rare Rush (2002 home made CD set from acquired downloads)

Once upon a time there was a cool, but doomed, Rush fansite.  This site had countless downloads for free, and was shut down in short order.  While it was up, I grabbed all the studio rarities that they had, and one official live track I was missing.  This compilation is made from all of it.

The rarities begin at the start, with the only two tracks featuring John Rutsey on drums.  They are significant ones.  “Not Fade Away” and “Can’t Fight It” were their very first single on Moon records in 1973.  It’s early Rush, more rock n’ roll, and way more high pitched.  These are very basic recordings, copied from vinyl.  “Not Fade Away” is the old Buddy Holly classic, but harder and with Geddy Lee walkin’ that bassline.  “Can’t Fight It” is an original, co-written by Lee and Rutsey.  It’s a simple but busy rocker.  Alex cuts loose some solos, Rutsey goes bananas on the kit, and Geddy holds it all down with a little bit of flash.  One listen to this and you’d know Rush were going places.  There’s an electricity on the single that carried over to the first album.  They were kids but they could play.

An edit of “Bravado” from Roll the Bones sounds like a CD single was the source.  What a song.  Is it a ballad?  Who cares.  It burns.  Neil kills it with a drum roll beyond perfect, right at the start of the fade-out, which is why you need the full-length original.  It also contains one of the most poignant Neil Peart lyrics:  “And when the music stops, there’s only the sound of the rain.”

Next is the three part interview “It’s a Rap”, from the Roll the Bones era.  Alex’s portion comes from a 7″ single, Geddy’s from a rare European CD single, and Neil’s from the more common one.*  Neil’s is probably the most interesting.  He discusses the controversial rap section from the “Roll the Bones” single, which was his idea. Robbie Robertson and John Clease were two people they thought of to deliver the rap, before Geddy did it himself.  Speaking of Geddy, his interview has the best quote:  “I don’t know how we got this image.  Maybe we wore too many robes in the 70s.”

The “pre-release” tracks here from Counterparts are slightly different in the mix.  The differences are very subtle.  Some more prominent keyboard here, a less double-tracked vocal there.  “Ghost of a Chance” has unique Lifeson fills in the last part of the song.  These tracks will be fun for any fan of Counterparts (a great album).  Some of the best songs have these “pre-release” tracks.  From “Animate” through “Double Agent”and finally “Everyday Glory”, these are awesome tunes.  “Cold Fire” absolutely smokes.  Unfortunately these tracks are not as clear as others, as they came (as I recall) originally from a rare promo cassette.

An edit of “Virtuality” from the (honestly dreadful) Test for Echo album is a drag.  I don’t like to speak ill of the dead but “Net boy, net girl” is not one of Neil Peart’s best lyrics.  In the 90s there was a trend of internet-themed songs, and none of them were really any good.  Moving onto “Nobody’s Hero”, which is a “master edit” (not sure what that is).  It’s only short by about 20 seconds at the end as it fades early.

The only live track on here, “Force Ten”, comes from the very rare and expensive Japanese import for Different Stages.  It could possibly be the only Japanese bonus track that Rush have.  Much like the album itself, this track is awesome and harder hitting than its studio counterpart.

Disc 2 opens with a radio edit of “Test for Echo”, one of the best tunes from that album.  Really cool is an instrumental mix of “One Little Victory”, though it’s so fuckin’ overdriven.  Vapor Trails reduced to mp3 (especially back then) is a harsh sound.  This is very brickwalled.  But as an instrumental, it’s worth suffering through.  Compare that to the crisp “Show Don’t Tell” (promo edit) that follows.  Now you have depth and texture.

Vintage vibes return on an old “Spirit of Radio” edit — two of them actually.  One is 2:59, the other 3:23.  They crackle of old vinyl.  Consider that the original is almost five minutes!  Radio edits are what they are — chopped to cram more songs in between commercial breaks.  “Shatter the illusion of integrity, yeah.”

Some high-tech songs shake it up a bit.  “Big Money” and “Red Sector A” are edited and truncated (“Big Money” for a music video).  “Red Sector A” is missing a whole minute of music from the middle, which you definitely miss.  The edit is just yucky, as is the one at the start of “Secret Touch” from Vapor Trails.  I’m realizing that, on its own, I can listen to Vapor Trails.  But I cannot listen to them one song at a time on a mix CD like this.  That overdriven mix is too drastic for a compilation.  (This is why Rush remixed tracks for their own Retrospective 3 album.)

“Time and Motion” is a “work in progress” pre-release, and it’s harder to listen to than the album version from Test For Echo.  More enjoyable is an edit of “The Pass” (Presto).  This brilliant, minimalist Rush tune was the start of a new kind of sound for them.  An awkward edit of “Tom Sawyer” cuts the song down to 3:32, a real shame.  Here’s thing:  “Tom Sawyer” was Rush tightening things up; making them concise.  There was no fat to trim on that song.  Everything that was there belonged.  This edit is a butcher job, cuts all over the place, an absolute travesty.

Next we arrive at the remixes.  The “Punchit Scratchit” and “Rock Slamfist” mixes of “Tom Sawyer” come from a promo single for the Small Soldiers soundtrack.  They’re pretty terrible.  Nobody needed to overdub somebody going “rock! rock!” over it.  There’s a neat loop repeated in both mixes, but most fans will call these tracks “abominations”.  Don’t forget that these were done for a kid’s movie.

Saving one of the best for last, it’s “The Weapon” featuring Joe Flaherty as “Count Floyd”!  Fans of SCTV know who that is.  The 7″ single this originated from goes for about 45 bucks on Discogs.  Definitely an item reserved for those with an all-expenses paid Rush card!  It really is a treasure though, considering the importance of SCTV to Rush over the years.  Joe Flaherty on a Rush single — yes, I want that.

The compilation ends on an up note, with an edit of “Time Stand Still”; though a bit choppy.  It stands as a reminder that Rush are not serviced well by single edits.  Indeed, any edit on this set is noticeably inferior to its album counterpart.  These particular Rush songs were honed in the studio to the necessary elements already.  Further thinning did not need to happen and only hinders enjoyment.

But, they’re rare, is the thing.  And collectors live for anything different from the album versions.  It’s part of our disease.  I won’t say “go and track down these promo singles”.  No, don’t do that.  That’s expensive.  I just hope you found this information interesting.  There are definitely treasures worth spending money on, among these downloads.  But sellers know that, and charge according to what they feel they can soak you for.  It’s unfortunate but owning this stuff physically is hard to prioritise, and for that reason, most of us will have to settle for downloads and bootlegs.

 

* Neil’s interview is the only one that I own physically on CD single.

VHS Archives #84: Neil Peart on lyrics (1990)

I enjoy this interview with Neil Peart, because it touches on something that I love about music:  A good lyric is open to vast interpretation by the listener.  Inevitably, we are going to derive our own meaning from the lyrics regardless of what the writer intended.  Take this review by my buddy Aaron Lebold.  “Distant Early Warning” had a meaning completely unique to him.  Meanwhile, it had a very different meaning to me.

In this clip from the Presto tour, Neil Peart discusses crafting lyrics with MuchMusic. It’s a brilliant lesson from The Professor so pay attention!

Just Listening to…all the Rush

I had already started a Rush marathon just hours before the news hit that Neil Peart had passed away from brain cancer.  Why did I choose Rush at that exact moment?  It’s not proof, but it’s certainly makes me wonder about premonitions.

I’ve been on a Rush binge ever since.  I have been listening to nothing but Rush with only two exceptions.  I listened to one album by another artist that I wanted to review, and I listened to something else (Hollywood Vampires) in the car.  I didn’t have any Rush on the car flash drive.

In that time (a week) I’ve listened to every Rush studio album, some of them more than once.  (Even the early Rush without Neil.)  When I cycled through all the studio stuff I moved onto live albums, which I am still enjoying.  The first four Rush live albums (All the World’s a Stage, Exit…Stage Left, A Show of Hands, and Different Stages) really form a cohesive story.  You can listen and hear the band grow, evolve, change, and adapt.

Most of the live albums past that point weren’t on my computer yet (something I am remedying now) but I still had plenty more live stuff to enjoy from a variety of sources.  A Farewell to Kings has two discs worth of live Rush added.  (I have the deluxe Hemispheres with another live album coming in the mail.)  There is also Grace Under Pressure Live from the Rush Replay X3 box set.  A live bootleg called Red Stars of the Solar Federation from 1981.  A couple radio broadcasts from 1974 and 1975.

What I’ve gained from all this Rush immersion is not only new appreciation, but old memories re-emerging.  Although 70s Rush is absolutely essential music, it was 80s Rush that hooked me in and still thrills me today.  Albums like Moving Pictures and Signals were played multiple times during my marathon.  Hold Your Fire and Grace Under Pressure were enjoyed more than once.  I grew up in the 80s when Rush were in constant rotation on MuchMusic.  Songs like “Subdivisions”, “Tom Sawyer”, “Distant Early Warning”, “Lock and Key”, and “Time Stand Still”.  Although not an 80s album, Counterparts is very special to me as well.  It was my first Rush studio album.  I think it’s magnificent and contains many triumphs within.  It’s the culmination of all the evolution that happened from Presto onwards.  Its followup, Test for Echo, unfortunately remains a low point in the discography.  I remember feeling the same in 1996 when it came it.  It just wouldn’t click with me and still won’t.

As brilliant Neil Peart was, my appreciation is balanced.  It’s about Rush.  The lyrics would not have the same impact without the voice.  The voice would be naked and bare without the guitar.  All three guys stand out when you listen to all the Rush like this.  There are spotlight moments for Neil, Geddy and Alex as individuals but that’s not what this marathon reinforces.  Rush is a band — an exceptionally great band, where the players can shine more than other bands because there are only three of them.

Only three dudes?  I know, even this guy can’t believe it!

“There’s no way!  There’s no way this is three dudes!”

I have plenty more live Rush albums to spin, so the marathon carries on. I’m grateful we have so much Rush. Some bands don’t deserve to release so many live albums and box sets. Rush do. They’re allowed for two reasons. One is a rich history with many nooks and crannies to explore. The other is sheer quality. They never put out something they weren’t proud of.

Thank you for the music — I ain’t finished yet!

#808.5: “Rare Rush”

Many years ago…I think I was still living with my parents…there was an amazing website with mp3s of just about everything Rush that you could imagine.  The site went down soon after, and I was unable to download any full concerts.  What I did get was all the singles and bonus tracks they had available.

I burned these tracks to a double CD and called it Rare Rush.  I printed the tracklist on brown paper so it would somewhat match with Chronicles.

Most of these tracks are alternate versions, some from promo releases.  The website had all the details, so they are now lost.  However I know some of these are very special versions.  “The Weapon” is the famous single version featuring Count Floyd (Joe Flaherty).

 

The quality varies from track to track depending on the original source (some are from cassette).  All are interesting to obsessive Rush fans.

Who wants to read a review of Rare Rush?

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#808: Remembering Neil – Ten of his Best

Forever I’ll be grateful for Neil Peart.  If there was ever one shining example of a rock star you’d want to emulate, it was Neil Peart.  He was a giant.  Musically he was untouchable.  Considering Rush have 19 studio albums and other odds and ends in their discography, it’s a daunting task to make a list of the best.

Probably half the list fell together immediately.  The other half was agonizing.  Focusing on songs, not necessarily solos, made it a simpler task.  Any one of Neil’s big live solos are essential listening anyway.  “The Rhythm Method” on Different Stages comes highly recommended.

At one point I had nine tracks and needed one more.  I asked Facebook for help.  Facebook responded with so many great runners-up that I have to list them.

  • “War Paint” (T-Rev)
  • “The Pass” (Leo)
  • “Afterimage” (Leo)
  • “The Body Electric” (Jamie)
  • “Xanadu” (Jamie)
  • “Mystic Rhythms” (Jamie)
  • “Animate” (Jamie)
  • “Between the Wheels” (HMO)
  • All of Hemispheres (Uncle Meat)
  • “Natural Science” (Scotty G)

A good showing for Presto tunes there, notably.  T-Rev always loved that album.  Ultimately I used none of these suggestions and completed the list below.  A list that I believe are the 10 best songs to represent Neil Peart.

All of these songs (above and below) will enrich your lives.  Enjoy.  And rest in peace, Neil Peart OC (Order of Canada), one of our proudest native sons.


Novelty #11: 

The Hockey Theme

I use the term “novelty” with a caveat: really, only because the song is 70 seconds long.  Neil’s arrangement of the classic Hockey Night in Canada theme written by Dolores Claman deserves note as one of very few tracks credited to him as a solo artist.  This track shows off his roots and his ability to make anything sound heavy!  Yet dig in and listen to his meticulously arranged drum part.  He put just as much creativity into this as he did any of Rush’s originals.


#10:

“One Little Victory”

A victory indeed!  Neil suffered immeasurable tragedy in the late 1990s when he lost both his wife and daughter.  He disappeared on a motorcycle, remaining out of sight for five years, the wind on his back as he sought healing.  His return was “One Little Victory” from Vapor Trails with a crescendo of power drumming.  It’s Rush saying, “He’s back, baby.  The Professor is back!”


#9:

“Bravado”

This track from Roll the Bones is a personal favourite.  Well, they all are, but this one is for just one moment in time. At 3:50 of the song, Peart performs a drum roll that I can only describe as pure ecstasy.

And if the music stops, there’s only the sound of the rain.


#8:

“Red Sector A”

80s Rush rules! Neil was using more and more electronic percussion, but to no less lethal effect. Give this number from Grace Under Pressure a spin.  The programmed pulse of synth topped by the crashing clank of Neil’s electronic drums give this track a digital, otherworldly feeling.  By this time, Peart’s cymbal work was just as interesting as what he was doing elsewhere on the kit.  Listen to him ride that beat and accent it with the perfect touch.


#7:

“The Spirit of Radio”

This enduring track from Permanent Waves is a lyrical and rhythmic triumph.  It’s easy for cynics to mock descriptive phrases like “Invisible airwaves crackle with life, bright antennae bristle with the energy.”  But there is no denying the truth that is “Emotional feedback on a timeless wavelength, bearing a gift beyond price, almost free.”  Music.


#6:

“Cygnus X-1”

A Farewell to Kings was Rush during their progressive peak, a stream of albums with side-long concepts.  “Cygnus X-1” utilises such Peart favourites as bells.  And it’s 11 minutes about a black hole.


#5:

“Cotton Tail”

In 1994, Neil Peart organized the Buddy Rich tribute album Burning For Buddy, uniting the Buddy Rich Big Band with drummers such as Dave Weckl, Steve Smith, Matt Sorum, Simon Phillips, and of course Neil with his debut in the jazz section.  His groove on “Cotton Tail” is unlike anything he’s done in Rush. It’s unreal that he could master both rock and jazz like this.


#4:

“Vital Signs”

80s Rush rules!  Introducing reggae vibes seems natural in hindsight given Neil’s willingness to explore new rhythms.  Peart’s creativity knew no bounds.  His delicate touch on the Police-like “Vital Signs” (from Moving Pictures) is so good that it should probably be higher on this list.  But there are some key tracks still to come.


#3:

“YYZ”

Rush’s most famous instrumental.  This number showcases all three of Rush’s members.  Of course Neil Peart’s drums are in integral part of it all.  And there’s a reason they call him “The Professor”.  According to minds more musical than mine, “The piece’s introduction, played in a time signature of 10/8, repeatedly renders “Y-Y-Z” in Morse Code using various musical arrangements.”


#2:

“Subdivisions”

This track from Signals exemplifies Neil’s philosophy of drums as an active part of the composition of a song.  Every beat matters; everything the stick hits is a hook.  Never before have the drums been so integral a part of what makes a song truly great.


#1:

“Tom Sawyer”

The quintessential Neil Peart song.  Iconic, untouchable.  Barenaked Ladies even quoted his famous drum part in their song “Grade Nine”. When people think of Rush 100 years from now, it’ll be the image of them jamming “Tom Sawyer” at Le Studio, with Neil framed by that big window and snowy landscape behind.

 

 


Epilogue:  Meanwhile, in England…

Sarge from the piercing shop Metal Fatigue in Bournemouth tells us “I have been listening to Rush…ALL DAY.  Really loud.  He added, “I did 40-odd piercings today with that soundtrack!!”  Absolutely brilliant.

The Ghost Rider is Gone – Rest in Peace Neil Peart (1952-2020)

“Endlessly rocking…”

 

This afternoon I was in the mood for some Rush music.  It had been a while.  Maybe a month since I last played Rush.  Signals, I chose.  A personal favourite.  Still craving more, I picked the followup album Grace Under Pressure.  That complete, I finally, and strangely, went for Vapor Trails.  I say “strangely” because Vapor Trails was a special album for Neil Peart.  After suffering the terrible twin tragedies of losing his daughter and his wife, Neil Peart took a step back from music to take care of himself.  There was a time in the late 90s and early 2000s when the reality was that there wasn’t a Rush.  And we weren’t sure if there ever would be one again.  But then Neil made a pretty epic comeback on Vapor Trails and I like to think of it as “his” album in my mind.

The fortitude of the man, to come back after such loss, was inspiring.  What strength.

Halfway through Vapor Trails, during the track “Secret Touch”, this happened.

The greatest rock drummer of all time…

Is gone.

Like a vapor trail.

I say “greatest of all time” because I can, confidently.  There will be those who disagree, and there will be others to put them back in their places.  He might also be the greatest lyricist in rock history, though that’s a far more wide open field.  Some of his lyrics hit home in emotional ways.

We are young,
Wandering the face of the earth,
Wondering what our dreams might be worth,
Learning that we’re only immortal,
For a limited time.

Neil Peart was a star I always identified with:  an introvert with his nose in a book.  Yet on stage he was a dynamo.  He did things with two sticks that most drummers cannot.  He paved the way for the Portnoys and all the greats that followed.  His lyrics of alienation resonated within the subdivisions.  And he was reportedly also one of the nicest, most down to earth human beings to those whom would he would let in.

Personally speaking, it was “Subdivisions” that hooked me.  The singer kind of weirded me out, with the glasses, nose and high-pitch.  It took me a while to accept Rush into my life.  I was 21 years old when it finally happened.  It had so much to do with the drums, and the percussive mini-compositions within every song.  Seeing Neil Peart interview Jean Chrétien on MuchMusic solidified my belief that this was an intelligent rocker, far different from all the others.  By this time, he was also writing articles in Macleans magazine.  His travel book The Masked Rider became an immediate favourite, as Neil painted verbal pictures of African savannas from the seat of a bicycle.

Brain cancer is an evil bitch.  It’s the same monster that took down our beloved Gordon Downey, and now it has taken from us someone deeply dear.  Neil accompanied me on many of my most impactful life moments.  My first relationship & accompanying breakup, my job at the Record Store, finishing school, all of it.  Neil was there with beats and words to raise the spirits higher.  I tended to take the words my own way.  Which is how Neil would have wanted it.

Rush are one of the few bands, unlike Kiss or Motley Crue, that went out with class.  They simply played their final shows and retired without making a big fuss.  We all knew it was a big deal, and they did too — but they didn’t act like it.   Neil Peart went back home to spend time with his new family, something everybody was happy for him to do.  After all that tragedy, it was a delight to see that Neil has picked up the pieces and made a new clan.  And now that family is shattered, in incomprehensible pain.

The song that got me into Rush was “Subdivisions”, but instead of posting that track here, I have chosen “Dreamline” from Roll the Bones. Rest in peace Neil, and thank you for albums that will always be close to my heart.

Fuck cancer.

 


Uncle Meat has a few words to add.

One likes to believe in the freedom of music,
but glittering prizes and endless compromises
shatter the illusion of integrity.

His lyrics were as good as his drumming. And that is saying alot. Neil Peart was the opposite of a rock star. He wanted nothing to do with any of that bullshit. When Neil Peart joined Rush after their first album he turned Rush from just another rock band, into the greatest rock band of all time. Many life long friendships have been founded and cemented within the musical and lyrical gifts he gave us. A big long hug to all of you (and you know who you are)…

What a fucking beast he was.

RIP Mr. Neil Peart

 

#769: Twenty-Three

GETTING MORE TALE #769: Twenty-Three

July 1995 was a very complex month, at least for a young 22 year old guy living in Canada, not yet named LeBrain.

The girl I really liked had just broken up with her boyfriend — a guy in our circle of friends named Nick.  Just about everybody in the world knew I had a crush on her.  She dumped him one weekend when I was at the cottage.  My buddy Aaron called me long distance just to tell me!  Nick was a bit of a cock sometimes, but I tried to be reasonably respectful to him.  I thought I should wait three weeks until I made any move.

By mid-July I still hadn’t done anything, although I talked to the girl just about every day.  My 23rd birthday was coming up, and a small group of friends decided to throw a party.  It was a joint birthday party — another girl with the same mutual friends had a birthday the same week as me.  We combined everything into one party, in my parents’ basement.  Aaron was there, my wingman.  He was good at making people laugh, so that was always helpful when I didn’t know what to say around girls.  And of course, the girl I liked was coming too!

We decided on a murder mystery party, and we were supposed to be dressed somewhat in character.  I think I was a race car driver.  Crush-girl dressed as a gypsy.  Oh my God.  I was well on my way to bonertown.  She even did an accent for her character.  Schwing!

One of my friends that came gave me my first copy of Rush’s 2112.  That alone would have made it a memorable birthday.  The most memorable thing to me, however, was the final guest to arrive.

Craig arrived late.  I didn’t know him, not really.  He was there at the invite of the girl who also had a birthday to celebrate.  But I certainly knew of him!  As soon as he came to the door, I recognized him immediately and with total surprise.  Though he was two years older, Craig and I went to the same highschool.  We even hung out in the same circles, although we’d never officially met before.  He was friends with guys like Bob Schipper and Rob Daniels.  In fact, one reason I knew Craig’s face so well was that he was actually on one of the tapes in my VHS Archives!  Back in 1989, Rob Daniels was just beginning his career in broadcasting and media.  He did a public service ad for Rogers cable.  He wrote and directed “One More For the Road”, an anti-drinking and driving ad.  Bob Schipper played the victim.  Craig played the drunk driver.  I had a copy.  I knew every line of dialogue in that ad.  It was actually really well made with a killer soundtrack.  Bon Jovi’s “Bad Medicine” is playing from the car stereo when Bob is struck down in his prime.

Some great acting from Bob

I excitedly greeted Craig at the door and told him of our mutual highschool friends.  He looked exactly the same except for the hair, which was now long and in a ponytail.  He was a short fella, funny and well read.  How cool was it that we happened to have all these connections, and then just run into each other at my own birthday party?

I was having the best time!

As the day wore on and guests began to leave, I was looking forward to spending a little more time with the girl I liked.  The only issue:  Craig didn’t seem to want to leave.  Worse, he was really making conversation with my crush.  A little too much conversation.

I sat there smiling, helplessly thinking of something to do.  I suggested that I wanted to eat, and I think he helped himself to stay for pizza or whatever we ordered.  I didn’t want to be rude.  I was on my best behaviour in front of my crush.  She was a strong independent woman and there was no way I was going to hint that I was jealous.  Inside, I was Hulk-green.

I whispered to Aaron, “Is this guy ever going to leave?”  He shrugged.  He didn’t know what to do either.

Craig clearly didn’t know about or appreciate the hard work I had been laying these last few weeks.  Hell, I was waiting for something to happen with crush girl for months!  I knew she was not going to last with Nick.  She called me to complain about him often enough.  He was too clingy.  I was playing a long game.  I’d been a sympathetic ear a long time.  She flat out told me that if she met me before him, it would have been different.  And Craig was sticking his nose in all my patience!

I know that I said earlier that I was trying to give it time out of respect for the other guy, before I made a move.  I know that sounds contradictory to the idea of a long game I had been playing for months.  It’s not really.  There’s a certain code of conduct you had to respect.  It was all very complex and mathematical.  Having discussed it with Aaron, I was convinced three weeks was the minimum amount of time I had to wait before I asked her on a date.  There was also the small matter of stumbling over my words and not knowing at all how to ask her out.  I had a serious inhibition there, stuttering and fumbling and turning back.

Extreme had a single called “Tragic Comic” that, ironically, I made a cassette tape of for the birthday girl sharing the party with me that exact dame day.  And that song has the line I really identified with:  “I’m a stut-tut-terring p-poet.”

It was dark out before Craig finally left, having failed in his quest to sway my crush his way.  I decided that was to be our first and last meeting!  My day began on such a high, and ended with me tense and frustrated.  We all headed our separate ways, and I went to bed brooding.

Time was up.  She wasn’t going to wait forever.  (In fact, she didn’t — little did I know, she banged some other guy a couple weeks earlier.  I think he rode a motorcycle, or something.  But I didn’t know.)  I finally worked myself up, said something stupid, she said yes, and I danced around the house playing air guitar.

It was so simple in hindsight.  All I had to do was be myself.  She already liked me, pimples and all.  So we dated that summer and it was awesome!  On one of my first lunch dates with my new girl, we were at an outdoor patio in Elora, and that was the first time I ever heard “Sign of the Southern Cross” by Black Sabbath.  Yes, on an outdoor patio on a lunch date in Elora.  Who else can make that claim?  It was a good summer; nay a great summer.  The year I turned 23 will always be burned into my memory.  The birthday I got 2112, and met Craig the attempted-wicked-woman-stealer.  Pretty summer-defining events!