Rush, Neil Peart & being independent
Posted by Robert Craven on Sat, 11 Jan 2020
I read with sadness this morning that Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist of RUSH has died. He was 67.
He and his bandmates, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson were a soundtrack and voice to my teenage years. Peart was a hugely accomplished drummer and undertook writing the band's lyrics when no-one else wanted to and drove the band's direction.
For anyone who grew up in Ireland or the UK in the 1980's, the time was bleak, the weather seemed bleak, the politics bleak, future prospects, bleak.
Perhaps in Ireland, 1982 things were marginaly worse. For one, Good Friday was an unofficial bank holiday in Ireland when absolutey nothing was open. Possibly the occasional cornershop (as these were the days brfore the big supermarket chains) and FREEBIRD Records, on an upper-floor along Dublin's Grafton Street.
It was a mecca for my generation, a beacon in the dimmness, in the failure and the lack of hope. Steadfastly open in the face of poe-faced expressions of the righteous, the shelves were full of second hand vinyl. My family home was a 50 minute walk to the city and on Good Friday, 1982 I walked along the canal, up through James' Gate, (home of the Guinness Brewery,) with the smell of roasting hops filling the air, along Christchurch and onto Grafton Street. With money from my weekend paper round, I climbed up the rickety staircase, the walls festooned with band posters, bands seeking members and from the old speaker mounted above them, a track to entice.
I had heard of RUSH from the magazine KERRANG!, they were a trio of odd-looking men. But the article and the pictures caught mey eye. Firstly, they were Canadian. Secondly, they didn't resemble the New Romantic or poodle-pop fashion and thirdly, they looked intelligent.
I found the heaving box marked 'R'. everyone developed in that time a file-flip with the fingers, a quick two fingered process of riffling the plastic covers. I came to RUSH. There was only "Moving Pictures", considered the album that broke into the UK / Ireland markets. Without any knowledge of what I was purchasing, I made the long walk home, with buyer's remorse starting to prod my gut.
I came home, studiously avoiding the 3pm service at Our Lady of Good Council and put the record on in an empty room.
It was an epiphany. On Good Friday.
After the relentless bombardment of U2 on the radio and TV. The opening pulse of 'Tom Sawyer' made me freeze. The album changed everything. The tragedy of streaming is that the purchaser is denied the brilliance of the vinyl album artwork. I turned the album cover and sleeve notes over and over trying to take this in. Everything about this album was a work of art. I put the needle to start and almost drove a trench into it from replays.
From 'Moving Pictures' I bought everything, 2112, Caress of Steel, and A Farewell to Kings.
From such seeds, ideas grow and I began to save for my first bass guitar.
What Peart did, was write long, (very long) songs but they were part of the whole sound. He was a deep thinker; flirting briefly with Ayan Rand's ideas before getting some sense. In a recent interview, Peart said that 'Moving Pictures' gelled the band and set them on their direction.
(which always appealed to me)
They never once bowed to commercial pressure. They built a fanbase ferociously loyal due to the fact they did everything on their terms. They put out albums whenever they felt like and a forty-year back catalogue speaks for itself.
Peart began to streamline the lyrics, the 90's saw their best works - 'Power Windows', 'Test for Echo' and 'Hold Your Fire'. and finally with little or no pre-publicity, they played in Dublin in 2011 on their TIME MACHINE tour. The set played the whole of 'Moving Pictures' 30 years after I played it in my living room.
My own journey led to buying a bass, learning it and becoming a touring musician. Tired of the road and the demands, I turned to writing and Peart's influence reminded me that you could build a second life. Which he did, and on his own terms.
I always associate Good Friday's with Rush and every book I write always has some RUSH on in the background reminding me to do it on my terms.
RIP to an unexpected influence