Following on from my last rant about music, I thought I would be a little more positive in this post. I don’t expect this to be a post that people will enjoy too much because it is a little self-indulgent. In these deep dark January days I need a little self-indulgence.
Regular readers will know that I often mention my favourite band, the progressive rock power trio from Canada called Rush. Well, I have discovered a meme that allows me to explain why they hold this lofty position in my musical world and, hopefully, to introduce the band to anybody who has not heard of them.
This year is their 40th anniversary and they have somehow survived with a cult following for all this time despite receiving very little, if any airplay. Mrs PM, for one, was stunned two years ago that this band sold out the Manchester Arena, the largest music venue in the city. She would never have heard of them if it hadn’t been for me.
Anyway, without further ado, here is the meme and hopefully it will give a little insight into why I love the band and a little history of how they rose to the throne in my musical world.
1. How long have you been a fan?
I have been a fan since 1982, when a friend at university lent me a tape of their latest album at that time called Signals.
I had heard of the band before, when I was at school, because a lad in my school urged people to listen to, what he then described as, the greatest band on the planet. Being a hormone-fuelled arse at the time, I chose to ignore him.
At university I mellowed and grew up a little. I remember putting the tape on and listening to the first song, Subdivisions, a song about dreamers living in suburbia and being regarded as pariahs for not living the mundane “cool” life that suburbia demands:
In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out
I was totally blown away. This was a band that wrote intelligent songs about interesting things. On the strength of that one album I paid a fortune, as a poor student, to travel about 80 miles from Liverpool to Birmingham to see them live. That concert, way back in the early 1980’s, was when I handed my soul to Rush.
I’ve been a fan ever since.
2. Do you remember the first song of theirs you heard?
Strangely the first song I heard was a radio friendly song that somehow crept into the back end of the UK charts in 1978 called Closer To The Heart. It didn’t really appeal to me as I was just drifting into heavy metal at the time and, compared to bands like Black Sabbath, it was just a short vaguely pleasant rock song.
3. What’s your favourite album(s)?
I have all of their studio albums apart from the first three – that’s 17 albums if you count the extended play album called Feedback. I love them all but the following stand out:
Signals (1982) - the first album I really loved by the band – it was their 9th album!
Power Windows (1985) – this album was my best friend on long distance commutes every other weekend to London during my long distance relationship with my ex-wife.
Counterparts (1993) – I just love this album; it has some great songs.
Clockwork Angels (2012) – Their most recent studio album is a return to their progressive rock roots and pays tribute to their earlier work while maintaining a modern forward looking feel.
4. What’s your favourite song(s)?
This is a really difficult question as there are simply so many to choose from. Here are three off the top of my head (ask me tomorrow and I will pick three more).
Red Barchetta (from Moving Pictures (1981):
Stick It Out (from Counterparts (1993):
Headlong Flight (from Clockwork Angels 2012):
5. Have you ever seen them live? (How often?)
I have seen Rush five times live. The first time I have mentioned above and was back in 1982 at the NEC in Birmingham. I travelled down to Birmingham again in 1989 to see them on the Presto tour. All of the other times were at the Manchester Arena, in 2002 for the Vapor Trails tour, for their 30th anniversary tour in 2005 and finally in 2013 for the Clockwork Angels tour.
6. Have you ever met them?
No I haven’t, sadly, but I would love to meet them and discuss their music and the inspiration behind it.
7. Do you have a favourite era of their career?
Die hard Rush fans may disagree with this but from 1982 to 1993, keyboards and synthesisers played a major part in their music. While I love all of their music, I have a particular soft spot for the albums of that period.
8. Do you have their autograph or a photo with them?
As I said, I have never met the band so the answer is no.
9. Is there a song or album of theirs you dislike?
There are a couple of songs that I am not too keen on; I am not such a die-hard fan that I love every single piece of music they have composed. A couple of albums disappointed me, although not all of the songs on them are bad. My least favourite albums are Roll The Bones (1991) and Test For Echo (1996).
Having said that, I still listen to them occasionally.
10. What do they or their music mean to you?
Rush have provided a soundtrack to my life since 1982 – and before if you count my old school friend who I should really have listened too in the 1970’s. For every major event in my life since that time, I can mention one or more Rush songs that remind me of those times, both good and bad. If they ever make a movie out of my life, Rush will feature heavily in the soundtrack.
11. Would you pay £200 for a front row ticket?
No. Having said that, I have a limit on ticket prices, which I rarely exceed, but did so for the last concert I saw them play in 2013. I paid £84, mainly because I thought that I may not get the chance to see them again, but also because Clockwork Angels was such a great album.
I have to say that a Rush concert is worth every penny normally because the band has no support and, since they have so much material, they play for around three hours.
12. Do you get annoyed when other people don’t like them?
Not really. I may rant about music but I don’t try to enforce it on people. I am just keen for people to explore outside the box that we find ourselves in thanks to the greedy music industry. One thing does surprise me about Rush; a lot of people are closet fans. A friend of mine heard that I was going to see Rush in 2005 and actually phoned me up asking me to get him a ticket. I didn’t even know he was a fan. That’s the good thing about Rush – there are lots of secret Rush fans out there, despite the fact that they are unfashionable.
13. Which artist do you want them to collaborate with?
I don’t want them to collaborate with anybody because there music would be diluted. Having said that, many other artists have performed their songs, like Dream Theater. When the band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I discovered that the Foo Fighters are huge fans of the band and actually performed live with them, impersonating the band at first before Rush joined them on stage. If you are a Rush/Foo Fighters fan you will find this video entertaining, with Dave Grohl impersonating a younger Alex Lifeson:
Also from that same induction, Alex Lifeson’s speech is quite memorable and quite embarrassing for his fellow band members who had no idea about what he was going to say (he is the last member of the band to speak). You can see their amused discomfort (start at 4:36 if you don’t want to see the first speeches):
The audience seemed to like it anyway.
14. Are they underappreciated/unknown?
They are not unknown but I think they are underappreciated for the same reasons that I ranted about in my last post, that is, they are rarely played on the radio.
15. Is there a song of them that everybody likes but you dislike?
They have a song that is a token rock song. You may have heard it:
Actually, I still like it.
And Finally ...
I liked this self-indulgent meme and I think I may repeat it for some other bands I like that are unknown or underrated.
Sorry about the self-indulgence.
I needed it.