Last week I had one of the rarest experiences in relation to my fanaticism with music. There are a few things in music that bring me joy like none other. There’s the obvious instance of an amazingly dope show (the times I’ve seen Radiohead, The Raconteurs, The Hives, and The Avett Brothers all qualify in that category). I also find it remarkable when I put on an album that I haven’t listened to for some time that I never really thought much of, and then all of a sudden, it clicks with me and I find it to be so much better than I had previously given it credit. The Smashing Pumpkins’ Pisces Iscariot, Radiohead’s Pablo Honey, and Matthew Sweet’s Altered Beast are all excellent examples of that for me. The other special moment has probably only happened three times prior to last week. It started with Genesis’ Foxtrot album (more specifically, the epic track Supper’s Ready), continued with Pink Floyd’s equally epic track from their album Meddle, Echoes, and the Grateful Dead’s Terrapin Station. For these are all songs/albums that came from the 70’s which I had never known existed. And when I listened to them for the first time, they did something to me that rarely happens, I became infatuated almost immediately. What makes it even more special is the fact that these are all songs and albums that are older than me and have been around my entire life, yet it took many years for them to even reach my ears. How could I have been missing out on all this great music for so long?
I had to listen to them over and over again and would talk to others about them incessantly, which provided various reactions. My high school friends thought I was lame for getting so amped for Peter Gabriel era Genesis, so the only one I could talk to about them was my brother who got me into them in the first place. In fact, he’s still one of the only ones I can talk to about them, which I suppose is a way for us to bond even more since we both love them so much, to the point where we’ve seen the French-Canadian Genesis recreation band, The Musical Box, four times, which I’m sure will be the topic of an upcoming blog.
I had plenty of friends who were into Pink Floyd so they shared my enthusiasm when I started getting into them, and though I’ve never gotten that into the Grateful Dead, I was pretty much blown away while hanging at a friend’s party my senior year in college when Terrapin Station came on. I was so taken aback and was even more so when I found out it was the Dead performing it. I went out and bought the album the next day and played it over and over again at parties and at home. Every time I hear it now, I am brought back to the beach house in Fairfield, CT where I first heard it. And I hadn’t had a moment that profound since, until last Friday.
I mentioned in my post about Motley Crue how much I love Palladia, and it came through for me once again. For it was on that channel that I saw a documentary on the nerd, prog-rock, pseudo metal, baseball loving, Canadian band, Rush. It's called Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage and I would highly recommend it to any music fan.
I had been aware of them for years and had known of their most popular song Tom Sawyer since high school. I knew lead singer Geddy Lee had a crazy high voice and is way into baseball, and I knew that I could make the statement that drummer Neil Peart is the greatest of all time and any true music fan would probably not argue with me. But for some reason, I never cared enough to delve into their material no matter how many good things I heard about them. Incidentally. Though I’m not a huge fan of Family Guy anymore, I do love this clip:
My buddy Jon from grad school is probably the biggest Rush fan of all my friends so I learned more about them by talking with him, but still, I never really cared to listen to them all that much. But last Friday I found myself watching this excellent documentary that hooked me in right away. I was immediately drawn to their character as they seem to have as much integrity as any other artist or band that has ever existed. They are just down to earth, good guys, who, as Billy Corgan put it, “have a level of musicianship that is just insane". After their second album, it became clear that they weren’t drawing large audiences and the record company pretty much gave them one more chance to conform and produce a hit album that would sell and make a lot of money. So what did Rush do? They made an album whose entire first side was dedicated to a 20 minute prog rock opus. They made the album they wanted to and thought that they would most likely get dropped, but that would be OK because they’d rather have gone back to their day jobs than make an album that wasn’t true to them. How can you not be amazingly humbled by that logic? Especially in the 70’s! These guys are cool. To everyone's surprise, the album did very well and garnered them more notoriety and paved the way for the rest of their career.
The make it or break it album for them was called 2112 and it was this album that piqued my curiosity the most. This was their Thunder Road, the album that would define a now classic band. This was the album that Jack Black, Billy Corgan, Kirk Hammet, some dude from Pantera, and everybody else interviewed for the documentary lauded as the album that sold them on this band. I then paused the movie, went to my computer, and downloaded the album. I had to hear it. And this is how it starts:
As a result, I’ve found myself back in that beach house in Fairfield, becoming slightly obsessed with an album (well, mostly that 20 minute title track) that I can’t believe has escaped me despite the fact that it’s two years older than I am. But there’s even more to this personal groundbreaking story, for while they say good things come in threes, I had sort of an omen the next day. I was flipping through an issue of “Rolling Stone” when I came upon a review of the new Guitar Hero game. And while the reviewer didn’t enjoy it as much as the new Rock Band, he did indicate that the highlight of the game was the last song which he described as such; “Warriors of Rock caters to the game’s original metalhead fan base with heavy Eighties classics, alt rock hits and the ultimate guitar geek centerpiece, Rush’s 1976 prog epic 2112. You rock your way through a new ‘Quest Mode’ to earn the right to tackle 2112, which is broken into seven suites with between-song narration from the band. (You also get to shred the Rush tunes in psychedelic settings like a temple and in front of the Rush starman).” Needless to say, I was somewhat floored to read this not 12 hours from viewing the documentary that introduced me to this song in the first place.
A few hours later, I found myself in a sports bar in West Palm Beach with two of my uncles as we sat down to watch some college football. Not long after my arrival, two middle-aged well-dressed women sat next to us and started talking about the Bar Mitzvah they had just come from. They were very nice and liked to talk, as do my uncles. So the conversation went on for a while until it was discovered that these two women had a lot in common with my uncles (and to a degree, me) in regards to their musical tastes. They start talking about all the shows they’ve seen and I could not help but hold back a smirk as my uncles bragged about seeing bands such as Blue Oyster Cult, Journey, and REO Speedwagon back in the day. You know, when music was really good. So I’m sitting there enjoying the conversation when one of the women starts talking about how she just saw Rush a few months ago. I asked her about it and she went into how amazing it was and how it was the 15th time or so that she had seen them and that they’re still amazing live. I had to bite. I told her about my experience the night before and she just started getting all psyched to talk about 2112 and how it’s the greatest song ever. She told me about how she first heard it on a record and listened to it repeatedly when it came out, usually with her headphones on. According to her, I absolutely had to listen to it with headphones and that I should also follow the lyrics since they’re apparently amazing as well (by the way, there is no way you could understand the lyrics without reading them. Geddy Lee’s voice simply won’t allow for that to happen). Evidently the story takes place in the future (I’ll leave it to your no doubt stellar intuitive skills to guess which year) where the government has banned all music. The hero of the tale finds himself in some deep cave where he finds an old guitar and begins to play it, laying the foundation for setting everyone in society free once again. I still haven’t read the lyrics, but this woman was so passionate that there is no way she was wrong. She encouraged me to check out more of their stuff and to more importantly, go see their show, for they’ve still got it.
Seriously?! 32 years of my life have gone by and I never heard of 2112. And now, in the span of about 20 hours, I was being bombarded with what I could not aptly describe better than a “sign”. I have listened to the song and album several times since and am really digging it. I think this is the beginning of me delving into more of their catalogue and I’m pretty psyched about that. There’s an entire band out there that apparently has some amazing music that I’ve never heard of, and in some ways, that’s more exciting than discovering a new band. I don’t know how to explain or describe that feeling but for me, it is somehow more rewarding and meaningful. I have slept on Rush for my entire life and I am just waking up to something that has always been there and that could be completely life-altering in regards to my journey into the music world.
I’m not sure if I’ve done a good job of describing this aspect of discovering music. But I think a pretty good analogy can be found in one of my all time favorite movie scenes (which apparently Youtube won’t let me embed in this entry, so I’ll just have to post the URL for you to check out) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCUhFZnxoBU
For it is in instances like my recent introduction to Rush, where I feel like Neo, and Morpehus is my Genesis/Floyd/Dead/ Rush, and my world is about to open up into new territories. It’s not a complete analogy, but there are elements that are so true, and it really does encapsulate the beginnings of that “a-ha” moment that is so rare, but is oh so amazing. God, music rules.