We’re going to get into some personal stuff here. I promise it’s nothing creepy or awkward, just Music.
A few weeks ago my brother and I went down to Tulsa to see my favorite band Rush on the Opening Night of their R40 Live Tour. All indications are that this is the last tour the band will perform of this magnitude. I read that as: They’re not retiring and may play some shows here or there, but they’re never going to embark on a continental tour where they play three or four shows in a week. Either way, the concert we went to will probably be the last time I get to see them before they retire.
Tulsa is a few hours from my house. During the week leading up to the concert I started looking for all my Rush CD’s that I bought as a teenager so I could listen to them on the drive to the concert. Like most things from when I was growing up they were in a box down in the basement next to the baseball cards, and all that stuff from college I’m not sure what to do with but throwing it out isn’t an option right now.
After getting all those CD’s together and listening to them on the trip to and from Tulsa. Attending the concert, and having discussions with other Rush fans. I began to realize how much of an impact the band has had on my life. If I began to list prominent life influences Rush would be on the same list as my parents, church, scouts/Civil Air Patrol, and sports. If you know me personally you probably already know about those.
As music often does, all those songs that I had not heard in a long time stirred up a bunch of nostalgic memories. Rush is what I listened to in my Discman (remember those?) on family vacations, church trips, scout trips, essentially anytime spent in a car in which I was not driving. Rush is what I retreated to after a bad day, or a good one. What I listened to after break-ups or just flat out rejection. Rush is what I listened to before wrestling matches. Although, I was a mediocre wrestler maybe I should have listened to something else. It was essentially the sound track to my youth and into adulthood.
I think what attracted me to the band initially, and what kept me intrigued was that in a genre where the majority of songs are about sex, drugs, drinking, partying, and rambling. Rush’s songs were about Futuristic Dystopia’s (2112). Philosophical thoughts about choice (Freewill). An entire industry (Spirit of Radio). The development of the atomic bomb (The Manhattan Project). And whatever political statement The Trees is trying to convey. Don’t get me wrong, Rush has a few songs that you would normally find in the rock genre. For example, A Passage to Bangkok is a song about sampling the varieties of marijuana from around the world. Or In the Mood, which needs no explanation.
Rush is and was different from their genre, and completely different from the self-loathing grudge of the early 90’s that was dominating FM radio when I discovered the band. Because the lyrics are what initially intrigued me about the band, my favorite Rush songs aren’t necessarily the ones that received radio air time or are popular among most Rush fans. Don’t get me wrong. I love the electric guitar riffs and straight hard rock sounds on traditional Rush songs like 2112, Spirit of Radio, Freewill, Working Man, and La Villa Strangiato. But there are some songs that made a lifelong impression on me.
I’ve been thinking about the influence Rush has had on my life for a few weeks. About a week ago I decided I would try put all of it into this blog post. After all of that I’ve settled on eight Rush songs that either had a profound influence on me, or I think they’re really interesting. Rush has 40 years of music from which to choose and this list is by no means comprehensive. At some point I had to quit adding songs and begin writing this post. These songs pop into my head on a daily basis. These songs are special.
Rush on the opening night of their R40 Live Tour in Tulsa. May 8th, 2015
These first three are what call motivational songs. I first heard them in high school and set-up a quasi-personal mantra as I grew older.
Cut to the Chase, Album: Counterparts, 1993
Favorite lyric: You may be right, It’s all a waste of time, I guess that’s just a chance I’m prepared to take, A danger I’m prepared to face, Cut to the chase.
This song came out when I was a freshman in high school and still speaks to me. Anytime you make plans, or make plans that only you can see the benefit. There will be people telling you that it’s not worth it. Or that you will fail entirely. This song re-enforces to me the adage that you don’t know until you ask, or until you try. Sure you’re going to fail, but never stop trying regardless of what your critics say.
The Enemy Within, Album Grace Under Pressure, 1984
Favorite lyric: I’m not giving in to security under pressure
I’m not missing out on the promise of adventure
I’m not giving up on implausible dreams
I’m not sure why this song was not more popular than it was. It does have an interesting history other than my affinity for it. It’s a rockin’ fast paced song. After MTV’s debut in the United States a similar channel was launched in Canada. It was called Much Music and the video above was Much Music’s first aired music video. Aren’t the 1980’s graphics spectacular? You’ll notice that will be a reoccurring theme with some of these videos.
This song is the first of a four song series titled Fear. What is interesting is this song is Part I and was released off of Grace Under Pressure in 1984. Part II is called The Weapon and was released off of Signals in 1982. Part III is called Witch Hunt and was released off of Moving Pictures in 1981. Only part IV, the song Freeze from Vapor Trails in 2002 was released in chronological order. I highly recommend that you find Witch Hunt.
This song is about how most of our fears come from things that we create inside of our own minds. I’m not smart enough. They will laugh it at me if I try that. I’m too big, too small, or not strong enough. Fear of being uncomfortable. Fear of loneliness. Fear of rejection. Fear of writing a blog post and people laughing at it. Or any number of negative thoughts that we have that keep us from doing things we want to, should do, or might enjoy but nothing but our own fear is holding us back from doing them. We are the enemy within. And we must remain persistent to defeat that enemy.
The Pass, Album Presto, 1989
Favorite lyric: It’s not as if this barricade, Blocks the only road, It’s not as if you’re all alone, In wanting to explode
If you go looking for it there is a lot written about this song. Neil Peart has spoken about it many times. This song is about how suicide is a tragedy and nothing more. If you go read the comments on Youtube you will see a lot of people say this song saved their lives. That’s some impressive stuff.
I can honestly say I’ve never thought about suicide. However, I have had times in my life where I was lonely or feeling down. This song and the favorite lyric above were instrumental in reminding me that I was not alone. You are not alone. Find someone to talk to. Talk to me if you want.
The title of this blog post comes from the line: Someone set a bad example
Made surrender seem all right. As you can tell I changed it up. Someone set a good example. As I’ve found positive values in Rush songs in which to take through life.
These next three songs I don’t consider motivational. But they do contain thought provoking lyrics that I have enjoyed and thought about since I heard them.
Resist, Test For Echo, 1996
Favorite lyric: You can surrender without a prayer, But never really pray, Pray without surrender. You can fight, Without ever winning, But never ever win, Without a fight
Have to admit I don’t care for the actual album version of this song. But this acoustic version from Live in Rio is spectacular. The song is a paradox that makes you think.
Nobody’s Hero, Album Counterparts, 1993
Favorite lyric: But she’s nobody’s hero Is the voice of reason against the howling mob
After The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks we finally had a national discussion about what a hero was. There was a lot of redefining going on after that. This song was released 8 years before that. It resonated with me then, and after the attacks I had this song on my mind frequently.
As for my favorite lyric? I have huge admiration for anyone who is brave enough to stand up and make a mob hungry for blood stand back and re-asses the situation. I think we need more people like that.
Another angle to take with this song are the people that don’t know that they are heroes. They had an influence on someone, and that influence propels that someone to do great things. But that person never learns the benefit their influence provided.
Time Stand Still, Album Hold Your Fire, 1987
Favorite lyric: Freeze this moment a little bit longer, Make each sensation a little bit stronger
Musically this song isn’t my favorite but the lyrics make it just good enough to make this list. And that video. Um yeah. I think this society likes to wish it’s time away. Rarely do people to take the time to live in the moment and take it all in. This song has always been a good reminder to not wish my life away. Take in the moment. And realize some experiences you may remember more fondly later than when you were actually experiencing them.
I put these two on here because I listened to them a lot as a teenager. I listened to them a lot while I was reading Tom Clancy novels. I love the way the lyrics are crafted to tackle the serious subject of nuclear war and the standoff that required our military to stay on alert 24/7. These two songs are a good snapshot of where the US and Canada were during the latter days of the Cold War.
There’s a line in Distant Early Warning; cruising under your radar, watching from the satellites. Back then I felt like this meant watching the enemy. If you heard that line without context now it sounds creepy. Like NSA is watching you. Just an illustration of how times can change how we view things.
Manhattan Project, Album Power Windows, 1985
Distant Early Warning, Album Grace Under Pressure, 1984
If you are a seasoned Rush fan you may have noticed I have not mentioned Tom Sawyer until now. Frankly, I can’t stand that song and I turn it off whenever it comes on the radio, and hit skip when it comes up on my playlists or CDs. I was relieved at the concert in Tulsa that it was the first song they played out of intermission and I was still buying beer and a tour t-shirt. I suppose it’s an OK song on its own in a vacuum. But it’s been over played so much and anytime Rush comes up in a conversation with a general crowd it’s the first lyric quoted. I put it in the same category as Back in Black, Freebird, and Sweet Home Alabama. They’re decent songs, but the bands that made them have much better stuff for these to be the “go to” songs in pop culture.
So there it is. You might have known I was a Rush fan. But now you know just how much. If reading this made you think of songs, any songs, that have influenced your life or are special to you, feel free to comment below. If you’re a Rush fan and have similar thoughts on these songs, or have different Rush songs in mind, leave those comments too.