One thing I noticed was that Rush had a curious influence on those who listen to and like their music. I know people who praise Rush as the greatest band in the world, regardless of how their style changed. There was always one person in every band I ever played in who wanted to cover at least one Rush song. One of my former roommates started playing guitar because of Rush. Reading through some of my verbiage about my 12 favorite Rush songs, you might notice they had somewhat of an influence on me, as well.
I’ll admit to a bit of an adrenaline surge when I first heard Neil Peart was collaborating with author Kevin J. Anderson on some sort of steampunk project. The end result was called Clockwork Angels. Kevin handled the print version. Neil and his bandmates handled the audio version. And I got what is fast becoming one of my favorite Rush songs of all time. Not surprising. While most everyone else would wish to go back to a specific point in their history so they could correct some sort of misstep or mistake that would (or so they believe) reset their lives to the incredible journey believe they should be living, this song’s main character is wishing for a redo of a life already worth singing about. Kinda like riding the most wicked roller coaster ever, then running to get back in line for another go at it.
What You’re Doing
Before Rush became prog rock / prog metal pioneers, they played basic rock songs. This one, as I have found out through much research and development, is best played loud. My neighbors will confirm my research efforts…although I’m thinking their opinions might be different than mine…and not exactly about the song.
I seem to remember driving home from somewhere one afternoon, perhaps speeding just a little bit because I needed enough time to get ready for work. The second I approached the intersection across from the mall, I remembered hearing that the new Rush album, “Signals,” was now in stores. I turned my wrist and looked at my watch. Yeah, I had enough time to stop in and buy a copy. The second I hopped out of the shower and dried myself, I decided I wanted to hear a few songs while I was getting dressed. The first song: “Subdivisions.” Using a polyphonic synthesizer for the song’s main riff got my attention immediately. It sounded pretty simple. Sure, I told myself, I’ve got time to learn this one simple riff. So, only halfway dressed, I switched on my polyphonic synthesizer and moved it closer to the turntable. After fiddling around with the knobs until I got a sound close to what Geddy Lee was using, I listened to the song’s intro again, then attempted to recreate it. After only two tries, I had it. This was so cool! I would definitely insist my band learn this song! Then, I heard the synthesizer solo. I remember smiling at the LP and saying something along the lines of: “I accept your challenge!” That one took a few extra attempts, but I did eventually master it. With a victorious smile on my face, I switched everything off, finished getting dressed, and headed to work. PS…I discovered that afternoon there was some sort of time dilation bubble between my apartment and my place of work, because I somehow arrived late.
This is a cool story, accompanied by music that adds to the sensation—and urgency—of the main character’s driving exploits. I might argue that this is one of Rush’s best constructed songs in regards to the connective relationship between the music and the lyrics. Perhaps, had I listened to this song immediately after I attempted to learn “Subdivisions,” I would have made it to work on time that day. Or…I could have been given a personal invitation by the Maryland State police to join them in court to discuss why I was driving like I was being chased.
I’m not 100% sure, but this might have been the first Rush song I was ever exposed to. Being a fan of progressive rock during that time, I was introduced to all kinds of lyrics and subject content that I never heard on traditional radio airwaves, so this discussion (from my interpretation) that encouraged us to make choices for ourselves was a nice change of pace, definitely not anything I ever heard from my church youth group.
Who cares about the sociological message of this song? The instrumental break is a classic in my book. I astounded some of my friends when I was not only able to play the break’s bass line, but the woodblock part as well. Yep, the benefits of playing in rock bands and a drum corp.
In the event you want to liven things up, just add a catchy, fast-paced instrumental with some tripped out bass riffs. Kinda like what Rush did in this song.
I didn’t really like this song when I first heard it. A tale about people who lost their grip on the artistic talents that defined their very existence? Too depressing. As someone who very much wanted to reside within the artistic realm for the entirety of his life, I didn’t want to believe such a catastrophic decline of my talents was a possible future for me. After thinking about it for a while, though, I decided the topic didn’t relate to me at that time; I was still making my way towards the type of artistic soul I desired to be, both in talent and in temperament. Now, 36 years later, the song’s ‘losing it’ implication has an entirely different meaning for me: I’m losing was my once 20/17 eyesight, the 100% brownness of my hair and mustache…yeah, that sort of thing. To this day, I still consider myself ascending and learning…becoming a full time resident in the artistic realm. Surely, if I’m still getting better, how can I be losing my talents? Actually…I can think of a couple things about how I practice my craft that I’ve lost with age: my paralyzing uncertainty about how my Vision will be accepted, and the inexplicable disbelief and lack of confidence I used to have in myself. We’ll just say that’s what Neil Peart meant. With that in mind, I have a new appreciation for this song.
Passage to Bangkok
Not sure what drew me to this song. I don’t even smoke. Anything. Except the competition. But, that’s not what this song is about. Regardless…I like the rhythm of this song, and the chronicles-esque style of lyrics are kinda cool, too.
Fountain of Lamneth
Shortly after I started my Rush experience, my eyes and ears became more attuned to anything pertaining the band. I remember seeing the Rush “2112” pentagram spray painted on a wall at a nearby shopping mall, and not knowing what it meant until this ‘awakening.’ I also remember listening to a radio special one night, where the host was talking about the early days of Rush, and playing select excerpts from their first four albums. At one point, he spun a fast and somewhat heavy excerpt of a song I’d never heard before; then, in a blink, the heavy part fell into a more melodic and somehow troubling acoustic passage, and I heard the lyrics say: “…(something) (something) fountain of Lamneth / thought I would be singing, but I’m tired, out of breath…”…and, during another excerpt, something about “liquid grace.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite make out all the lyrics because my mom was yelling something about our neighbors not wanting to hear what I was playing, but I was fascinated with what I did hear, as well as with the entire song when I finally got to hear it. Looks like that fascination stuck with me all those years.
For some strange reason, I’ve always found it a challenge to describe how and why I like this song. It’s got unorthodox sounds. It’s got an ominous spoken passage. It’s got changes in pace and in tone that jerk the listener’s mind and mood all over the place. And, best of all, it tells a science fiction story! Perhaps, my challenge comes from there being so many elements to this song to include in a concise description. So, allow me to simply say that all these elements make “Cygnus X-1” the most fascinating song (to my ears) Rush has ever recorded. All those who disagree have my invitation to board the Rocinante the next time it leaves port.
Between the Wheels
Listening to the “Grace Under Pressure” album from start to finish for the first time, I was impressed with this song the most. That impression multiplied exponentially when I heard Rush play it live.
I say this every time…I left some very good songs off this list. What say you about the songs I did include? Agree with me? Disagree with me? Understand me? Recommend I undergo drug testing? Have at it.