Neil Peart died of cancer last week, and because of a site meltdown here at Idiot Central, I was distracted. But what I saw around the internet surprised me. I don’t know if it was a reflection of the algorithms knowing I am a fan, but it seemed like there were tributes to him, and to Rush, on every site I visited—most notably the hipster music sites that traditionally frown on prog rock. I was happy to see so many artists from such a wide range of genres pay their respects.
I’ve mentioned the band here in the past, but having reviewed their catalog in depth this past week, I should restate how big an influence they were on me at a crucial point in my life. I was learning how to play bass when we moved to New York at age 13, and struggling to find new friends in a town that was radically different from the upper-class Connecticut town I’d come from. When I met some people in the music department and bonded over shared interests—and a burning desire to play the bass parts on the first side of Moving Pictures perfectly—I felt like I was accepted and belonged somewhere, which was a huge deal for me.
We spent hours sitting on amps playing their albums over and over, trying to get the fills and grooves right. We piled five guys into a car to drive to the mall in order to buy Power Windows the day it came out, and begged our parents to go see the concert at the Meadowlands when the tour came through our area.
As I got older, my tastes expanded to more esoteric music, and by the time I headed off to college I was still enjoying their music but not keeping up with it. I think Roll the Bones was the last album I bought, and while my college roommate and I saw them live in ’92, my interest faded. Years later, when I read they were doing their farewell tour, I looked into tickets and was interested in seeing them live one last time, but wasn’t able to put it together.
I’ve been listening to their late 70’s to mid-80’s discography (Hemipsheres to Power Windows, roughly) all this week. There’s an urgency and a groove behind their best stuff, and it’s the same thing that makes us music nerds bust out the air drums whenever YYZ or Subdivisions comes on. It makes me feel like I’m 15 again, sitting on a shitty amp in someone’s room, trying to get the bass riffs down, and nailing one for the first time.