Sunday, June 13, 2010

Something Here As Strong As Life

Because RUSH isn't too keen on their music being played or shared, this post will be music-free.

The thing about love is, it's often easy for us to lose sight of why we fell in love in the first place. We can easily lose sight of love's origins, of its growth and maturation, of its sustaining power.

I was 10 when I had my first date with Rush. I wrote a little about it in a post about them back in November 2008.

As with most childhood romances, the bloom long fell off this rose. I got older. My musical passions and interests expanded. By the time I was in college, I would only begrudgingly, out of some odd sense of obligation, admit Rush was my Favorite Band of All Time, and then only if asked a direct question. I wasn't ashamed of my geeky love of a geeky band; rather, I just wasn't sure I loved 'em as much as I once did.

Our childhood loves may ebb and fade, but we tend to hold onto them nonetheless. Even if I didn't love Rush with the unblinking naive passion of my tween years, I always felt like I owed them my loyalty. They singularly shaped a lot of what I love and admire about music, about musicianship, about songwriting, about song craft.

It was out of this sense of begrudging loyalty -- and thanks to a reprieve of domestic obligations from my wife -- that I walked into the Chattanooga theater on Thursday night, June 10, to watch the One Night Only showing of Beyond the Lighted Stage, and I'm happy as hell I did. It reminded me why I loved the band so much to begin with, why I feel that sense of begrudging loyalty. And it rekindled some of that faded passion.

Some thoughts after seeing this amazing film:

(1) Rock Stars? Nerds? Same Diff. -- To become proficient enough at the craft of playing an instrument that one could play in a band and make songs people want to hear requires a willingness to lock oneself into isolated places constantly. Solid skill at guitar or drums or keyboard requires hundreds of hours where the distractions of people, television, food, whatever, mean less than getting better at playing that instrument. Sure, there are the musicians whose sole motivation was getting laid and making mad bling, but the ones who followed Rush, much like Neil and Geddy and Alex, were in it for the beauty and draw of the craft itself. Kirk Hammett of Metallica? Nerd. Sebastian Bach of Skid Row and Billy Corgan of the Pumpkins and Jack Black of The 'D? Nerds one and all. Gene Simmons of KISS? C'mon... obviously that guy was a huge nerd before he was overtaken by an egotism the likes of which the world has never again witnessed at such magnitude.

(2) We're Not All Schmoozers -- An oddly tender moment in the documentary occurs when the band tries to defend Neil Peart's well-known distaste for meeting his fans. We shouldn't expect our great musicians to necessarily be great politicians. I think I can trade away a few impersonable character flaws in exchange for a band that collectively -- apparently -- didn't screw a different groupie every night of the week. (Granted, Rush only had roughly 100 female fans over their entire career, but they apparently even elected not to sleep with them!)

(3) Lyrics Must Be Savored Like Wine -- I'm not much for wine. I don't get the whole nose and swish and all the details that go with being a connoisseur. But I do appreciate good writing. I love good poetry. And I actually care about lyrics. Unfortunately, in the hectic and distractable world in which I live, where music can only be enjoyed in a car or as background to other activities in the office or at home, it's sometimes difficult to truly appreciate the craft of songwriting. While Neil might be odd and nerdy, his lyrics can unquestionably verge on poetic at their best, and even the average songs are sharply and carefully constructed. "The Spirit of Radio" is a truly jaw-dropping song as lyrics go. (Although reading all those crappy interpretations of it can be a little disheartening.) I left that theater feeling obligated to find some more time to sit, earphones on, and just soak in the words like I used to 20 years ago, alone in my room with the record player on.

(4) Little Things Bring Amazing Joy -- It's just a nerdy prog-rock band. It's just a documentary of that band. I don't even listen to them a fraction as much as I used to. Yet I walked away from those ending credits with a kind of glee in my heart that makes people want to climb mountains. It was probably that fleeting but powerful feeling people get when they walk to the front of a Baptist church with all those other people giving their hearts, at least for that moment, to Jesus. Happiness usually comes when the bigger things fade back a little and the little things come to life, like a thick forest giving way briefly for sunlight to fall on a single precious flower.


BeckEye said...

I remember my first year in college, when I lived in the dorms, there was a guy who lived on the other end of the building, whose room I would always walk by when I was going to the other side of campus. He had a giant 2112 poster on his door. His door was usually closed, but if there was music playing, it was ALWAYS Rush and it was ALWAYS blasting. One time I walked by and the door was open and he was watching TV...apparently a video concert of Rush, which was BLASTING and he was rockin' out. I always wanted to stop and let him know that there was other music in the universe, but I chose not to because I figured he was probably insane or something.

troutking said...

Love this post and the movie.

For similar effect, I guess I need to be on the lookout for a biopic on Huey Lewis and the News...maybe not.

Anonymous said...

I slept with Rush. All of them. At my mom's house.

Jason said...

Rush, supposedly one of the best or the best Canadian band ever. (I vehemently disagree with the latter assertion.)

One of them is from my birthplace actually. Never really got into them even though I saw them live at a very young age and they were all the rage then.

jed said...

nice post Billy.