How I first got into Rush was 23 years ago when I first heard “Tom Sawyer” on KKRW Classic Rock 93.7 The Arrow which is now a hip-hop station. But when I was 13 years old at the time, it was the only station to play bands that introduced me alongside Pink Floyd from bands such as; Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath (Ozzy Osbourne-era), and Rush. When I first heard “Tom Sawyer”, I was completely blown away.
It was like a breath of fresh air of hearing the vocals, guitars, synths, bass, and drums all combined into one. It was this incredible fast-drum work done by Neil “The Professor” Peart. This guy was like a machine gun that is ready to burst fire at any second. And then I had forgotten about them until 2005 when I went to Borders which is defunct as well.
And there was a MOJO issue entitled, Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock. I bought it and I read about Rush during their hey-day in the 1970s. I knew right there and then, my re-introduction of their music, was right around the corner. I went ahead and went to a store called, Movie Trading Company and bought A Farewell to Kings and then went to Wherehouse Music and bought their era of the Synths-era and their ‘90s era. But it was A Farewell to Kings that made me re-introduce myself to their music. Listening to that album was like a movie inside your head.
It was everything. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, James Stewart, Fantasy stories, and an intensive cliffhanger story into the black hole. It was all there. This album still has a huge impact on me when I was in College after my re-introduction to their music. And I still try to figure out what Neil was writing throughout his amazing storytelling complex? Whether it’s the title-track, Xanadu, Closer to the Heart, or Cygnus X-1, he was writing them like movies inside our heads.
For Neil Peart who wasn’t just one hell of a drummer who followed into the footsteps of The Who, Pink Floyd, admired Stray, Buddy Rich, and influenced others including Metallica, Mike Portnoy, Iron Maiden, Porcupine Tree, and Billy Corgan to name a few, he was a brilliant lyricist that showed no sign of stopping.
Since he was in another band before Rush called JR Flood in 1970, then joining the band in 1974 after making his debut with the band by opening up for Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and Uriah Heep during their Wonderland tour at Pittsburgh Civic Arena on August 14th, he gave Rush, the power, the mystery, the big guns, and the explosive beats that would knock your socks off.
Whether it’s the nod to King Crimson with YYZ, the struggle with Fame on Limelight, being an outsider in School with Subdivisions, the battle between By-tor and the Snow Dog and Bastille Day, or the nod to Ayn Rand with the 20-minute masterpiece, 2112, Neil knew what he wanted to do.
For me, Rush along with Pink Floyd, are and will always be my Beatles. Since Neil has passed away on January 7th due to a long battle with Brain Cancer, it’s the end of an era with Rush. And while they called it a day for their R40 tour in 2015, they had come full circle. But their legacy and their music, will live on forever and ever. In the words of Babe Ruth from the 1993 movie, The Sandlot, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”