I have done more than just let it slip that I am a Rush fan. In celebration of their new album coming out May 1st, and their summer tour to follow, I thought I might explain this strange admiration I have for a silly rock band.
I did not exactly grow up in the cultural center of the universe. Southern Idaho has few charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth. I had two local radio stations to choose from – one an easy listening station, and the other a top 40 station. I also didn’t have much money to buy music, nor older siblings to borrow or learn from. I didn’t have much interest in my parents music either. While I wasn’t passionate about music, I was a bit curious for something, but I was not sure what it was.
I listened to a lot of the top 40 stuff of the late 70’s/early 80’s, but knew most of it was pretty shallow and wouldn’t last. I was aware of hard rock music, and admittedly liked the intense, masculine sound. I knew the lyrics we often filthy, and the whole hard rock image did not appeal to me either. I thought it was a pity that the genre was a barren wasteland for wholesome entertainment.
That is where Ken came in. Ken was a friend of a friend. He was a very interesting person. He was cool but not popular. He seemed to know everything without being a know-it-all. He knew people. Ken had connections, and had a knack for solving about any kind of problem. His reserve was a quiet defense, riding out the day’s events. He was also a computer hacker of sorts.
In those days, being a computer hacker meant you had a Commodore 64 and knew how to use it. (The 64 stood for 64K – an immense amount of RAM). ‘Hacking’ basically consisted of finding ways to get around the copy protection of game software and thus providing yourself and others with pirated software. Other than this weakness, Ken seemed to have a reasonable moral compass – for the situation he was in.
Ken was the only son of a single mother. At least I think he was. Some of the details of his life are a bit sketchy. I only went to his home one time. I was tagging along with my friend who wanted to try out a new computer game. Ken seemed to have the basement of the house all to himself, and while they played their game I looked around. There was a lot of clutter, a weight set, posters one might expect of a teenage boy without much supervision, the 64 connected to a cheap TV, and a stereo with a record collection.
I was flipping through the records, looking at the cover art of Iron Maiden, Dio, AC/DC, KISS, etc. Ken looked over at me, and with a sly smile, asked if I liked that kind of music. I had the reputation of being a bit of a goodie-goodie, and he probably thought it was amusing to see me flipping through his albums. I told him I liked the music, but could do without the rotten lyrics and stuff. His smile became more sincere and he said, ‘I know what YOU would like!’ He quickly found a cassette and tossed it to me. It was the Rush 2112 tape. I thanked him for letting me borrow it and stuck it in my coat pocket.
I put the cassette in my tape player when I got home. From the first few moments of the album I could not believe my ears. How could there be music like this out there, without me being aware of it? How were these guys not the most popular band in history?
Listen to my music,
And hear what it can do.
There’s something here that’s as strong as life,
I know that it will please you.
I could not wait to share this new wonder. I played some of it for my brother who was probably about 9. He probably wasn’t ready. We had an exchange student from Singapore staying with us who was my age so I played it for him. He kind of liked the synthesizers, but was not blown away. I tried to interest some of my friends at school, but they didn’t seem to get it. I didn’t care. I was hooked. For the next few years of my life I would save up money and buy a Rush tape, memorize it, and then buy another one. By the time I left for my mission I had everything they had released – which is more impressive than it may sound. They had a lot of albums even then.
For much of my life I felt as if I was the only Rush fan in the world, but have lately found that there are a lot more of us than one might expect. The group is still going strong, although they are slowing down a bit. But they won’t exactly be playing county fairs on their tour.
With Rush I get good, clean, masculine, rock and roll without the bad stuff. The musicianship is out of this world, and the lyrics are intelligent and meaningful. I’m 40 years old, and I still follow my favorite rock band. The more I find out about them the more I like them. How many rock bands can you say that about?
I am buying their album on May 1st, and hope to see them when they come to the Chicago area. I am a middle-aged, conservative, Mormon, engineer, husband and father of four, and I can’t wait for the release of a CD from a rock band, and to see them live in concert.
Ken was right.