What You’re Doing
The first thing I notice, before the song has even started, is that it’s not called ” What You’re Doin’ ” – it’s a small thing, but it’s indicative of a certain class, I feel. We plunge straight into a familiar riff – do I remember this, or does it remind me of something else? I can’t pin anything down, so perhaps my memory is still pretty good. Odd, random things occur to me as we go along – that drumming is actually pretty damn good; this is a song assembled in sections, and I can hear some of the joins; are Geddy’s vocals going to be echoed all the way through?
Turns out they are. Not sure that I’m too fond of that effect. Still, I like the song.
In The Mood
The first song I’ve heard more recently than 1984, this was one of the ones I put on my original selection, mostly because it is absolutely the perfect rhythm for powerwalking to. It’s a lovely riff and a great middle eight, just don’t take the lyrics too seriously. Actually, there’s a thing:
Another of those things which bother me: The word ‘baby’. I mean, please. Last taken even remotely seriously around the time of The Beatles’ “Drive My Car”, all it is by 1974 is a placeholder for those moments when you can’t work out how to fill those two beats – goodness knows what purpose it serves now. I suppose it’s probably gone through the ironic, ‘Austin Powers’ thing, and is now a kind of post-ironic cool thing to say. I wouldn’t know; I’m middle-aged. Still, with any luck that will be the last time we hear Geddy singing ‘baby’ to anyone.
Before and After
Before and after what, I wondered to myself. Then I got about halfway through the song, and all became clear. I have absolutely no memory of this song, yet it is exactly of the type that the 20-year-old me would have loved – a lyrical instrumental gradually building to flat-out rock. I was a real sucker for that kind of thing back then. Thing is now, I can’t hear the charms for all the thoughts crowding in on me. Firstly, that lyrical beginning; it takes three listens to work out what’s bugging me – the skipped beat in the repeated measure at the beginning. They do it something like eight times, and it sounds odder each time I hear it. It’s quite a good idea, because otherwise that repeated phrase might sound a bit bland, but it’s a little unsettling to listen to at first. This is not a bad thing, you understand.
Secondly, the two halves don’t seem to gel – I don’t hear the relationship of the second to the first really. That’s probably from listening to too much classical music, where every theme is developed, and all the strands seem to relate. These two sound a bit too much like two half-finished songs glued together in the studio. I don’t think they were two half-finished songs; but they sound a bit like it. Also, more doubled guitars, and now I realise what it reminds me of.
Wishbone Ash. No, really – I wonder if there was any conscious or unconscious influence there?
Also, guess what? Back there, that wasn’t the last time Geddy sang ‘baby’. Let’s hope this one is…
This is the first track which is difficult to sort out in my mind. First of all, I have heard it many times over the years; it’s kind of a standard; part of the mental furniture. Also, it’s a genuine classic, isn’t it? So what can I bring to it save for some idle speculation about the mid section.
Well, what the heck. Let’s do that:
I may be old and cynical, but this seems to me to be a triumph of expediency over intention. The record needs to be in the vicinity of 40 minutes long (20 per side, kids) and here’s a song which, without the middle – it’s not a middle eight, really, more a sort of middle sixty-four – would be a simple, one-riff plod. So this extended jam got shoehorned in; once again it doesn’t really fit the rest of the song, but it doesn’t half show off the musicianship of these three guys, and when we get back to that Black Sabbath-like riff, its an old friend. Having said that, it works superbly well; much better than it ought to.
Well, I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed time-travelling back to 1974. That album which I didn’t play all that much even in my Rushaholic phase turns out to be a fine example of its time – wearing its influences on its sleeve, to be sure, and lacking a certain something in the lyrical invention department, but if you’re in the mood (sorry) for a little early seventies bluesy rock, you could do a lot worse than this.