What I said back then:
So there had to be some fallout from all that noisy, hairy stuff that I immersed myself in when I first went to Edinburgh, and it turned out to be this lot. Something about them appealed to me straight away. Well, lets be honest, intelligent lyrics, clever musicianship, staggeringly good drumming and proper use of things like science fiction were always going to ring a few bells with me. I was intrigued by name checks for the likes of Ayn Rand – interestingly, using her name seemed to provoke critics into knee-jerk accusations of extreme right wing activities something which the merest effort of research would have debunked – and enthralled by a band which, having hit on a winning formula, would tend to do something entirely different next time around. There was a time when I owned all their records, even the frankly hatstand collaboration with Max Webster. And eventually my enthusiasm faded to normal levels, and then to almost nothing. But I own some of their music on CD, and occasionally look in in their websites to see what’s going on; and if some of their music no longer has the power to thrill like it did, some of it still speaks to me.
So when I remember Rush I remember Edinburgh, and up to a point vice versa; certain songs bring back very specific memories. The thing I remember most vividly, however, is my very first arena concert. Scotland had precisely no large scale indoor venues in the early eighties, so someone had the brilliant idea of using the Ingliston Showground Exhibition Hall. Without being unkind, it was a vast cowshed with a temporary stage at one end. The view was strictly limited, and the acoustics appalling. But it was still one of the best concerts I’d ever seen – partly due to the anticipation, and partly due to the genuine quality of these three guys. There’s not much from that time that I remember with great affection, and hardly anything I’d actually spend money on now, but I make an exception for Rush.
What I think now:
I think there may be hope for me, if I can do this next bit without being so mealy-mouthed. I fell under the spell of Rush when I was still at school, and, in spite of a period of not buying new releases in the 1990s they never went away. What was certain was that Rush were not ‘cool’. Never have been, and probably in some parts, never will be. That, to my shame, affected how I wrote about them in 2002.
Well, we’re all bigger and more intelligent than we were then; Rush have been nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I live in Canada, a country where they revere their musicians. Here’s what I should have written:
Mark Stephen had a copy of ‘Permanent Waves’ in the common room one day. Everyone listened, nodding thoughtfully along to ‘Spirit of Radio’, pretending not to notice the looks we were getting from the punk girls, and most of us moved on. I went out and bought Rush albums. Not all of them, and – strangely – not the one I’d been listening to, but enough of them to know that I loved this band.
I studied them because there were intriguing lyrics, and because I wanted to be able to play those melodies; I listened to them in Edinburgh because they at once tied me to home, where I had first heard them, and promised a wider world to explore; I liked them partly because no-one else I knew did – I knew other students who had much cooler musical tastes than me, but I didn’t really care.
And then, as my tastes changed, everything but Rush dropped away. I hung on to them because they were ‘my’ band; part of my life in a way nothing else ever was, and nothing would be until I discovered… no, let’s not get ahead of the story now.
There are some specific Rush memories: buying ‘Moving Pictures’ twice; reading the sleeve of ‘Exit Stage Left’ on the bus in the rain; being overpowered by the stage show in spite of the surroundings; hearing ‘Time Stand Still’ in a Forbuoys in Perth; seeing crowds of denim-clad herberts on their way to see them at the SECC and feeling more than just a pang of regret; hurtling through Glencoe, listening to ‘The Pass’…
Actually, there are lots of Rush memories.
I came back to them in 1999. I was in the Virgin Megastore in Brent Cross; I suspect I had a voucher to spend or something, and on impulse I bought ‘Different Stages’; it plugged me right back in as though I’d never been away. The live performances seemed looser, more relaxed and inviting than before, and I could feel the joy in them.
And, like most people, I guess, at that point, given what had happened, I imagined that the story was over.
The story wasn’t over.
Has there ever been a more defiant comeback than the opening bars of ‘One Little Victory’? I saw this on the ‘Rush in Rio’ DVD, and from that moment, I was back in the world of Rush, the rock band which means more to me than all the others put together.
I fear I haven’t explained why, and I’m not sure I can – I think you’d have to be me to properly get it. But one more story, perhaps:
My children (and Zoe, to a degree), having been exposed to Rush for most of their lives, are also fans (nothing to do with me, honest. Well, not much). Cameron is a budding drummer; he can be heard in the basement some evenings, trying to play along with ‘Tom Sawyer’; Conor is a guitarist, his version of the opening of ‘Limelight’ is my favourite of all I’ve heard. Last year, Rush played in Vancouver; how could we not go?
The whole thing was a fabulous experience ; fully 28 years after I’d last seen them in concert, they were – well, spectacular doesn’t begin to cover it. But the songs they played and the fun we had isn’t my favourite memory. Cameron recording the entire drum solo on his phone isn’t my favourite memory. Conor grinning from ear to ear at the interval, having sorted out the ‘too loud’ problem and the ‘can’t see’ problem isn’t my favourite memory. Even the on-stage fight between the hockey mascots isn’t my favourite memory.
What I’ll always remember about that weekend is the following day. The boys and I, resplendent in our new Rush t-shirts, walking the streets of downtown Vancouver, and being stopped every few yards, it seemed, by people asking us how the show was, sharing in having been there, or congratulating us for simply being Rush fans. It was Canada Day, and I can honestly say that there was a moment when I first felt properly Canadian. Never mind the ongoing saga of our Citizenship ceremony; this was the point we became Canadian:
A couple of long-haired guys walking towards us; if I had to describe them, I’d say they were ‘dudes’. They greet us thus:
“Woah, Dad – way to go; bringing the boys up right!”