SIGNALS (1982): A Song Cycle by Rush

Rush, SIGNALS, 1982.  A New Wave-Prog Song Cycle.

The last album produced by the then fourth-member of Rush, Terry Brown, Signals (September 9, 1982) marked yet again a major progression in the music of Rush as well as in the lyrics of Neil Peart.  The pressure to produce something similar to the previous year’s Moving Pictures naturally proved immense, as they had never encountered such success.  On the Moving Pictures tour alone, fan attendance doubled at concerts, and almost anyone in the American Midwest could hear one of three tracks from the album almost anytime on FM rock radio.  But the three main members of Rush decided that a second Moving Pictures would be too easy.  They had done that album, accomplished what they had sought to accomplish, and they wanted to take their music in new ways.  In particular, Lee had become more and more interested in keyboards and composing on them.  He never planned to become a “Keith Emerson,” but he loved the challenge the keyboards brought him. [1]  Not surprisingly, especially given Lee’s interest and the learning curve he needed to understand and overcome regarding synthesizers, the keys employed on the album had either 1) a deep, booming bass sound or 2) an airy, soaring feel.  Lee remembers:

I was getting bored writing. I felt like we were falling into a pattern of how we were writing on bass, guitar and drums. Adding the keyboards was fascinating for me and I was learning more about writing music from a different angle.[2]

Further, he claimed, the keyboards allowed Rush to expand beyond the trio without actually adding a new member of the band.[3]  With Signals and the following concerts to support it, Lifeson claimed he felt “almost re-born” with the new sound. [4]

Continue reading “SIGNALS (1982): A Song Cycle by Rush”

Pre-order Available: NEIL PEART: (RE)PERCUSSIONS

I’m really happy to announce that my biography of Neil Peart, NEIL PEART: CULTURAL (RE)PERCUSSIONS, is now available for pre-order.

Released silmultaneously as a paperback (WordFire Press, $14.99) and an ebook (WordFire/Baen, $5.99) on September 15, the biography considers Peart primarily as an extraordinary writer and author–of lyrics, fiction, and travelogues.

The link to pre-order the ebook is here:

If you like what we’ve accomplished with progarchy, I think you’ll like the bio of Peart.  For what it’s worth, I bring fifteen years of writing professional biographies, a decade of reviewing rock and prog rock, and thirty-four years of intense admiration for Neil Peart to the book.

Out September 15, 2015.
Out September 15, 2015.

Anthem of the Mind: Why Neil Peart, Part II

[Please be warned: this is a serious essay with an advertisement at the end—so, don’t feel ripped off!–Brad]

Out September 15, 2015, from WordFire Press.
Out September 15, 2015, from WordFire Press.

A week ago, I tried to explain—in the first of a multipart series—why I decided to write a book about Neil Peart, lyricist and drummer for Rush.  Biographies of rock musicians generally either become fanboy lovefests, People-magazine exposes, or clinical dissections.

I pray and assume I’m guiltless when it comes to the second and third reasons.  I’m sure, however, that I will rightly be accused of the first.

The youngest of three boys, growing up in central and western Kansas, I happily had a mother who allowed us to listen to whatever we wanted and read whatever we wanted.  Television was never huge in our house, and I’m still rather mystified when peers of my age group quote The Brady Bunch or The Partridge Family.  If I had the choice between tv and listening to an album, the album won every time.  I don’t remember a time in my life when music wasn’t playing somewhere in the house or in the car.  And, it wasn’t just rock.  We listened to classical and jazz.  Never opera, and I despised musicals and county music.  I did come to love opera, but only in my adult years.  Almost every room, however, had some form of stereo system, album collection, and headphones.  From the age of 10 or so, I could hook up a fairly complicated stereo system, splice speaker wires, etc.

Though my brothers have long given up their love of progressive rock music, they did love it immensely in the early 1970s.  My oldest brother is 8 years older, and my older brother five years older.  From around 1971 or 1972 (I was born in 1967), I remember Jethro Tull and Yes.  Soon, it would be ELO, Kansas, and Genesis, too.  Rush, though, I’d never heard—or, at the least, if I had heard them, the band did not make an impression on me until the spring of 1981.

For some reason that I have since long forgotten, I got in trouble in the spring of 1981 while at school  Back then, when discipline was still a central part of junior high education, any one of us could get any trouble for almost anything.  No one questioned it back then.  If the teacher or an administrator decided you were in trouble, you were in trouble.  I was a very good student when it came to academics, but I could care less about rules.  In fact, I hated them.  Regardless, in the spring of 1981, I earned a detention—which meant sitting in the school library around a wooden table with the other kids who had earned detention.  That day, it was me, another kid named Brad, and Troy.  I’d know each of these guys since first grade, and I’d always been friendly with them.  We weren’t, however, close.  Troy, if I remember correctly, was wearing a Duke (Genesis) pin on his jacket.  Of course, I was immediately taken with it.  You know Genesis?  I know Genesis!  Exactly moments for a 13-year old.  It turned out that Brad and Troy knew as much as I did about prog, but they had definitely embraced harder prog, while I had always gone for more symphonic prog.

Have you heard the new Rush yet, one of them asked me?  Rush?  No, never heard of them.  Oh, Brad, you have to listen to Rush.  Moving Pictures might be the greatest album ever made.

I’d had a lawn mowing business for several years at that point, and I was rather frugal with my money—except for books, Dungeons and Dragons stuff, and albums.  Of course, as soon as I left school that day, I purchased Moving Pictures.  I can still remember staring at the album, taking off the cellophane, and removing the vinyl from its sleeve.  There was something so utterly magical about dropping the needle on side one of a new album.  Drop, crackle, hiss, pop, DUN, Dun, dun, dun “A Modern-day warrior, mean, mean stride”!!!!!!  Where on God’s green earth had I ever heard anything so good?  At that point in my life, nothing could rival Tom Sawyer.  Then, Red Barchetta.  Oh yeah, who wouldn’t want to get into a car and drive at outrageous speeds while escaping from authority?  Even then, I was rather instinctively libertarian.  YYZ reminded me of a lot of jazz my brothers had played me, and I thought every drum crash was the drummer (a guy named Neil Peart, I soon discovered) throwing glass bottles at a wall.  Limelight seemed great.  Camera Eye was utterly mysterious, especially for someone who had only known the big cities of Denver, Wichita, Dallas, and Kansas City.  Witchhunt seemed appropriate, and I thought of the hypocrites I’d known who often acted with outrageous righteousness.  Vital Signs seemed the perfect ending, catchy and a bit weird with words I’d never heard before, such as “evelate.”

I can still see my 13-year old self reading the lyrics of Moving Pictures.  I read them again.  And, I read them again.  And, again.  And, again.

And, the pictures of the three guys who made up the band?  They looked so cool.  They didn’t look hippiesh and all wizardy like the Yes guys on Yessongs.  No, these three guys looked like they could’ve grown up around the corner from me.

So, there you have it.  Neil Peart has been my hero since detention at Liberty Junior High School, Hutchinson, Kansas.  He taught me not to be him, but to be myself.  Thank you, Brad and Troy.  Thank you long forgotten teacher who thought I was a trouble maker.  You were probably right.  Little did you know, however, that you were the catalyst that lead me to Rush and to Neil Peart.  And, here I am, thirty-four years later, and I’ve just written a book on the guy.

[And, here’s the advertisement:]

On September 15, 2015, WordFire Press, founded, owned, and presided over by the incomparable Hugo-nominated science fiction author, Kevin J. Anderson, and his equally amazing wife and famed author, Rececca Moesta, will be publishing my biography, Neil Peart: Cultural (Re)Percussions.

It will be $14.99 for the paperback and $5.99 for the ebook (all formats).

For another 48-hours, however, you can order it as a part of the Humble Bundle Music Book Bundle.  For $15, you can get an advanced review copy of NEIL PEART: CULTURAL (RE)PERCUSSIONS as well as a number of other fantastic books, including CLOCKWORK ANGELS: THE NOVEL.  And, you even get a preview of the sequel, CLOCKWORK LIVES.  It’s well worth it, especially for just $15.

Here’s the link: