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:

Why Neil Peart, Part I

Why Neil Peart?

[Be forewarned, this is a serious essay that leads to an advertisement.  Proceed at your own risk!!!!]

R40 Tour. Rush in Lincoln.

A year ago, I had the great privilege of reading a fine history of Rush: Robert Freedman’s RUSH: LIFE LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE.  It was a very satisfying read, and, as I finished it, I sighed to myself. . . “I wish I’d written this.”  I don’t think my reaction was one of hubris, but rather one of joy.  I was glad to see Peart taken so seriously at an intellectual level.  All too often, even in a culture that can go utterly ga-ga over the most trivial things, Americans still tend to dismiss rock music as a fad or rock musicians as a low form of artist.

For those of us who love prog and art rock, we cringe at such slights, and yet, in our heart of hearts, we’re kind of glad that we are among the few who know—as almost a secret treasure we possess—that good rock as art most certainly does exist.  Sure, we’ll argue until we’re blue in the face about what makes art good.  But, in the end, we’re somewhat satisfied that we’ve chosen the past least taken.

I’m as guilty of this as anyone, and I know that much of my life, I’ve been a total music snob.  Sure, being from Kansas, I can do it with manner and a smile, but I’m still a snob.

When the four editors of progarchy and I started this website, we dedicated ourselves to promoting—as widely as possible—the beauty of music in all of its forms.  We’re each music snobs, of course, but we so want to make our snobbery general and widespread.  That is, we’d love to have Big Big Train playing on every rock station across North America.  Rock music is at a crossroads, and we think we can destroy the mediocrity and corporate vanilla the so prevails and gives rock a bad now.  Now, this truly is HUBRIS on our part!

One of the persons I find most intriguing over the last half century is Neil E. Peart.  Whether you agree with his political views or hate them, whether you think he’s a god among drummers or just a guy dealing with his ADHD, you have to give Peart credit for making his own way, no matter the cost and no matter the obstacles.

Just a few nights ago, Rush played their final show of R40.  The chances are pretty good that that show will be the last normal Rush show ever played.  After 41 years of constant success and considered artist endeavors, that’s huge!

Cultural RePercussions cover

[Remember, I warned you above!]

So, why Neil Peart?  Well, I try to answer this very question in NEIL PEART: CULTURAL (RE)PERCUSSIONS.  The biography comes out officially on September 15 from Kevin J. Anderson’s Word Fire Press.  For another 9 days, however, you can get an advanced review copy of the Peart bio for $15 from Humble Bundle.

I’m biased, but I’m really hoping you’ll purchase a copy.  I could explain to you that every time you buy a book, you put food on the table for my huge family.  But, this isn’t quite true.  Still, it would help for the college funds!

Mostly, though, I wrote this book to spread my love of all things Peart.

To be continued. . . .

ARC of NEIL PEART Bio is Now Available with Humble Bundle Press

For two weeks only, you can get an advanced review copy of NEIL PEART: CULTURAL (RE)PERCUSSIONS.

Available as an ARC for two weeks only with Humble Bundle.
Available as an ARC for two weeks only with Humble Bundle.

NEIL PEART: CULTURAL (RE)PERCUSSIONS is now available in early form. As an e-book, a part of the Humble Bundle. For two weeks only!

$15 and you get tons of books, including an advanced review copy of the Peart bio.

The final paperback and ebook (all formats) version will be out September 15.