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Entry date: 2-18-2024 – Roller Skating Movies Should Come Back – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

It’s nice to have a day to relax and kind of unwind. Perhaps it an age thing or just that I’ve been earning my nickels lately, I don’t know. The last few weekends, though, I’ve needed at least one morning to just chill and sleep in. That was yesterday.

 

After easing into my Saturday, I visited with Granny. She was maybe not having her best day. It wasn’t alarming or anything, but for 97 she’s incredibly sharp. I don’t know if there was something preoccupying her, but it felt like she was slipping away a bit, mentally. By the time I left, though, she seemed a bit better and ready for a nice visit with my Aunt Julie who got there a few minutes before I had to head out.

 

Rhondi and I headed over to Michael and Tracey’s for a little food and fellowship. It was lovely as usual and I’m glad we got to get a little time with them and the crew. It was such a great day in Phoenix yesterday. Low 70s, good food, family…love, really. Just love.

 

It’s the most important thing, you know.

 

*****

 

During the days of Religious Skid, my older brother from another mother, Tom, would share music with me. We would be driving somewhere in his cool red truck, and he’d pop a cassette tape in the player. One of the ones that I would often request was A Farewell to Kings by Rush. Initially, this was because I liked it a little bit and it would keep the Queensryche safe in its case.  I hated that shit.

 

Over a short period of time, though, A Farewell to Kings became one of my favorite records, so much so, that I bought my own copy of it on cassette and then CD and then vinyl. When I learned they had recorded the record in Wales, I felt a new level of kinship with it, like someone does when they realize someone they’ve just met is from their hometown. In 1989, I listened to A Farewell to Kings all the time. It was probably my first real love affair with prog.

 

Scary.

 

The song that really cemented my love for A Farewell to Kings was “Cygnus X-1.” It’s epic and gigantic and full of the kind of rock and roll that was starting to really pique my curiosity in those days. I mean, I loved Pink Floyd and some of the more well-known Rush songs, but “Cygnus X-1” (and its four parts) blew me away.

 

Part of this, as I look back, was connecting with Tom musically, too. We were bandmates and I felt so fortunate that he and his friends welcomed me as I sort of thrust myself on them as their new punk rock singer. For me to adopt one of his favorite records as one of my own favorites was huge for me. I was so stoked to have an older brother-type in my life (and still am).

 

It was a few years after I started to love A Farewell to Kings that I fully began to embrace the utterly ridiculous musicianship on this record. Rush is a great band. I wanted to dismiss this earlier in life because my friends who loved Rush were so damn fanatical about them. I don’t know how many times I had to say, “No, Rush is not the greatest band that ever lived” to people.

 

Of course, I have come to accept their greatness.  Having seen them live a good half-dozen times and willfully listened to just about everything they’ve ever done, I can say I am a fan, too. “Cygnus X-1” is what did it for me. I love that little riff at about the 7:15 mark. It reminds me of the theme music to Halloween III: Season of the Witch before the band starts cranking. BY the time you get to the 8:05 mark, you’re just in for it.

 

Sofa king good.

 

I mean, the whole album is great. It’s them saying to the world, “Yes, we know you loved 2112. We love it, too, but how about this?” When good bands decide to make a statement, the rest of us benefit from it. Rush made a number of great statements over the years.

 

Wales had a great impact on the band, clearly. There is something almost courtly and incredibly precise about how “A Farewell to Kings” kicks off the record. It’s pretty, then pretty and powerful, and then just stellar in its full-on groove. Good Rush songs are kind of timeless, you know?

 

In a way, this album sounds like 1977, but when you were eight that year and not aware this album even existed on a conscious level, then it doesn’t associate itself with those disco-tinged years when so much of my favorite punk music was being born. Rush is not disco and it’s not punk. A Farewell to Kings is something else.

 

The sun starts to rise as “Xanadu” blasts off. There is an ethereal quality to the song that’s helped along by Neil Peart’s fantastic percussion bits at the outset. You can almost see the eastern sky turning pink and purple and gold. Tiny green upstarts are unfurling, dripping morning dew down their stalk to a waiting inchworm. The world is new.

 

As the sun starts to shine, Geddy, Alex, and Neil are there to lead us to “Xanadu” and it’s wonderful. Alex Lifeson’s guitar runs make it easy to see why so many of the guitar dudes I knew in high school were so into Rush. If you could get some of his riffs down, you were doing something right.

 

As a bass player, I don’t even bother trying to rip off Geddy Lee. The guy is just in a class by himself, especially when you consider that he was often using foot pedals to do keyboard/synthesizer stuff and creating a sound that three people would have stoked to make, let alone one.

 

According to Rush lore, the band recorded the song in one take. That might not seem like much to folks who have never recorded a song in the studio, but because it is an 11-minute song, it’s huge. My mind just boggles at the idea that this masterpiece was a one-take gem. All the more reason to never consider covering a Rush song without completely deconstructing it.

 

“Closer to the Heart” kicks off Side Two of the record. This is the radio hit on the record and it’s a good one at that. When Rush wanted to give the casual fan something to latch onto, they were more than capable. I can feel my brain just running down the drain at the opening riff. I’m in, I’m there, and I’m going to sing along.

 

Another reason I love this record is that it is yet another example of a great record that is all killer and no filler. It’s all bud, no shake or seeds. It’s rich Corinthian leather. “Cinderella Man” is a great song and “Madrigal” a very nice change of pace. The synthesizer line that almost sounds like a whistle is so pleasing.

 

Thanks to Tom for this one. I appreciate it more all the time.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



When Danny and Krista got married.

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Great picture of you and Danny. I'll admit, I did not say I'm a Rush fan until I hit my late forties. You couldn't like them and still listen to punk rock, or so I thought as a kid. I deprives myself for years. Yes, that's a great album.

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Right? Punks and Rush fans were diametrically opposed in the 80s.

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