It was the summer of 1981 and little did I know, my favorite band was about to reveal itself to me. You never know when or how this happens. It just does. And in my case, it happened during one of the best summers of my life. That I was 16 was coincidence.
Or was it? More on that forthcoming.
The band was Rush. Yes, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and the late, truly lamented Neil Peart, who I’ve called The Greatest Drummer on The Planet (TGDOTP) for the last 30 years. That is, when I’m not calling him among the most intelligent individuals in the history of rock music. I fortuitously discovered the Canadian trio during my month stint as a counselor-in-training (“CIT”) at the camp I spent many of my happiest summers – Camp Hess Kramer (“CHK”) in Malibu.
At CHK, CITs are plankton on the counselor food chain. Think counselors with training wheels. We didn’t stay with their cabins, rather we had our own cabin, with a CIT counselor riding herd on the 10 of us. One afternoon, as we were showering and getting ready for dinner and the night’s activities, one of my fellow CITs popped in a cassette of “Moving Pictures”.
The band’s eighth album came out that February, when I was slogging through my sophomore year of high school. I missed it because I was deep in my Jurassic Park music period, getting a steady diet of dinosaur rock mainstays like Led Zeppelin and The Doors, interspersed with Fleetwood Mac and The Cars; the latter coming to me from one of my best friends. My music taste during that period was about three inches deep and two miles wide.
Yet, Rush was not anywhere on the landscape. Not until that afternoon I came back to the cabin from the shower and heard the first few notes of “Tom Sawyer” -- Track 1 on the seven-track “Moving Pictures” album if you’re scoring at home – blare from my friend’s ghetto blaster.
“Who is this? What is this?” I remember asking him, who I remember being amused by my reaction.
“It’s “Tom Sawyer” by Rush,” he cheerfully responded. My friend was always cheerful.
And so was I, especially as I heard the rest of what I call the perfect album. Seven songs and not a bad one in the bunch. “Tom Sawyer” segued into “Red Barchetta”, then into the brilliant instrumental “YYZ”, which segued into “Limelight” – Peart’s lament about the price fame exacts on your personal life.
Then, you flipped the cassette and Side 2 greeted you with “The Camera Eye”, known as the band’s last 10-plus minute song. From there, you heard the haunting, grotesquely underrated “Witch Hunt”, with Peart’s brilliant lyrics illustrating the perils of McCarthyism and allowing fear to rule. “Moving Pictures wraps up with “Vital Signs”, which built on Rush’s growing fascination with incorporating reggae into their progressive rock foundation.
“Moving Pictures” became the soundtrack of the summer of 1981. We played it every afternoon during shower hour. When I got home from CHK, I made a beeline for my local Licorice Pizza (remember those?) and bought the cassette. Since I was the first of my friends to drive, this became a staple in the car as it introduced my friends to Rush. They would become staples of our music rotation. Because I insisted on it. And thus began a nearly 40-year love affair with the band I discovered when I was 16. I would see Rush in concert for the first time in 1984 at the Inglewood Forum. I would see them every even-numbered year between 1984 and 1994 at venues from the Forum (three times) to Reynolds Coliseum at Texas Tech, during my 11-month exile in New Mexico.
All told, I would see Rush 11 times in eight different venues and three states between 1984 and 2015, their last tour before Peart’s burnout and retirement broke the group up. I saw their penultimate concert at Verizon Amphitheater in Irvine, the second time I saw them in five days.
This, proudly, included Rush’s overdue induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (“RRHOF”) in 2013. Every September, the RRHOF would release their inductees and every September, Rush wouldn’t make the list. And my rants about this became so predictable that one friend of mine posted on Facebook “Well, it’s September. Time for BR’s annual rant on Rush getting screwed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voting.”
Then, it happened. The woman I was dating at the time bought tickets for their induction, which conveniently happened to be at the Nokia Theater at LA LIVE. Even with Heart, Public Enemy and Randy Newman going in, 70% of the crowd was there to see Rush finally get the due denied them.
When I post or talk about the Rush shows I’ve seen, the RRHOF always prompts awed comments among fellow Rush fans. It’s like saying you flew with the Red Baron or partied with the Rat Pack.
And it all went back to the summer of 1981. When I was 16.
Of course it did. Because science bears that out.
The New York Times did a study with music service company Spotify that revealed the songs we listen to as teenagers – more specifically, as young adolescents – are the songs that influence us the rest of our lives. The study revealed that men’s musical tastes are formed between the ages of 13 and 16, with men likely discovering their favorite song at 14.
Well, lookie here? Rush’s “Spirit of Radio” happens to be my favorite Rush song. It’s currently my ringtone. And it came out on “Permanent Waves”, the album before “Moving Pictures.
When was “Permanent Waves” released? January 1980. And how old was I? Fourteen.
For women, their most influential period takes place between 11 and 14, with 13 being their likely age when their favorite song debuted.
The New York Times study involved analyzing every chart-topping song released between 1960 and 2000. It used Radiohead’s “Creep” as one test. The Times discovered “Creep” was the 164th most popular song among 38-year-old men, who would have been 14 when the song came out in 1993. “Creep” doesn’t crack the top 300 for those born 10 years earlier or 10 years later.
This completely spits in the eye of the prevailing wisdom that your lifelong musical taste crystalizes in your early 20s and that’s what follows you into the old-folks home. It shows the conventional wisdom of college radio directors setting the music agenda once they grow up and run commercial radio stations as neither conventional, nor wisdom.
The Times study revealed the music men and women listen to in their early 20s, when they’re allegedly being influenced by college rock, was only half as influential in forming adult music tastes as the songs they listened to during their teenage years.
In my case, my favorite band introduced themselves right on cue. They hung around long enough to take me into one hell of a lifetime encore.
Brian Robins is the CEO of Bear-Titan Publications, wherein he provides writing and editorial services for a wide variety of publications including the LA Times, San Bernardino Sun, US Golfing association and a host of others. Brian has also been a professor of writing at La Verne University in Southern California. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgTags: #Rush #Peart #Geddy #Lifeson #Rock #70s #80s #TomSawyer #SpiritOfRadio