Between 1965 and 2000, guitar heroes dominated rock and roll. If you wanted the hot girl and couldn't sing - you played guitar in the hopes of becoming the neighborhood Eddie Van Halen. Drummers were relegated to the background, unless they blew up stuff on TV like Keith Moon, played upside down in carnival-ride cages like Tommy Lee, or drank themselves to death like John Bonham. Sure, during your average arena rock show, there was a requisite drum solo - but this usually signaled "it's miller time" to most of the audience - and they headed for an overpriced flat domestic beer or a bathroom stall bump.
The exception to this rule was Canadian power trio Rush and their seminal 1981 album "Moving Pictures." For the 1980s music nerd, Rush had lots of musical attributes worth worshipping. Their song structure managed to be progressive and non-wanky at the same time. They didn't sing about girls (except for Ayn Rand). Lots of their stuff was syncopated. Bassist/Vocalist/Keyboardist Geddy Lee had more jobs than a Jamaican hotel manager during tourist season. His high pitched wail instantly separated the haters from the lovers. Either you could get past his annoying singing voice and embrace it as unique - or you were out of the Rush fan Club. And guitarist Alex Lifeson, in any any other band, would have been the featured shredder.
But Rush will always be a drum hero's band. Rush drummer Neal Peart's drum fills on "Moving Pictures" were breathtaking to musical suburbanites like me. They hit your ears like a 50 caliber machine gun, commanding your attention. All it took was one 30 second exposure to his fills on Rush'shit "Tom Sawyer" on a radio commercial promoting their upcoming appearance at the Hollywood Sportorium for me to go "What is THAT? I want to do THAT!"
I was 11 years old at the time. I began to lobby my parents for a drum set. I joined the middle school band the next year - and six months later I owned a Ruether 5 piece drum set. 25 years after that, I performed on an arena stage in Germany - thus living out the first line on "Limelight" - which closes out side A on "Moving Pictures": "Living On A Lighted Stage / Approaches The Unreal."
Rush have sold some 25 million records in the states, but 1/5 of them are copies of "Moving Pictures" and in honour of that fact - they are trotting out a 2nd set featuring "Moving Pictures" played in its entirety, in order, for the first time.
It would be impossible to list all of the bands that "Moving Pictures" influenced, but an easy call out is Primus - who quote the instrumental "YYZ" in their live show. Another one is 90s Miami Postpunk act Subliminal Criminal who lived, breathed, and ate Rush. Their Rush worship was to the point where all three of them could play their instruments inside-out and backwards, play 10 minute prog instrumentals, quote Ayn Rand books, and point out cliques they didn't want to belong to at 50 paces.
Unlike more successful post-punk acts like the Jesus Lizard, who lifted Rush's propensity for odd-metered syncopated rhythms but wouldn't admit to it for a million bucks, Subliminal Criminal not only copped to, but embraced their love of Rush. This confused your average hardcore punk kid, who had just finished shaving his head because he hated his pot-smoking parents and the Rolling Stone guide to rock and roll he was in the process of rejecting.
Unlike that kid's hair, Rush is coming back on Saturday to play Cruzan Ampitheater in West Palm Beach. Tickets range from $35 to sit on the lawn with binculars or $125 to see Geddy Lee's wrinkles with your naked eyes. Either way, I'm sure there will be a video screen filled with "Moving Pictures."