Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Time Machine

I have wanted to do this one for ages but was waiting for the right time to do it. Now is that time.

You'll see why when you get to the end.

This is about the greatest rock band in the world, RUSH, and how my life has passed through the years along with them. That's where the Time Machine title idea came from.

One day in 1975 as I was walking home I noticed an old record player in someone's garbage. I don't know if it was just because I was 12 years old or that I had a hunch that this record player may still work but I decided to bring it home with me.

My family had an 8-track player and I had a cassette recorder/player but we didn't have a record player. As such we had no need for vinyl record albums in the house. I had won a Bobby Sherman vinyl album at a School Safety Patrol Christmas party. It had never been played before and even though it wasn't my choice of music to listen to, it would suit the purpose of seeing if my new/old record player worked.

I discovered that the record player "worked" perfectly in that it played the music. The only thing was that when I touched the center post or any metal part of the player I got an electric shock. I suppose that would explain why it was in the garbage but I overlooked that and had myself a new record player/wakeup device.

Soon afterwards I decided to take a trip down to the local public library and check out the assortment of LP's that were available to sign out.

This seems so bizarre to think that the North York Public Library could be a source of discovering the music of the day but they were up to date and anyone with a library card could sign out the albums of their choice.

I can still clearly visualize going through the records and stopping at RUSH - Fly By Night. This was the second album put out by the boys and the first with the "new guy" Neil Peart who replaced John Rutsey as the drummer and lyric writer.

I had never heard of these guys before but the cover of this album was so cool with a big snowy owl coming right out of the picture at me. I had to check this out.

I couldn't even tell you if I signed out any other albums along with it but I made my way home with Fly By Night under my arm. I went upstairs to my bedroom, took the record out of its sleeve, zapped myself as I put the record onto the post and turned the record player on and sat back to hear what this stuff was.

At that moment a lifelong fan of RUSH was born.

I would have been 11 or 12 years old at that time. Roughly 36 years ago. Man, I can't believe it's been that long...

I didn't have a lot of spending money in those years but I usually found a way to get a new RUSH album within the first day or so of its release. For the longest time RUSH would release a new one annually. I could listen to an album for about a year before I was really hungry for new stuff so this worked out perfectly.

I'm not positive of the first time that I saw the lads in concert. I originally thought that it was in 1977 or 1978 but I'm not positive.
What I AM positive of was that I was at their show on Sunday September 2, 1979 at Varsity Stadium in Toronto. My family had to speed back to Toronto from a cottage that we were using on Lake Simcoe just so that I could get to see this concert.

I still have the ticket stub somewhere. (I'll have to look for that and scan it, just for fun.). One of the best things about this show was that I finally had the opportunity to see FM who were another of my favourite bands of the time. Both bands were awesome but RUSH was what I was there for.

I've looked around on the internet and found that this show was part of the Permanent Waves Warm Up Tour. Even if this was the case the show was for the prior album "Hemispheres". I'm certain of that because I have this program from the show.

Once I went to my first show it became a tradition that I would see them every time they played in Toronto or somewhere within a few hours driving distance such as Hamilton or even Buffalo. If I had plans of some kind the plans would have to change.

RUSH was my priority.
You'll see later in this post that this hasn't changed after more than 30 years. There were a couple of times that I went to the shows by myself but I always ran into friends and spent the rest of the show hanging out with them.

Last year a documentary "Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage" was being released in theaters around the world for one night only.
As luck would have it the only place in New Brunswick that was showing it was in Moncton. It was a midnight show only.
Can you guess what I did? Yep, the family packed up and made an overnight mini-vacation out of it. This was the closest thing we had to seeing RUSH in these parts.

It was a blast. Sure it was late and we were all tired but what an incredible movie it is! Seeing it on the large screen made it even more amazing.

It was almost surreal seeing my old high school named in it.
Even more astounding was when it showed Geddy and Alex walking around outside a church where they first performed shows in the basement. That was where I went to nursery school!
I could still visualize the parade we all had on the church driveway for my birthday that year. That very driveway was right there on the screen.

Guitarist Alex Lifeson attended the same high school that I did. It was several years before I was there as he is about 9 years older than I am so I didn't see him personally. However, I found out fairly recently that our favourite babysitter was his friend at school.

It was when I was at high school that I learned Alex's real last name is Zivojinovich.
One of the walls in the band room was covered with a mural that he had painted. In the bottom corner was A. Zivojinovich. I don't recall how I found out that it was him but I admired the artwork that much more when I did.

In 1997 I heard on the news that Neil Peart's daughter had died in an automobile accident. It was such a strange feeling to feel so much grief and sympathy for someone who has meant so much to me for so long but has no idea who I am or that I even exist. How many of us wanted to tell Neil how sad we felt for him and express our condolences?

Less than a year after this Neil's wife Jacqueline passed away from cancer.

My god, how much could one man take...

For the next 5 years there was nothing from RUSH. Alex and Geddy did solo projects which were good but not the same.
I learned later that Neil packed up his life and rode 55,000 miles on his BMW motorcycle in order to mourn and reflect.

He wrote a book about the journey "Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road" which I bought and read. Only when I read this book did it really sink in how close we came to losing RUSH forever. At his daughter Selena's funeral he told Alex and Geddy "consider me retired".

At some point in the travels Neil met a new woman that he married in September 2000.

Thankfully, in 2001 Neil contacted Geddy and Alex and told them that he was ready to get back to work and start writing music again.

In 2002 "Vapor Trails" was released and the boys were back. On July 17, 2002 I saw them play the Molson Ampitheatre in Toronto. I went by myself but I'd be damned if I was going to miss my first RUSH show in over 5 years.

Since moving to New Brunswick I have travelled back to Ontario to see them in concert.

I really wish that they would consider playing somewhere in Atlantic Canada. I have heard that they played here in Fredericton 30 years ago for the "Moving Pictures" tour but they haven't been here for a while.

I note that when we went to see the movie in Moncton there were about 100 people in the theatre. A friend of mine in the US told me that the midnight movie screening in his city was completely sold out and he couldn't get in. That may tell something of the interest out here.

From the time my sons were babies they have listened to RUSH. Many times we were in the car I would have a RUSH CD or cassette playing and they would rock along.

One of the funniest things I remember is playing the cassette "Roll the Bones" when they were 3 or 4 years old and both of them singing "We are young!" when it came up in the song "Dreamline". I can still hear it.

As you probably already know, both boys have taken up music. T with piano and B playing drums.

In fact, B idolizes Neil Peart. He has photos of Neil and his amazing drum kit in his bedroom and regularily practices playing along to RUSH songs. He's doing darn well too!

A friend of mine is on a mailing list for upcoming concerts. Last fall she forwarded me a message that tickets were about to be sold for a show in Montreal on April 20, 2011. This was to be the first time that RUSH has played east of Ontario since we had moved to New Brunswick in 2003.

I didn't need to think about it very long. We were going. All of us. Myself, Cheryl and the boys. I decided that it was time the boys went to see their first big rock show.

The significance of the show's date didn't immediately strike me but it was taking place just a couple of days after the boys' 13th birthdays.

As luck would have it the grand opening of the new N.B. Liquor store was going to be on April 21, the day after the concert. There was no way we could make it back in time but as I said before RUSH was the priority.

I wish that I could have been there but Mayor Brad Woodside gave me a "shout-out" at the ceremony. What a great guy he is.
Charles took a great video of Brad and the "shout-out". Have a look.


I called the Bell Centre in Montreal before we left and found out that it was okay for me to take my camera into the show as long as it wasn't a professional camera with a zoom lens. Excellent.
I took several videos. Here is a link to one that I posted on YouTube.


Even though my camera isn't a professional one by any means I think it did pretty well.
Here are a few of my photos.

That last one was taken at a really nice restaurant named Baton Rouge across from the Bell Centre. We went there for dinner before heading to the show.

There we were with our boys who had just become teenagers about to go to their first big rock concert. Wow.

There is something very cool about that photo and what the boys are wearing.
T is wearing my t-shirt that I bought at the Triumph - Allied Forces 1981 tour show.
B is wearing my RUSH - Moving Pictures 1981 tour t-shirt.
I bought those 30 years ago.

I have seen RUSH in concert more times than I can remember but I think I can honestly say that this show was the best I have ever seen them play.

They played for more than 3 hours with a short intermission in the middle.

An interesting note is that to commemorate the 30th anniversary of "Moving Pictures" album, RUSH played the album in its entirety in the second half of the show.
How's THAT for a coincidence?

For their last song they played "Working Man" from their first album.
We watched in amazement as Neil crashed away, Geddy slapped the bass like a maniac and Alex played his guitar so fast we couldn't keep up with his fingers.
After already playing for more than 3 hours they looked like they were ready to go for 3 more!

We all loved it. The boys had their best birthday trip ever and I got to see RUSH in concert again.

By the way, guess what RUSH has named their current tour?

The Time Machine Tour.

What a cool coincidence. :)

Stay well,


Jess said...

Well hello fellow Rush fan!! I too have seen the Time Machine tour...as well as one show of Snakes and Arrows! I followed the Time Machine tour the last two shows they did here (Tampa and West Palm Beach) before heading down to South America. I was VERY happy to hear they tacked on some more tour dates for North America!

I too have read Neil's books and have his new one ordered!

Nice to meet another Rush fan!!

My Rush blog from last year: http://this-life-is-mine.blogspot.com/2010/10/like-tom-sawyer-we-caravaned.html

Deb said...

That's awesome! I remember the first time I started listening to Rush, my ex-boyfriend was a "classic rock" fan. We would sit at the lake house jamming to Rush, Classic Yes, The Steve Miller Band, etc. - and I realized that I was hooked on Rush. This was in 1990 I discovered them, way after you! (runs and hides) But I tell ya, it's the best most intricate and poetic music I have ever come across. Good taste!

I LOVE the last photo! You have such a beautiful family! God bless!!! :)

Tim Scammell, PTech said...

Deb, it is certainly far better to have discovered them later than not at all. :)
Most women don't :D. It's a running gag that women don't enjoy them as much as men. If you watch this listen closely to what RUSH says as they come down the hallway.

Wanderer said...

One of the best books I ever read was Neil's "The Masked Rider" about a bicycle trip through Africa. As he rode, he tried very hard to remain anonymous. (I don't think he was totally successful...)

Anonymous said...

Great post, Tim. Great perspective. I'm also a life-long Rush fan and I make no apologies for it. :) (And I'm a chick - so there are at least three of us out there!)

MItch Devine said...

Yeah, Tim, "Rash Rocks"! I love how Geddy, Alex and even Neil don't take themselves too seriously and really have fun with their live show. I'd seen them back on the Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures, early 80s tours, but I agree that The Time Machine was probably the best yet! And especially since my son was enjoying it with me :)