Gateway Acts: How a Rush to judgment ultimately led to more affecting music

Gateway Acts is a new ongoing series on Backbeat in which we examine the music that served as an entry point for our burgeoning musical obsessions, a gateway drug that tuned us in and turned us on. Today, Noah Hubbell gives us the goods on a Rush to judgment that he made early on.

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Aaron Thackeray
Okay, hands up: Who here loves Rush? (Spoiler alert: It's this guy.)
I grew up in a house of somewhat traditional music, where I was exposed to everything from jazz to classic rock to soul. It provided a great background for me, but for the most part, the impetus was on the importance of instrumental or vocal talent. My father was, and still is, a fanatical guitar player. I cannot remember an extended period where he wasn't practicing. In fact, he practices more at playing guitar than I've ever seen anybody practice anything. Wanting to someday be able to play an instrument like my father, I began drumming when I was twelve, and it was then that I realized how much work it takes to be a great player.

See also:
- Gateway Acts: How Beck opened up a whole new world to an evangelical boy
- Ten essential gangsta-rap albums
- Review: Rush levels Red Rocks with three hours of power and precision

So it isn't surprising to me, in retrospect, that I didn't especially enjoy artists that I was told were among the best of all time, acts like Bob Dylan, the Clash or even the Beatles. They didn't play their instruments especially well (some people still say Ringo Starr is one of the better drummers ever, which I didn't and still don't recognize). They didn't sing especially well. In fact, if you take away their lyrics and songwriting ability, they wouldn't be all that great at all. Not only did I not especially like those bands, but I resented them for being so successful with talent that I didn't understand.

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Aaron Thackeray
Neil Peart in the midst of doling out immaculate multi-timed and syncopated rhythms.

There was one band, though, that, as far as technical skill was concerned, blew all of those so-called amazing bands away: Rush. Neil Peart constructed immaculate multi-timed and syncopated rhythms that laid the foundation for such complex music. Alex Lifeson ripped solos that alternated seamlessly from incredible speed to powerful deliberateness. Geddy Lee had the power of Matt Freeman, the precision of Flea and the voice of an angel that had not yet hit puberty (maybe another reason I could relate to them).

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Aaron Thackeray
Alex Lifeson, seen here ripping solos that alternate seamlessly from incredible speed to powerful deliberateness.

As any true Rush fan will tell you, Rush is the greatest band of all time, a claim that I will still defend furiously when in a particularly nostalgic mood. To some, Rush may come across as unfeeling and robotic, but to me, people that could play as well as robots were incredibly impressive. Plus, they had lyrics that I could understand and were interesting to me. When you're a teenager and you want to be an awesome musician, "Limelight" makes a lot more sense than "Nowhere Man." Songs like "Red Barchetta" showed that you could capture the spirit of a short story in a traditionally formed song, and, as a writer, that appealed a lot to me, as well.


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