It was September 1999. I was into my second year of graduate school at UMass Amherst. My to-be wife and I had just moved to a new neighborhood nearer to town. My movie star-looking, bass-playing school-mate Jan Z was over for dinner. My wife’s gay co-worker Lenny from the frame shop she worked at was also over. We had fun making pizza from scratch, drinking wine and getting ready for a trek across the Connecticut River to Gayest Northampton for some Karaoke at the VFW hall. View all photos
In 1999, when my wife and I…whoops…we weren’t married yet…when my girlfriend and I were in couples therapy to work out some shit we were having at the time, our therapist said “Political compatibility is very important in a relationship”, by which he meant not voting alignment but political and social philosophy. This was in Amherst, Massachusetts – sensitive, PC, stinky, granola country. Our therapist used as an example that he would be horrified and let down if one of his sons voted republican after he had brought the family up liberal. Thankfully, politics-wise my girlfriend…whoops…I mean my wife (we married in 2001) and I are more or less compatible. View all photos
Some people call Dream Theater – the long-running musician’s experiment of a band – “Rush on Meth”:
- James LaBrie’s high wail = Geddy Lee’s medium-wail
- John Petrucci’s by-the-book shred guitar = Alex Lifeson’s 1970s proto-shred guitar
- Mike Portnoy’s mecha-metronomic drum style = Neal Peart’s ass-wipings on a bad day (tee-hee!)
My closest encounter with King Crimson before a few years ago was a Howard Stern bit that aired in 2000, pitting his motley pickup band The Losers against a non-music celebrity band. The bit was all about mocking actors and athletes who thought that they could pivot to a successful music career just on the strength of their non-music successes. Tina Yothers (remember her?) competed against Howard and The Losers in a Battle of the Bands performing a tortured but rocking version of In the Court of the Crimson King. The record label judges in the studio voted for Howard, surprise… View all photos
Experimental rock – aka “avant garde” – is the lowly, deformed, bastard child of classic rock & roll music. She was sired in the turbulent and decadent 1960s, producing offspring of her own by the names of Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Sun Ra, John Cale, The Residents, and several others. She even temporarily adopted a few major label pop acts of the 60s like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Pink Floyd.
The most common thread in experimental rock musicians is an eagerness to “wank it”, musically speaking. For example: View all photos
Making a “best of” list of anything inevitably annoys and offends some. Its a personal thing.
But I feel I’m uniquely qualified to do a top ten best Rush Songs list because, unlike many Rush fans, I am a fan of all eras in the band’s career:
- The early Led Zeppelin/Who sound-a-like days of the mid 70s
- The outrageous prog masterpieces of the late 70s
- The “classical” period of the early 80s
- The synth cheese era of the late 80s
- The return to muscle and metal in the 90s and beyond
Here’s my list of the 20 best Rush Songs, in order: View all photos
From their debut album Outlandos d’Amour, one of my top 5 favorite songs by The Police is Born in the 50s. View all photos
Frank Zappa’s guitar tone was a weird phenomenon: crunchy but never over-distorted, mid-range heavy but capable of sweet highs in his solos, extended dynamic range that allowed him to move from a whisper to a screech with a simple flick of a tone control.
I’ve always been one of those “composer” Zappa fans – music geeks who digs Zappa for his songwriting and compositional gifts. I know he ranks as a very good guitarist – and was probably astonishing in his day, compared to his 1960s and 70s contemporaries. But with so many uncannily fast and artistic guitarists to come around since him (e.g. Alan Holdsworth, Eddie Van Halen), his Guitar God status has always struck me as a bit unearned. Especially compared to his absolute one-of-a-kind ability as a composer in many genres. View all photos
When I wrote last week about Rush and one of my favorite songs of theirs – Presto – I went on a google spelunk on the topic, as well as a spin down memory lane on youtube watching old concert footage. It was a trip to think back to 1989/90 when I first got serious about music, and Rush was the perfect “gentle” prod into more adventurous music. Learning to understand and dig their slightly more complex song structures – and definitely their virtuosity – whetted my appetite for even more adventurous jazz and experimental music, which I dove into in college and graduate school.
Presto – Rush’s 13th studio album – was the first album they released after I became a fan when I was 14, in 1988. I remember it was released right before Christmas 1989. I bought it the morning that my Dad and I were to travel up to Vermont with a friend of his and his son to their ski condo on Okemo mountain. I persuaded the adults to pop the cassette in the player, to eat up the first hour of that 3 hour car ride. I remember how, by the time the player turned over Side B and was about to start the entire album over again, Rich (Dad’s friend) said in a mildly annoyed tone “Can we give it a rest now?” Rush is not for everyone… View all photos