Saturday, January 25, 2014

My Two Favorite Rush Songs


 I've been a Rush fan since 1984.  The combination of keyboards, drums, guitar, and bass were so balanced and complimentary I was transfixed at age 14 and ever have been.  These are my two absolute most favorite songs and haven't faltered since I was 15.  Both have similar themes.

Middletown Dreams from the 1985 album Power Windows is a song about desperation of those who live in suburbia and have boring lives, yet yearn for more.  It was a B-side and never a single, though it's played occasionally live in concert as recently as last year.  Neil Peart, the drummer and lyricist admits it's not a song of sadness, but of hope.  He believes they will aspire enough to leave their small little town.  It called to me when I was 15, and I knew it was my destiny to move on from the little town of Methuen, Massachusetts to greater things, and I did.


"Middletown Dreams"

The office door closed early, the hidden bottle came out.
The salesman turned to close the blinds; little slow now, a little stout.
But he's still heading down those tracks, any day now for sure.
Another day as drab as today is more than a man can endure.

Dreams flow across the Heartland, feeding on the fires.
Dreams transport desires; drive you when you're down.
Dreams transport the ones who need to get out of town.

The boy walks with his best friend through the fields of early May.
They walk awhile in silence, one close, one far away.
But he'd be climbing on that bus, just him and his guitar.
To blaze across the heavens like a brilliant shooting star.

The middle aged Madonna calls her neighbor on the phone.
Day by day the seasons pass and leave her life alone.
But she'll go walking out that door on some bright afternoon
To go and paint big cities from a lonely attic room.

It's understood by every single person who'd be elsewhere if they could.
So far so good, and life's not unpleasant in their little neighborhood.


They dream in Middletown.

A little light symbolism with "early May" meaning a young adult by calendar means.  Late spring in life.  I used to think the boy's best friend was his guitar, which was close to him, but his "dreams" made him seem far away.  The crescendo chorus with strings was very poignant to me back then and grabs the attention, and it ends on a weird chord.  Am7 I think.  Weird to me anyway.  It leaves you thinking that it's not quite the end, there's something more afterwards, that their dreams are not the end of it all.  I love this song for its arrangement, chord choice structure, lyrics, basswork drums, everything.  It's pretty much a perfect rock song, including the initial frustrated guitar solo yielding to a fading dream-like soaring.  Serendipitous or not, it's brilliant in every way.  A perfect song by this bard.

The Analog Kid came earlier in 1982 off their very-popular-in-the-Midwest album, Signals as the second track after the impressive Subdivisions first song which is very heavily saturated in keyboards as was many progressive rock songs of the late '70s and early '80s.  Rush got a lot of heat for changing up so quickly after their hugely successful multi-platinum album, Moving Pictures a year earlier.  Rush toured the United States' Midwest very thickly and the entire album got a LOT of airplay there in 1982 and 1983.  Anyone in their 30's or 40's can attest to that, and most anyone from there will know the entire album by-heart from FM-radio brain-washing dominance.  The Analog Kid was the only real "rocker" (arguably) on the album with almost no keyboards except for the dream-sequence chorus portions.  Again, a song about a youth longing to find something else; to move on.  A bit of possible symbolism here and there, the guitar solo is one of the most frustration-emulating solos I've ever heard, full of impatient youth and nervous energy depicted by the character portrait. 


"The Analog Kid"

A hot and windy August afternoon has the trees in constant motion.
With a flash of silver leaves as they're rocking in the breeze.

The boy lies in the grass with one blade stuck between his teeth.
A vague sensation quickens in his young and restless heart,
And a bright and nameless vision has him longing to depart.

You move me, you move me
With your buildings and your eyes,
Autumn woods and winter skies.
You move me, you move me.
Open sea and city lights,
Busy streets and dizzy heights.
You call me, you call me.

The fawn-eyed girl with sun-browned legs dances on the edge of his dream.
And her voice rings in his ears like the Music of the Spheres.

The boy lies in the grass, unmoving, staring at the sky.
His mother starts to call him as a hawk goes soaring by.
The boy pulls down his baseball cap and covers up his eyes.


Too many hands on my time, too many feelings.
Too many things on my mind.
When I leave I don't know what I'm hoping to find.
When I leave I don't know what I'm leaving behind...

I just love that solo.  August always gave me a restlessness and the image is the same as the boy's, the trees in constant motion, gotta move on, gotta get goin'.  August, for me and many, was right before September when school started in Massachusetts.  Soon the leaves would turn color and die away for the winter.  The image states if you don't do something soon, it'll be too late.  Better move now while there's energy!

The "blade stuck between his teeth" can be a metaphor, or not.  Your choice.  I always thought of Huckleberry Finn in this image with a blade of grass, but it could be a knife.  It suggests while he lies in the grass, the blade is the same, as a farmer boy might do, sucking on it absent mindedly, dreaming.  He feels a "quickening" I'm familiar with, a powerful restlessness here as well.  It seems to me the boy is not in a city, though he dreams of it in the chorus.  It calls to him from afar.  We assume it's not where he is now, lest he just stay put.  I'd say a country boy for sure.

The "fawn-eyed girl" is exotic.  She doesn't exist in his physical world.  These type of women usually live in Caribbean places, or Europe, such as Italy, or Asia.  Not here.  This is apparent.  The "Music of the Spheres" reference is excellent.  Also known as "Musica Universalis" or "Harmony of the Spheres" was something I learned about in high-school at the time.  Identified by Pythagoras and accepted by Plato, it was assumed that certain celestial bodies went around the Earth by way of "spheres".  These would grind and rotate about the earth like a puzzle-box.  The grinding produced music similar to when you rub a wet finger over a glass full of liquid to create a shimmering pitch.  It's far more likely that both suffered from tinnitus, but it's cool anyway.  The fact that it's "ringing in his ears" indicates it won't go away, a distant hum, not unlike tinnitus affliction that calls to him like Sirens from Homer's The Odyssey

His mother calling him, yet he ignores her and purposely blinds himself with a symbol of his individuality (a baseball cap) is an excellent reference to a boy becoming a man, growing up, and listening to his own call.  It happens to every boy (mostly) where they eventually move on.  He chooses to listen to the dream, the future, than safety, his mother, and the past.

I love the last lines.  Doesn't know what he's hoping to find, and doesn't know what he's leaving behind either.  Ah, such is Life!  You don't realize what you have until it's gone, nor can a youngster appreciate it through transcendence.  There isn't enough wisdom in a boy's heart to know he's leaving such good things behind, and though the future, what lies before him if he leaves home is unknown, it's beyond even his wildest dreams and fears.  Despite all the uncertainty, it's assumed he chooses to move on, to embrace Life.
I've understood both these songs on a molecular level.  Choosing what's behind "Door Number 3" instead of the perfectly okay but bland "toaster oven" in the game-show Let's Make a Deal makes a lot of sense to me.  I lived it.  I didn't have much to lose at the time, and I took the "leap of faith" by leaving home and joining the USAF and to lands unknown.  By now I consider myself somewhat "worldly", seeing a both equal shares of good and bad.  What propelled me was that stirring that apparently surprisingly few people have.  It was enough for me to launch myself ahead and take flight, and I like to think I did rather well for myself all things considered.  I certainly missed the things I left in Methuen, and still do sometimes, but the rewards are sweeter still.  Sometimes it confuses me that others don't have that bravery (or stupidity, whichever).  I'm glad I did, and these two songs are my anthem, and always will be.

Please consider listening to the LIVE versions if you're interested.


No comments:

Post a Comment