Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Rush R40 Countdown at No. 5: Power Windows and Roll the Bones transport us to special times, places

We're moving into the top quarter of our R40 Countdown and the epic Rush concert in Chicago is getting closer! Both Will and I are recalling how a particular Rush release instantly transports us to a special time and place.

No. 5 Power Windows
Released 1985

Highlights: “Grand Designs,” “Emotion Detector.”

Relatively least-glorious moment: “Territories.”

Cool Neil Peart lyrical moment:

“Like a righteous inspiration
Overlooked in haste
Like a teardrop in the ocean
A diamond in the waste
Some world-views are spacious –
And some are merely spaced”
--- Grand Designs

Power Windows always will bring back memories of my days at University of Missouri.

Going to school halfway across the country forced a great disruption in my music-listening habits. I flew back and forth to Columbia, meaning my extensive record collection wasn’t coming with me. 

I had a modest boom box with a cassette player, so I made greatest hits mix tapes of my favorite bands and brought the essential tapes of Twisted Sister concerts that were broadcast on the radio.
The sparsely decorated Room 4, Cramer Hall.
And speaking of radio, I was separated from the New York radio stations that made for the soundtrack for my daily routines, replaced with strangers with call letters starting with a "K."

We’re talking about a major cultural adjustment here. And that’s not even counting being surrounded by Cardinals fans at a time when the Mets were the team’s main rivals.

So, I learned about the Cardinals and the amazing Arch in St. Louis. I discovered culinary adventures like corn dogs and biscuits and gravy.  And I learned about new and different music, like Purple Rain-era Prince and the Pretenders.

I liked these new things – even some of the Prince stuff -- but never let go of my roots.
And Rush, of course, was one of the things I wasn’t letting go of. The dorm room had a Moving Pictures poster along with the New York skyline and Mets posters.

So Power Windows will forever remind me of an important time.

Playing the CD recently, I was struck that the keyboards certainly harken back to the 1980s – and I like 1980s music – but is still sounds fresh. These are good songs. There’s no denying the synths are there, but they augment instead of overwhelm.

And the band seems to like Power Windows, too, considering that all but one of the songs has been played live and a number of them are played often.

There was much rejoicing when I discovered “Grand Designs” – my fave cut – was dusted off for the last tour, which makes me hopeful that “Emotion Detector” – my second favorite – will finally get the concert airing it deserves.
"Grand Designs" is awesome live!

Since its Rush, we’re dealing with some big topics and the album’s theme is the use of power in its many manifestations, from the dawn of the atomic age to wielding financial clout.

Top to bottom, there’s not a bad song on the album. “Territories” was listed above as the least glorious moment, but it’s still a very good song.

I’m sure the album also benefits from coming out in the cassette era where each song was listened to and studied intently.  I know them all well.

So when “Big Money” or “Mystic Rhythms” come over the speakers, I’m instantly transported back to walking around campus with my Walkman.

And Will jumps in:

No. 5: Roll the Bones
Released 1991

Roll the Bones was released at a time when my Rush rediscovery was at a peak, and like with Dave and Power Windows, it definitely takes me back to a specific time--late 1991 to early 1992, when I saw Rush live three times. It was a time of baseball cards, baseball card columns, sports at the Flint Journal and when I made what at the time was a shocking discovery.

Unlike Dave, I grew up in a mid-market metroplex, and I couldn't wait to leave. Columbus in my youth was a city that rolled up the sidewalk at 5--even though it was a state capitol and had a major university at its hub. I wasn't an Ohio State fan, not like everyone else, and sometime just as I was entering my teens, OSU stopped holding concerts at St. John Arena, so no one who was big and current came to Columbus.
Unlike my friends, who all went to OSU, I went away to college. I was free. I discovered Chicago and wanted to live there at some point, but life got in the way, so I found myself in Flint, but I'd met Dave by this time and we were like a couple of 10-year-olds whose moms had given them the green light to ride their bikes to the pharmacy ... just so long as you're home by dinner!
I was loving working in sports; it was a good time, but ... I felt this longing, a longing that Rush was able to articulate all too well. I mean, "Dreamline," like "Subdivisions" a decade earlier, seemed to be written entirely for my benefit. Then there was "Bravado" and "Neurotica" and "Ghost of a Chance." All of these great songs were hitting me just at the right time.

In the fall of 1991, just after I saw Rush twice in the span of a week--once with Dave at the Palace, once in Cleveland with my father--I went home to Columbus for a number of reasons. Once was one of my best high-school friend's wedding. The next was for a vacation. I'd decided I didn't want to take another solo vacation, so what to do? Just go home and hang out with my old friends.

It was an eye-opening experience. Now that was an adult, well, of adult age, I found that Columbus held charms that hadn't been fully appreciated--mostly a far larger pool of prospective women than Flint could ever afford ... unless, of course, I wanted to grab one off the pole.

Columbus also had changed a bit since I'd been there. In the time since I'd been gone, it had turned into something of a burgeoning culinary town. German Village was thriving. And I had a big circle of friends there. I remember sitting at the table during a poker party thinking, you know ... I could move back here.
Like I said, that was a shocking development for someone who a decade earlier couldn't wait to get out and never look back. Things change. I began to make it my goal to get a job at the Columbus newspaper--a goal that eventually was achieved.
Becoming an OSU fan again? Well, that would take a little longer.

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