RUSH: 1. Fly by Night (studio album #2)

[Note: this is a mirror of a previously posted article on my old blog, so I can keep this series together on the same blog.]

Mourning the death of a celebrity artist you’ve never actually met is a weird thing, isn’t it? But we connect with the art we enjoy, sometimes deeply. Maybe it’s not really as weird as all that.

The music of Rush has been part of the shape of my life since … 10th grade? … when my friend Cindy sat me down and told me I had to hear this album! And set the needle down at the beginning of 2112. Over the many years, sometimes their music has resonated, sometimes it hasn’t, but their changing music has been part of changing me for all of these many years.

Rush wouldn’t be Rush without all three of its members – Geddy Lee on vocals, bass, and keyboard; Alex Lifeson on guitar; and Neil Peart on percussion and writing the lyrics. Although all three contributed collaboratively to the interesting rhythms and sounds of their music through the years, the words are often the heart of the music. Or maybe they’re the mind, to complement the music’s heart. In any case, with the loss of Peart, we have lost Rush.

I’m going on a journey. I’m listening to all of Rush’s albums in chronological order, starting with the first album Neil Peart was part of, Fly By Night. These posts may not be complete. I’m not aiming to be a professional-sounding critic, and I don’t know enough about music to do that if I wanted to. I may go down some rabbit holes and find some interesting-to-me information behind these works, and these bits and pieces may not be news to people who are bigger Rush fans than me, or even to people who are less of a fan. I may not even post much, or anything, about every album. Basically, this journey and these blog posts are me processing my grief over the loss of Neil Peart, and the loss of Rush. You’re welcome to come along with me if you like.

I’m also reading Neil Peart’s book “Ghost Rider” on Carolyn’s recommendation. It’s been sitting in my TBR bookcase (yes, bookCASE, leave me alone) pretty much since I learned it existed. I may have something to say about it when I’m done.

Fly by Night. Ah, this album is an old friend. I don’t think this was the first album I purchased as a teen, but it was in that earliest batch, and it got a lot of play time in my car and on my stereo. This was Rush’s second studio album, and the first to feature Peart on percussion. Peart also wrote the lyrics to all but two of the songs. Also, can I say? Gorgeous owl.

“Anthem” has always been fun to listen to musically, but the lyrics are kinda depressing. Which isn’t unusual for something based on the work of Ayn Rand.

“Best I Can” was one of the two songs on the album written before Peart joined the band. It’s also mostly just a fun one to listen to, though some bits of the lyrics do resonate. Got my sights on the stars, won’t get that far but I’ll try anyway; hate fool small talk; I do the best that I can, I just do what I am. Mostly though it seems to be about them having a blast playing their music, and that’s fun too.

“Beneath, Between & Behind” might be a brilliant song full of amazing insights, but I’ll never know, because I’ve never been able to understand most of what Lee’s singing in this one! This cassette must not have come with lyrics in the liner notes, because when I was listening to this album a lot, high school was boring and easy and I had loads of time for things like memorizing Rush lyrics from the liners of the cassettes. I’m sure I could find the lyrics online now, but I think at this point I prefer the mystery!

“By-Tor and the Snow Dog.” Well… I’ve listened to this one many times, but mostly because I was too lazy or otherwise occupied to get up and switch the tape to the other side. It sounds a little less silly listening to it now, but it’s still pretty ridiculous. And damned if they don’t sound like they’re having a lot of fun doing it! Now I read that this song is an in-joke, based on their manager’s dogs (named Biter and Snow Dog), and that the basis of the song was construed while they were high. And now this song makes SO MUCH MORE SENSE! I think I hear, musically, some seeds of later songs I really love. I hear a bit of Farewell to Kings here. There, a bit of Xanadu? And something else, but it escapes me.

“Fly by Night” has always been a great song to blare and sing along with when making a significant life change. Especially if that life change involves driving away in your car. I’m pretty sure this is the only song from this album that got any air play on the rock stations here in Houston. So of course it’s an old fave, and those opening chords always make me smile.

“Making Memories” is kindof calming to listen to. And it’s also a nice little window into an afternoon with a band that’s on the road a ton.

“Rivendell” …. Hm. So, I was going to say that I didn’t really care for this song because I didn’t know the whole LotR story yet. I’d tried to read it at least once by this time in my life, but never got more than about 50 pages into it. And I hadn’t found The Silmarillion yet. But listening to it again in the car just now, I think I might have really dug this song if it were just the vocals and the acoustic guitar. Whatever that high pitched other thing is in there really grates on my nerves. Too bad! This is one of those songs that made me really happy once I eventually got a cassette player that was smart enough to skip just one track on fast-forward.

“In the End” is the other song that was written before Peart. When I was young, this song was full of WTF and was a little perplexing. Lo and behold, it does a pretty decent job describing one aspect of a previous marriage. Only without the word switch in the last line. And there were no smiles, in the end.

Overall, this album was never my favorite, but there have been times when I listened to it quite a lot. Geddy and Alex, I’m really glad you auditioned and chose this replacement drummer for your band. Nothing was ever the same again, right?

Goodbye, Neil.

If you’re still reading this post, Hi! What did this album, or its individual songs, mean to you?


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