Hey man, we’ve been friends for a long time. I just want to say, I admire your passion. I really do. Nobody understands the need to really let loose once in a while more than me. But that thing that you do when you’re listening to Rush? It’s not actually drumming.
Don’t get me wrong. I get excited when “YYZ” is on the radio too. It’s so rare to hear instrumental music on classic rock stations, and when the drums kick back in after that keyboard part, it’s transcendent. But then you start doing that thing you do with your arms. I have to say it looks less like the professor, Neil Peart, at the drum kit and more like a drowning octopus.
We’re both middle-aged guys. We each have our own history with Rush. If you’re like me, you probably first heard them in fifth grade. Maybe you were struck by the sound of that voice. Maybe it was the Atari-era keyboards on “Tom Sawyer” that hooked you. I’m sure you were blown away by Alex Lifeson shredding that guitar and of course, those drums. And like me, you must have liked the band enough that even after you saw a picture of them on the inside cover of 2112 looking like outcasts from Rivendell, you still thought they were the coolest. But there is one key difference in our Rush experience: When I finally tracked down a VHS copy of Exit… Stage Left from the Albertson’s three suburbs over, I didn’t watch Neil Peart playing drums and think, “I know! I’m going to show my appreciation for this by flailing my arms around like I’m Charlie Chaplin in that scene where he can’t keep up on the assembly line and the guy next to him smashes his hand with an anvil.”
I’ll admit, as I got a little older, I was embarrassed by Rush. The ’90s happened, and being good at playing your instruments wasn’t cool anymore. Rush didn’t do themselves any favors with that fusion-y album or the follow-up one with the rapping skeleton either. Also, I started reading more and suddenly that song about the different trees fighting each other over who got more sunlight until they all became equal after getting cut down by deforestation no longer seemed like the most poignant political statement of our time. It didn’t help that more and more dudes were walking around acting like a mime trapped inside a box while having a seizure whenever Rush would come on the radio.
It’s funny, but I got back into Rush earnestly by listening to them ironically. Hey, remember this dumb band I used to worship? With the elfin singer, the pseudo-sci-fi, and the problematic Ayn Rand-inspired lyrics? Wouldn’t it be hilarious if I pretended to rock out to “Spirit of the Radio”? Oh, wait a minute. I really am rocking out because this song kicks ass, even if it’s a little sillier than I remember. Or maybe because of that? But those drums. They sound great! Not like you would need to turn into an imitation of an entire mariachi band being electrocuted to replicate the sound, but still, they sound really, really good.
Anyway, your love of Rush might be less complicated than mine. If you need to wave your arms around like a magician that somehow lost a rabbit up his sleeves, enjoy yourself. I love how much you love Rush. I’ll even go so far as to admit that your fandom is purer than mine. So, even if it means thrashing your arms around like you accidentally put on a shirt riddled with hornets, that’s cool. It’s just, you know you’re not actually drumming, right?