Passionate Geeks: I Can’t Stop Thinking Big! The Music of Rush

Background Artwork by Rose B. Fischer

This month’s Passionate Geek is David from Comparative Geeks!

David is a Librarian, which is either cause or effect of him being a nerd and a geek as well. He is also a writer, a gamer, and a science fiction thinker. He and his wife Holly run the blog Comparative Geeks, where you can get multiple perspectives on Geekdom. You can find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ComparativeGeeks and find David on Twitter @CompGeeksDavid. Holly and David live in Juneau, Alaska with their Geek Baby, and two cats who like to try to write the blog posts by sitting all over the keyboard.

“The caravan thunders onward
To the distant dream of the city!
The caravan carries me onward
On my way at last, on my way at last!…
In a world where I feel so small
I can’t stop thinking big!”

That’s where things start on the album Clockwork Angels, the latest from the band Rush. There’s a lot of directions I could go with that: I could tell you about Clockwork Angels, an amazing concept album which was also turned into an amazing utopian/dystopian YA novel; I could tell you about Rush, who just finished up their 40th anniversary tour, during which I got to see them live; or I could talk about the wide-eyed optimism and wonder encapsulated by the line itself, the sort of thinking that keeps me coming back to Rush time and again.

Yeah, let’s talk about all of those things.

I want to start with Clockwork Angels just because I think it seriously needs some promotion. I really think that the novel would be a really interesting and thought-provoking read for a teen. Somewhere around that age when you’re reading dystopian novels and find one (or more) you fall in love with – 1984, Atlas Shrugged, Brave New World, The Hunger Games… But the problem is, I feel like the audience for this novel is Rush fans which, for a band 40 years strong, is probably a much older group. So tell your friends, tell your teens: Clockwork Angels. It doesn’t go where the usual utopian/dystopian novel goes. Plus there’s an album to keep you coming back to the ideas.

clockwork-angels-album

Clockwork Angels was a return, for Rush, to some of their earlier, fantasy/science fiction/mythology-influenced work. While they had not done a full concept album before, they had done many long story-based songs, like 2112 and Cygnus X-1 (which is so epic that it spans two albums: one ends on a cliffhanger!). It’s not even their first dystopia, as 2112 is a whole dystopian society and novel, really, in 20 minutes. But anyway, a return to their roots.

For their 40th anniversary tour, Rush worked their way through their history backwards – so they opened with songs from Clockwork Angels, and far later in the concert got to end with the long-time favorites. In-between, they showcased a number of songs that had only rarely been heard in concert. Which was great, I’m sure, for a whole lot of the fans there – half of everyone seemed to have a Rush t-shirt on, from an earlier tour. I of course had to get my own… It was my first Rush concert, however, so I was a little sad that some of the greatest hits didn’t make the cut, but you can’t fit everything!

And it’s not so bad, because Rush has some pretty great recorded concert albums, and I have quite a few of those! I would especially recommend Rush in Rio.

With all that they missed, though, they did a great job hitting a lot of their early work, playing some of Cygnus X-1 only to pause it midway for a 5-10 minute drum solo. Playing all of Xanadu. Making the Rush geek in me so happy. Because for me, it’s their fantasy work, their fictional storytelling in a song, that I love so very much.

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-From Rolling Stone #1238, July 2, 2015

So seeing Rush on the cover of Rolling Stone, I had to check out the article! I was fascinated by this quote, and hope I can use it to bring all my thoughts together here. Over the years, Rush has tackled a lot of big topics – and they’ve done so most successfully through allegory, through myth and fantasy, through telling a story. As a writer, I look to Rush and think that if stories with that much meaning can be created in a song, surely they can absolutely be told in say a comic, a short story, or a full novel!

That means for me, Clockwork Angels is fascinating because it really is a novel made from a Rush album, written in part by Neil Peart who wrote the lyrics. To know that the somewhat abstract phrasing in the songs can be fleshed out and told, from multiple angles, over the course of a novel. It’s dream made reality. It’s good stuff.

And so when the chance arose to finally catch Rush in concert, I had to go. And I wasn’t disappointed. I got my love of Rush from my dad, a fan from early on. One of my earliest memories – a song – I only recently found out was a Rush song, when I discovered it again. I’m a Rush fan, and they are a geeky band and I love it. They tell stories in song and I love it.


Passionate Geeks is a monthly feature (the second Monday of the month), where I invite people to explore and share about those things that they are passionate about.
What kind of a Geek are you? If you are interested in sharing your answer to that question as part of this feature contact me!

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