It was either a TDK-SA 90 or a Maxell XLII (not the XLII-S; we were 'poor' back then). It had a handmade j-card insert, with the song titles hammered out by a typewriter. That tape was with me all summer. During those hot three months after my freshman year in college, I hung around my Aunt Rose's house on Cape Code, brooded (about gawd knows what) and listened to Rush's All The World's A Stage.
That tape was made by my best friend Tyler. We were going through this phase where we were trying to figure out if we actually liked Rush or not. Certainly we loved the loud guitars, slamming drums, and hyperactive bass. But the voice? Ty wasn't so sure. Neither was I. After giving that tape a daily (sometimes twice!) listen for almost all of June through August, the ebb and flow of the songs became internalized. And... I decided that I liked Geddy Lee's high & squeaky voice.
But of course this is about Neil Peart. And drumming. And the strangeness of the passage of time.
But mostly: drumming.
Since the summer of 1980, Rush has produced a host of studio and live records, videos and concert DVDs, all of it anchored by the athletic and masterful drum work of Neil Peart. Peart himself has put out a video collection on drumming (A Work In Progress) and several books, the most amazing of which is Ghost Rider, chronicling Peart's struggle with life after the death of his daughter and wife, both in the same year.
2005 brings the arrival of a new Peart drumming video, Anatomy of a Drum Solo. On this two-disc set, we are treated to a complete deconstruction of the solo performed during the Rush 30th anniversary tour.
Now, maybe this stuff is for drum wonks only, but I found it fascinating. Not just for the crazy amount of technique the man possesses. No, what makes this different is the sheer musicality woven through the solo. Neil is well-versed in the history of music and drops little bits of it into his work, from the earliest tribal rhythms up through modern jazz and rock.
Take modern jazz. Inspired by a solo from Max Roach, Peart starts with a simple waltz-time pattern (count to yourself "1-2-3, 1-2-3") and improvises in various time signatures on top of it. Speaking as a person who manages to play a simple rock shuffle (with the accents on the 1 and the 3 where, as Jerry Garcia used to say, even a white person can find 'em), this stuff seems impossible.