There was a time when my brothers and I, young adults all, happened to find ourselves living under the same roof in Tyler, Texas. Looking back, I feel deeply for our parents, who likely had starting ticking off the number of days until the nest would be returned to its long-ago, pre-kids state.
I had graduated college, Brother Tom had begun his trucking career and Brother Jeff was just out of high school. I think. Let’s put 1979 on this timestamp. In any case, we three sibs were rowdy and loud and very much into rock ’n’ roll. Again, my poor parents.
I was thrown back to those days upon hearing the news that Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart had joined the all-star band in the cosmos. I love Rush. That puts me, as a woman, in the vast minority. Much as the majority of fans of the Three Stooges (who I find hilarious) are men, so it goes with music that veers into progressive rock (prog) territory. I am that girl — a lonely E in a sea of T. Fine by me.
Our house in Tyler was the grandest home we ever lived in growing up. It was a spacious U-shaped house, cupped around a backyard with a stand of pines, a swimming pool and a lovely patio shaded by an overhead trellis thick with wisteria to hold back some of the Texas heat.
The part of the U closest to the driveway was accessed through the garage and entered into what was the domain of the three terrorists living in our parent’s respectable home. The rec room (wreck room) was home to the television, stereo and albums, Mom’s piano, a large faux fur sectional, and a repurposed antique coffee table, made all the sturdier and impervious to our shenanigans for its slate top. This room is where we spun records, drank copious amounts of ice cold beer and generally acted our ages. Brother Jeff’s friends (Mr. Barnes and Mr. Holmes) were frequent guests.
It was in this room that my brothers’ and my tastes in music blended, always at top volume. This is the room where Rush and UFO and the Scorpions and ZZ Top and Black Sabbath became a part of my musical vocabulary. I gave my brothers Little Feat and The Boss and the Allman Brothers and The Cars. Our lingua franca was writ loud. It is still family legend, that, one night, despite blocking the ceiling vents with cushions, our exuberant partying awoke Dad (a near-impossible feat), who suddenly appeared at the door to our den, clad only in his boxers, his hair standing every which way, saying not a word, but pointing emphatically with his thumb in a series of downward jabs. We complied, also without a word.
One Thanksgiving found us all at home all day. No one had to work and as was our youthful wont, beers began early in the day. Rush’s album “2112” was only three years old, and Brother Tom was obsessed with it. It wasn’t long before we all were. It’s astounding and sci-fi trippy and powerful and musically genius. Mom, up to her neck in preparing the Thanksgiving feast, called on us for the occasional errand or extra pair of hands, but for the most part, was probably happy to have us out from underfoot, ensconced in our Den of Loud. “2112” thundered nearly continuously most of that day.
What I love about Rush, and prog-rock music in general, is the compositional kinship it has with classical music. Many songs have movements and thematic echoes throughout an album. The brilliant musician, composer and producer, Steven Wilson’s solo work is like that, too. It’s imperative to listen to his albums, each in its entirety, as they were written and intended. Things like “classical music greatest hits” compilations make me nuts. Those pieces are part of a whole and incomplete when parceled out for easy digestion.
In popular music, melody and hooks are attractive, and Rush has no end to inventive songs that, despite their obvious complexities, wend their way into one’s psyche. And so it was on this raucous holiday feast day (my family is nothing if not raucous), that my mother, though separated in the kitchen from the den by two doors and the laundry area, could hear our repeated spins of “2112.” A glass of red at her elbow as she prepared turkey and all the trimmings, I came into the kitchen at one point to find her humming a catchy line from “Overture/Temples of Syrinx.” “We are the priests of the temples of Syrinx,” she hummed right in tune with Geddy Lee’s sky-high vocals. I took note and reported back to the denizens of the Den.
Brother Tom, in particular, considered that something of a victory, given the numerous noise complaints that had emanated from the residents of the house’s master bedroom. “See?” he hollered. “It’s good music! Even Mom thinks so!” On a Thanksgiving afternoon, I’m sure my folks found it somewhat more tolerable than, say, at 1:30 a.m.
And now Rush’s incredible drummer has gone to glory and with his passing, I went right back to that Thanksgiving on Riding Road. The meal was amazing and we reveled in the happy chaos of being together as a family.
Dear friends just sent us their end-of-year letter, a literary occasion the Dearly Beloved and I eagerly anticipate each early January. In it, Mr. K wrote about having seen Ken Burn’s “Country Music” documentary and how the history of the genre was woven into he and Mrs. K’s own life and memories. “Music ties us to every decade, every moment if you revel in music the way (we) have,” he wrote.
My brothers and I do indeed revel in music and with our lives, each unspooling as they will, the thread of music is a constant. When Peart died, we exchanged texts and shared tasty Rush tracks on our Facebook pages. I’m pretty sure that — like me — that Thanksgiving of "2112" in the U-shaped house came to my brothers’ minds.
“And the meek shall inherit the Earth.”