Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rush to Judgment: "Fly by Night" (1974)

This is the first Rush song I ever heard. I think I turned 12 when my dad gave me a Radio Shack tape recorder, before anyone in my household even thought about the efficiency or practicality of a tape deck. With that tape recorder, I made incredibly low-fi recordings of the radio: I would place the recorder on the floor with the stereo headphones close to the built-in mic, turn up the volume, and record KLOS (local L.A. rock station, now defunct) or KROQ (circa 1980, still gasping and wheezing with life in 2009). I remember recording Rush's "Fly by Night" that way, on the same cassette that included the Ramones' "Beat on the Brat" and Brian Eno's "America is Waiting."

I listened to that tape over and over again, the same as I would do over the next couple of years, using the same headphone-duping "technology," with Rodney on the ROQ. I thought Rush's song ruled, perhaps even more so than the Ramones. I didn't differentiate at that age between "punk" or "prog" or "new wave" or "rock." Whatever sounded good to me was fine. Thinking back on it, that probably explains a lot of my musical taste today.

So, here is a clip of Rush circa '74 playing that song. Mentioning Rush in casual conversation about rock can conjure up a chortle or two, as if saying "Rush" is shorthand for "over-the-top nonsense." Well, songs like "The Trees" certainly give them that reputation. But seriously, "Fly by Night" is a great song. In 3 minutes and 19 seconds or so, Rush had melody, swing, punch, Rickenbacker bass grittiness, and, of course, chops galore. They didn't overdo anything here.

So I will go on record right now as a Rush enthusiast. They had several great songs and albums, up to and including 1981's Moving Pictures (a masterpiece). Hell, even some of their synth-washed 80s stuff is fairly decent, though I don't choose to listen to it. "Fly by Night" is 180 degrees from this, but I love it just the same. When I heard the Sun City Girls' cover of this song on the great Midnight Cowboys From Ipanema, I took it as sincere and liked it, whatever the Bishop brothers may have actually intended. It works for me.


Fuzz said...

Why try?

Fuzz said...

Alex is rather swishy/glammy looking in this video - "/me likes"!!!

i've always called rush one of my closet bands - but i should just embrace the fact that I respect them and think that the joke has always been on the audience - I can think of quite a number of other bands that just don't get it - rush never seemed to really take themsleves too serious - rock and roll is rock and roll