Saturday, 11 January 2020

R.I.P Neil Peart

  I woke up this morning to the news that Neil Peart had succumbed to brain cancer.  This hit me quite hard as I have been a Rush fan for many years now and a particular fan of Neil Peart's amazing drumming and intelligent lyrics.

 Let me try and tell you about it. 

 The year is 1988. 
  I've just hit legal drinking age and I'm standing in the Chains pub, just off Stafford's town square, studying the jukebox.    I'm still a relative beginner when it comes to rock music, having only started getting into Rock & Metal in the last year or so, so when I see the name "Rush" on one of the tracks I am vaguely aware that they're sort-of Heavy Metal, or at least seem to get lumped in with metal a lot.

I decide to give them a try. 
This is the song I heard that very first time I encountered Rush. .  

Rush- Time Stand Still

 I was honestly blown away.  Remember that at the time "Rock" music was full of perms and pop-metal. Bon Jovi and Def Leppard were the kings of the world although if you liked something heavier then there was always Iron Maiden and their breakneck guitars with Guns & Roses and Metallica coming up fast, like angry sharks headed for a hapless surfers.  The point being, this wasn't like anything I was hearing elsewhere. Maybe it wasn't so heavy but the song had an energy of its own, perfectly balanced instruments where everything mattered,  heartfelt lyrics about desperately trying to hold on in a changing world and the interplay between Geddy Lee and guest Aimee Mann.

 After that  every single time I went in the chains I put this song on. I can confirm that it still gives me goosebumps.      

 Not long afterwards I finally got around to buying my first Rush LP.  IIRC, I bought it from Joe's second-hand record stall in the market.  Now Joe was one of Stafford's characters. An Asian dude who loved music and was always happy to see his regulars. Every time I went anywhere near his stall I always ended up wandering away with an armful of stuff after I got carried away.

 Here's the album I bought on gatefold vinyl.  

 Picture sourced from:

...Complete with band pic inside.

  That's Neil Peart in the middle. Note that he's right alongside the guitarist )Alex lifeson) and the vocalist (Geddy Lee) which does kind of show how all three musicians were equally important to the rush sound. 

  I have to admit, I was astonished when I got 2112 home. Not only was the sound different to Time Stand Still but it really did sound like I was listening to a completely different band. This was a lot heavier - probably closer to the Heavy Metal I thought originally expected Rush to be - with the guitars a lot more in evidence  and Geddy Lee's voice a lot higher.

 But once I got used to it, 2112 became one of my favourite records. The epic, side-long sci-fi concept 2112 balanced heavy and soft, mood and thunder in a way nobody else quite matched and on the other side Rush proved that they could do all-out rock, gentle ballads and moody with equal ease.


  Already I was getting used to the idea that Rush were never going to spend their careers repeating the formula that worked.  They are one of the few bands where you can genuinely divide them into Eras without being ridiculous.

 And of course Rush weren't a "Heavy Metal" band. I know this now. If anything, the 70s stuff was a  bridge between heavy blues rock and Prog while later albums where a lot more radio-friendly but never by-the-numbers AOR.  

  The lyrics  changed too, from Sci-fi  to contemplation of the role humanity had in a modern world. The same band that screamed about The Priests Of The Temples Of Syrinx.would them go on to write "Losing it" which may be one of the saddest songs ever about written about getting old and not being able to achieve any more.

  That's entirely down to Neil Peart who wrote practically all the lyrics from the second album onwards. Remember this is when most bands where still singing about girls, monsters and rocking like a hurricane.

  I haven't even mentioned the drumming yet. Holy crap. Neil Peart's drumming is legendary.  There's a reason he's right up there with Bonham and Keith Moon because like them Peart used the drums like a lead instrument. Just listen to the fills and transitions of Tom Sawyer and marvel.

 Listen to YYZ. Listen to his drum solos on the live albums and marvel how Neil Peart structured his solos to tell a story that never outstayed its welcome. Go back and listen to Time Stand Still and hear how he propelled the song along without overpowering it. Listen to Xanadu because it's a fucking awesome song.

  Neil Peart is one of the reasons Rush have always been such an interesting band and he is rightly held in high regard by musicians everywhere.

Hearing that Neil Peart had died made me sad but for damn near 30 years before this, Neil Peart and Rush brought me so much joy.

Neil Peart 1952- 2020

Rest In Peace

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

The Unique Logic Of Pro Wrestling

Disclaimer: I've been a wrestling fan for most of the last 40 years. Just so you know. 

  Professional Wrestling is a unique form of entertainment. Loosely based upon an ancient sport in the same way that a Jumbo is based on a kite, Pro Wrestling is part soap-opera, part morality-play, part stunt-show and these days, part self-aware pastiche of itself.

 This does mean that Wrestling has it's own set of "rules" and tropes that make sense only within context.

Or to put it another way: Stuff happens in pro-Wrestling that only makes sense if you accept that it's wrestling and roll with it.  Here's a few.

1. Employers have no control whatsoever over their employees.
 Most other places one or more employees running riot, refusing to play the game and literally kicking their employers in the balls would be met with a p45 and doubling the security force.  Wrestling? Nope.
  In what will become a definite pattern, the only way for say, Vince McMahon, to deal with one of his workforce playing up is to have one of his other workers (try) to beat him up.  This rarely works.

2. Rules? What rules?
     Winning a match by twatting your opponent with a chair is bad but for some reason, doing it in front of 20,000 people and a TV audience of millions has no repercussions whatsoever.  Cricket will spend 15 minutes going over camera footage to see if a toe was an inch over a chalk-line but the WWE will show the footage of (insert babyface here) getting coldcocked by a rival manager and go "Meh. what can you do." *Shrug*
 Of course the babyface might get a chance to face the villain again, in which case exactly the same thing will  happen again.

3. The Good, The Bad and the Good Again.   
    In theory babyfaces are the heroic good guys while heels are cheating, dastardly villains. The weird part is, when a good guy turns bad, they will wrestle in the exact same way, using the exact same moves and usually wearing the exact same outfit.  They might insult the audience a bit in promos but other than that, what's the actual difference?   And anyway, wrestlers dance back and forth across the line so often that you need a crib sheet to remember if he's supposed to be cheered or not.

Don't even get me started on "babyfaces" that get booed or "Heels" that are adored by the crowd.

4. Sucker Punches Do More Damage. 
   Picture the scene. Our hero is walking down the corridor backstage when out of nowhere a big, nasty bastard lunges out of the shadows and starts kicking his head in. Three minutes later our boy is lying flat on his back and not moving. He may even be in no fit state to wrestle tonight. The Horror.

Except...  the exact same two people had a match last week where they beat the living shit out of each other: punches, kicks, hitting each other with bits of wood, crashing through tables, piledrivers and suplexes and powerbombs, oh my.
  It took thirty frigging minutes of violence and the bad guy still couldn't put the good guy away. How come he's now out cold after a rabbit punch and boot in the ribs?

5. You wait right there so I can hurt you some more. 
  Because modern wrestling is so dependent on flashy moves these days, it can look a bit odd when one man is down and stunned but instead of, you know pinning his ass, the other wrestler decides to climb on the top rope, pose a bit then hit their flippy, spinny dive-y thing.
 Extra silly points if the prone opponent recovers and gets out of the way.
Double extra-silly points if they visibly shuffle into position.  

Any spot which involves a table or any kind of prop is so much worse because it means the target has to lie there looking vaguely silly while hoping the flyboy doesn't slip off the top rope.

6. All Of You wait right there so I can hurt you some more.
   CM Punk recently pointed out that one of today's common "spots" - the one where a cluster of wrestlers stand there waiting for somebody else to dive out of the ring onto them - looks a bit silly. I really can't argue with this. It's almost like they're hanging around to catch him or something...

7. Everything gets settled in the ring.  Everything. 
  Courts?..Police?.. Child protection?...HR? Hah! Pro Wrestling has no need of such things. The only way to settle any kind of dispute, up to and including attempted murder, is for two men to step inside the squared circle and beat each other up using the standard moves.

Impact wrestling did a storyline last year where one girl got stabbed in the throat and the fallout from this was... a wrestling match. Because apparently getting pinned is such a fitting punishment for fucking killing somebody. 
  Not even the weirdest part of that whole saga.

That's all I've got for now but I bet there's others that come to mind. What great examples of pro Wrestling Logic have you seen lately? 

That's All folks. 
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