Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Song #92 of 9999 - The Spirit of Radio by Rush

Song #92 of 9999

Title: The Spirit of Radio
Artist: Rush
Year: 1980
Album: Permanent Waves

It's hard to believe how much of a Rush fanatic I was 30 years ago. Around 1981, I was playing keyboard and singing in a band with three school friends who played guitar, guitar and drums. It was suggested that I learn the bass and one of the guys knew someone who was selling a 1973 Rickenbacker bass that was listed in the local classifieds. This was the same friend who probably had us performing "Tom Sawyer" and "Red Barchetta" already with me playing the bass and synth lines simultaneously on my awesome $100 Casio. I bought the bass and still own it to this day. It was probably the most significant purchase of my life.

Owning a bass sent me on a quest for great bass lines to learn. While there was an emergence of guitar-related magazines with some tablature, there was nothing like the Internet today and if you wanted to learn a song, you sat down with the record (or more likely a tape) and you figured it out. I had notebook after notebook of Rush and Yes songs written in my own blend of crude and standard music notation as I learned what was the "standard repertoire" of my youth.

I probably didn't hear "The Spirit of Radio" until 1982 or so and it wasn't a song that I immediately fell in love with. It was a little too pop by Rush's standards and I didn't really understand the point of the ridiculous simultaneous bass and guitar licks that open the tune. (But I worked like hell to learn them.) I also wasn't taken by the pseudo-reggae pap and "concert hall!" gimmickry toward the end. But this was Rush and I had chosen my path and it meant loving everything they released and trying my best to sound exactly like Geddy Lee. They provided a remarkable collection of etudes and a proving ground for me and my fellow musicians and, for that, I'll always be grateful.

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