Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Albums That Defined My Musical Tastes – Rush’s “Chronicles” and Primus’s “Sailing the Seas of Cheese”

You may be thinking, “Hey, why did he include two albums here?” I will answer this as well as I can. You see there is no need to differentiate Rush and Primus because they are the same band. You heard me right. But you may not understand, so allow me to elaborate.

The reason they are the same band is because once you discover Rush or Primus there is nowhere else to go. The journey ends at Primus and Rush. You never hear somebody say, “Yeah, I discovered Rush, but that just led me to (insert random band name here)”. Once you discover Rush, you don’t need to go anywhere else. You have everything you could ever possibly need. You may have thought of your musical journey as an infinite line that just kept expanding forever into the future, but the line stops at Rush. There is nothing else to move onto. Except maybe Primus.

I don’t even remember when I heard my first Rush song, but I do know the first cassette I bought was the double set “Chronicles” which was sort of a greatest hits package released in 1990. From there I moved on to a bunch of the early stuff then worked my way through the entire catalogue. And I don’t use that term “worked” lightly, because it is work. You don’t really get Rush the first time you hear them. It takes time and if you don’t devote enough of it to the band, then you will probably never get them. There have been times in my life where I have gone for months listening to nothing other than Rush, then I will put them down for a while, but it’s never long before I return for another fix. Sadly, the drummer Neal Peart died of brain cancer this year so Rush as a band no longer exists, saddening millions of fanatical, cultish fans all around the world. There is simply no other band that has put out so much challenging and original work for so long and kept it up right until the end, which was never going to be anything other than the death of one of the members.

I do remember hearing my first Primus song. It was during university and in the home of Jon Bath, who lived there with fellow North Battlefordians Evan Wappel and Ryan Tondevold. This place was such a dump that it would have taken 50 grand worth of renovations to upgrade it to a shithole. There was all sorts of weirdness going on in that house all the time, but I never heard anything weirder than when Jon put on “Sailing the Seas of Cheese” by this band called Primus and freaked us all out by making us listen to the whole thing. I started having clown nightmares shortly after that. But I grew to love the band dearly. And the bass player/singer Les Claypool has done things with the bass guitar hitherto unknown on Earth and probably throughout the rest of the universe. And who does he claim as his main inspiration? You guessed it – Rush’s bass player/singer Geddy Lee. See, they are the same band.

I will finish with a story. My first big backing trip was in Europe when I was 23. I was exploring Rome when I found out Primus was playing the next night in Vienna. So I jumped on the train and spent 15 or 20 hours traveling to Austria. I miraculously found the small club, but the show had already started. And worse, the concert was sold out and there were no tickets left. The best I could do was to gather with the rest of the unfortunate fans in the back alley of the venue with our ears pressed up against a set of locked doors listening to the sweet mayhem going on inside. One of the dudes couldn’t take it anymore and pushed everyone out of the way then ran at the doors and drop kicked them, breaking the lock, and we all watched in amazement as they swung open, spilling out hot human vapours and clouds of marijuana smoke. We pushed in as fast as we could and before I knew it I was riding the wave of bliss in the mosh pit getting pulverized. The place was so packed that some people had climbed the walls and were hanging off of lights and balconies. Les Claypool was up there with a giant fan blowing on him and he was ripping on the bass in a frenzy of madness and delight. I had never been happier in my life and it was the best rock show I’ve ever seen.

The music of Rush and Primus has taught me to never be afraid of challenging music. Within the challenge lies great rewards.

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