John Floren

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Posted 2015/8/18

Learning to enjoy Rush, or: There’s No Spirit in Radio

I disliked Rush for a long time. I’d hear “The Spirit of Radio”, “Tom Sawyer”, “Fly by Night”, or “Closer to the Heart” on the radio pretty often, and I thought they sucked. “The Spirit of Radio” and “Fly By Night” struck me mostly as unremarkable, more poppy than I liked. I thought “Tom Sawyer” was more or less nonsensical, and “Closer to the Heart” sounded like an “Imagine” rip-off sung by a nasally woman.

Later, I finally tried listening to some Rush songs that weren’t often played on the radio. I think I started with “Red Barchetta” and was blown away by how well it told this story and had an absurdly catchy tune. I probably listened to that song 50 times over the course of a few days, just hitting ‘play’ again and again. “2112”, “Subdivisions”, “Distant Early Warning”, and “Circumstances” came later and became some of my favorite songs–not just favorite Rush songs, but favorites by any artist.

Ok, great, Rush is an awesome band and it took me a long time to realize this. I might as well paste the preceding paragraphs into a Youtube comment and end it with “modern music sucks”.

That’s not the point I’m going for.

The point is that the “standard” classic rock station’s rotation leaves out the best of Rush in favor of playing the same 3 or 4 dull songs over and over. I spent over 10 years thinking Rush was crap, because I’d never been exposed to the good stuff. Even my friend Nick Quaranto, the biggest Rush fan I’ve known, agrees that “Tom Sawyer” isn’t very good.

And it’s not just Rush, this is what happens to so many bands. Even if they’ve released dozens of albums, only a few songs will end up on the air. And given that stations playing current music tend to stick to whatever individual songs are at the top of the charts, most bands will never see anything but their 1 or 2 mega-hits played. How about The Who? I’ve never heard “The Seeker” or “Trick of the Light” played, but “Won’t Get Fooled Again” has played so much that I taste bile whenever it comes on.

Can this really be what people want? I was a dedicated listener to classic rock stations for something like 5-6 years, but I stopped once I realized I could recognize every single song within the first 2 measures.

The people who listen because the music reminds them of their youth, wouldn’t they get a bigger kick out of hearing that one Styx song they haven’t heard in 15 years? Wouldn’t people like me, too young to have heard the music when it was new, prefer to get a slightly broader taste, instead of just Billboard Top 40 1970-1985?

Would classic rock stations lose all their listeners if they played “Seven Seas of Rhye” in between “Back in Black” and “La Grange”? Maybe after you’ve played “Don’t Fear the Reaper” for the third time that day, try swapping in “Flaming Telepaths”?