Column by Ken Loggains, White River Now
“Suddenly You Were Gone, From All The Lives You Left Your Mark Upon”
Rush’s Afterimage (lyrics by Neil Peart)
Yet you remain. We now live in world without Neil Peart. Maybe if I say it enough times it will sink in. Then again it probably won’t. Neil is the reason I and millions more play drums. Whenever I put pen to paper and attempt to write a song, Neil’s lyrical influence is always there. His writings have inspired me to travel and appreciate not only the view, but the hike that got me there.
When you think of frontmen in rock you might think Robert Plant, Ozzy, Steven Tyler, Paul Stanley or Gene Simmons, larger than life personalities that take command of the stage and don’t relent until they’ve left the venue. I would like to posit here that, Neil Peart, should go down in history as rock’s only drumming frontman.
I know, seems like an oxymoron. The drummer, in the shadows, keeping time…keeps the pulse. Heaven forbid he “overplay” and take any attention away from others. Better heard and not seen. This all changed with Neil Peart. Sure there had been Moon, Bonham, Ringo, Ginger, drummers that played such a vital role in their band’s sound that they could not and would not be relegated to the shadows. But then Pratt arrived on the scene, and not only had the most insane chops we had ever heard in rock music, but incredibly, became the band’s chief lyricist! Ah, the nerve!
I had the opportunity to see Rush live on thirteen different occasions, and each and every time, Neil, from behind his mammoth drum kit, commanded the stage. Neil, a tall man, was especially imposing behind his signature DW’s, Tamas or Ludwigs, with percussion trees or electronics behind him. I own DW’s because of Neil Peart. Their previous owner purchased them new after his son had requested a “Neil Peart” drum kit.
This is by no means a slight of Alex or Geddy. You take any one those three individuals away and there is no Rush. Alex brought the raw emotion, humor and humanity (and very underrated chops) to the mix, while Geddy has always astounded us with his ability to nail lead vocals while at the same time displaying a bass virtuosity unheard of in rock, and by the way, also handling keyboards with whatever free hands and feet he has left! He is rock’s undisputed master multi-tasker! Then there was Neil, much like his influences Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, commanding the stage….driving the train, (heck, he WAS the train), all from behind a drum kit. But unlike Gene & Buddy, surrounded by a small, not a big band, but still bringing a big, big sound!
Whereas typically concert-goers would time their bathroom breaks to coincide with the drum solo, at a Rush show you would make great effort to have all that taken care of before or after drum solo time. And not only was his drumming unlike anything heard before in rock, but the lyrics he brought to the table were unprecedented in their subject matter, sophistication and inspiration.
If Neil wore a do-rag or kufi on his head, we wanted to as well. We would have grown handlebar mustaches and worn kimonos right along with him, but that probably wouldn’t have gone over big in Melbourne. If he was reading John Barth or Tom Robbins, we would get John Barth and Tom Robbins books. And oh what we would have given for the Neil Peart Tama promotional poster in Lou Desio’s storefront at Treble Clef in Batesville! Not everyone got Rush, but if you did, the band became your obsession.
In another era he would have been an explorer, a Magellan or Marco Polo, or perhaps a classic writer of prose and poetry, but how lucky we are that he came along in THIS era. I, like countless others, owe him a debt we can never repay. Thanks Neil, from the bottom of our hearts, for the music, the memories and the magic. You’ll never be forgotten, rock’s drumming frontman.