Neil Peart would have turned 68 Saturday. Here are a couple of isolated drum parts that show what we lost.

I, like millions of other kids around the planet, got into playing drums because of Neil Peart. All it took was one listening the the “2112 Overture” and I was hooked.

After taking lessons, I graduated to teaching. And instead of getting paid per student, I worked out a deal with Kerry, the owner of Drums Unlimited at Main and Inkster in Winnipeg, to put my earnings toward new gear. In a couple of years, I had a Moving Pictures era Peart kit–well, close it it, anyway: Tama Imperialstar in brushed silver featuring 2 x 24″ kicks, six mounted toms (8-15 inches) plus 16- and 18-inch floor toms. And cymbals. LOTS of cymbals, mostly of the Paiste 2002 variety. I still have the kit, too.

The only real drum cover I mastered–well, close it, anyway–was that “2112 Overture.” At least I thought I had mastered it until I went through this isolated drum track.

Yeah, my performance needs work.

Another track that fascinated me was “La Villa Strangiato,” a nine-minute instrumental from the Hemispheres album–which, in case you didn’t know, was subtitled “An Exercise in Self-Indulgence.” According to Rush lore, recording this track took something like 40 takes, a time spanning longer that it took to record the entire Fly by Night album.

Worth it.

The Rush song that’s most important to me is “The Spirit of Radio” from Permanent Waves. Once I realized that my favourite band had written a song about a real radio station, I began wondering what it would like to work there? Six years after the album was released, I walked into the front door of CFNY-FM, the inspiration for the song.

When you take a deep dive into the song, you’ll realize that Neil’s parts are deceptively difficult.

Remember, too, that Neil believe that anything created in the studio needed also to be faithfully performed live. No trickery with overdubs that would make it impossible for someone with two arms and two legs to pull off in front of an audience. And when Rush played, Neil had to keep up this pace for close to three hours.

Neil would have turned 68 on Saturday (September 12). Damn, I miss him.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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