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Subject: 05/18/94 - The National Midnight Star #970

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            The National Midnight Star, Number 970

                    Wednesday, 18 May 1994
Today's Topics:
How the poem "First Flight" relates to Neil's vision of art and sex
   Rush: Art for Art's Sake - Int'l Musician magazine, 7/84
                A Rush Fan's Guide to Toronto

Date: Tue, 10 May 94 10:22:38 CDT
From: (Chris Mahoney)
Subject: How the poem "First Flight" relates to Neil's vision of art and sex

Hi everybody,

A while back, "Dreamers" asked for our real life Rush stories.  This
qualifies, I guess.  I was assigned to do a poetry analysis for English
class, and after I had written my paper, I realized that the poet (and the
poem's speaker) were speaking of the artistic process in the same terms
that Neil Peart does in "The Speed Of Love".  After I saw the connection, I
rewrote the paper, and I shamelessly included a few Rush references here
and there!!  Anyway, here's the poem and the essay.  I didn't set out to
make the comparison as direct as I could have, because that wasn't my
assignment, but at the same time, I couldn't ignore the connection that I
saw.  What struck me most were the biological references...anyway, I hope
you like them.  Flames, infernos, questions, all are welcome!

by Ralph Burns      (from TriQuarterly 88, Fall 1993)

I shucked my lucky clothes and jumped in,
swam beyond the bushes, thick canebrake
until I reached a tangle of grapevine and low
mesquite which hid me from the party.  I listened.
I think that's when I saw her breast . . .
              I saw him kiss her breast.
I leaned on a hinge of small mesquite.
A sound unearthed itself from his throat.  Hey boy,
is that you?  I scraped my body
on rock and bark hoping to fly -- cardinalis,
              cardinalis.  Clad in leaves, reeking black,
familiar mud, I saw two rough lovers love,
I saw them love and move.  I swam and then
I put on clothes and ran through vacant lots.
That half-chimney was still standing,
              so was the houseful of stolen parts,
so was the fence where once a boy asked
to pay me just to drink my piss.
Reader, where did I run, whose breathing you must
have heard, when I was thirteen or fourteen,
              your own desire just beginning to speak openly
in my pulse?  That random synapse leap
of the world caught me, too,
just as I broke into the open, just
as I busted through the trees.

                   A Commentary on "First Flight", by Ralph Burns

          The speaker of "First Flight" speaks two languages.  On one hand,
he is charged with a sexual polarity that is youthful and exuberant, but
his journey is more complex.  The speaker becomes self-aware as an artistic
force, and through this discovery he leads us to examine our roles as
readers in the artistic process.  The duality that comprises the core of
"First Flight" is significant, especially when considered together as
counterparts.  The speaker's sexual instincts and his artistic revelations
are not opposites that conflict.  They must be compared and contrasted as
distinct elements of the poem's contiguity.  In the relationships of
thoughts in the speaker's mind, we can unlock the poem's disclosure, and
appreciate its essential message.
          The key to understanding the duality of sex and art in "First
Flight" is to discover their union in the poem's diction.  Life becomes the
fulcrum that balances the disparities of art and sex.  Such an assertion
becomes clear with a detailed investigation of the poem's enactment.  The
speaker's word choice in the first thirteen lines evokes many different
images of life, with varying shifts in rhythm and tone that keep the
perspective shifting.  The speaker shucks his clothes, and the dictionary
tells us that to shuck is to shed the old and useless.  In doing so, the
speaker is born again to a new sort of existence.  The poem's analogue
continues as the speaker swims nakedly through the water, which baptizes
him with the emblems of new birth and discovery.  The poem's auditory
signature is distinctive as well: "...swam beyond the bushes, thick
canebrake until I reached a tangle of grapevine and low mesquite..."  The
vowel frequencies and the full, luxuriant sounds of the words all affirm
the speaker's vision of teeming life.  Rhythm is a crucial aspect of the
poem's enactment as well.  The long, lush opening sentence is followed by
the bluntness of "I listened."  This rhythmic variation calls attention to
the fact of rhythm itself, and with his tone established, the speaker
commits an act of voyeurism.  As he sees the girl's breast being kissed,
the poem awakens.  Sexuality is no longer tacitly implied with the movement
of the speaker's naked body through water.  A mouth is kissing a breast,
and all the tensions and release of this moment impact themselves on our
perceptions.  At this point, the poem shifts to an animalistic perspective.
   The boy listens attentively; in one instant, he is both predator and prey.
   His actions are understandable, and simply natural.  He is a slave to his
sexual desire, so he hunts for gratification, yet he fears discovery.  The
undeniable forces of life flow in his veins.  The sex drive, the killer
instinct, the fight-or-flight mechanism, and the razor-sharp senses that
drink in every detail all tell us of the speaker's powerful physicality.
The girl and the boy who are sexually active represent the animalistic
forces of life as well, and serve as catalysts of the speaker's state.  Her
breasts are the life-giving milk, and his mouth is the hungry recipient of
life's vitality.  His response to being watched by the speaker is "a sound
unearthed from his throat."  Territorial dominance asserts itself in the
gruff attack of the other boy's voice.  The speaker's instincts kick in
with a flash of potent imagery that is locked up in the roots of his words:
"cardinalis, cardinalis."  He invokes all the layered meanings of
'cardinal' with his plea to the sky: the dire urgency of the bird's red
plumage, the desire to be able to fly and escape, and the etymological
stress of cardinal importance.  All these meanings reflect on the speaker's
state of mind.  His existence is framed with critical need and pressing
instinct, and he imagines his primitive origins, calling on an image of
man's birth in Eden with "clad in leaves, reeking black, familiar mud"
("dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return").  In closing the opening
section of "First Flight", the speaker's vocal rhythms meld with his sexual
thoughts.  The lazy repetition in "I saw two rough lovers love, I saw them
love and move" reinforces the overwhelming sexuality of the poem and its
          The second section of "First Flight" (13-18) marks a regression
back through the speaker's life to other times when his maturity and
innocence were at different stages.  The imagery is no less sexual, but the
implication is that there has been a change without any changes taking
place in the world at large.  The half-chimney, in the poem's context, can
be nothing but an image of immature manhood.  It remains as before,
unchanged, but his understanding and conviction have deepened.  The
houseful of stolen parts is an allegory for lost innocence, and by going
back over his life, he can see where the vestiges of purity have been
dropping off, one by one.  The boy at the fence is a dark reminder of
confused sexuality, a world of instinct without practical reference.  The
fence is a barrier that holds him back from the possibility of
companionship and pleasure, but it is a fence of protection as well.  The
speaker knows that instinct demands gratification, but the first answers
are not always correct.  Essentially, the speaker acknowledges, for the
first time, that his sexuality has been with him forever.  Ever since he
himself was engendered with a sexual act, the coiled strands of DNA have
encoded the lust in his blood.  Sexuality and desire are components of our
destiny.  We cannot escape them.  Only by taking his spiritual and physical
journey, by watching two people make love, by submitting to his sexuality,
and by examining his past does the speaker come to understand his origins
and his future.
          First, the speaker gives us a lucid description of a heady sexual
experience.  Then, in awe, polarized with tension, he realizes that his
'first flight' has simply been a conscious awakening of his own fundamental
truth.  In the third and final section, the speaker comes a step closer.
His words contain the significance of the reflections of counterparts; sex
and art balanced around the vitality of life.  "Reader," he says, "where
did I run...?"  The answer, of course, is to us.  Our desire begins to
speak openly in his pulse.  The speaker feels a connection to our response
through the poem.  His desires inflame our desires.  We cannot help but be
interested when he strips down to nothing, swims in the water and coats
himself in slick mud, watches two others have sex, and tells us of his
sexual memories and how he remembers them.  Sexuality is a common form of
reference, because our bodies and minds demand that we pay attention...and
obey.  In discovering his own sexuality, and by phrasing it in terms of
imagery that we can comprehend, the speaker discloses the poem.  He becomes
part of an artistic process.  Our response completes the cycle, and the
balance of counterparts.  The art cannot exist without the symbiosis of
speaker and reader.
          It is so easy to get lost in all this analysis, and I must admit
that I am not finished yet.  I will try to address the emotional side of
the poem's conclusion as adequately as I possibly can, but unfortunately, I
cannot just ignore the importance of what I can see in the words
themselves.  I feel that the most important sentence in the poem is,
masterfully, the conclusion.  I am trying to avoid making a stupid, obvious
comment.  In just the word 'synapse' alone lies so much of importance.  The
speaker, of course, refers to that 'place' between the dendrites of one
neuron and the axon of another.  The synapse is a gap, where
neurotransmitters such as serotonin effect the sending of signals from the
brain to the body.  Neurotransmitters also have an important bearing on
emotional health and stability.  In that "random synapse leap" lies
everything the speaker wants us to know.  Our instincts travel those
pathways.  We often follow instructions automatically, and almost as often,
we can react without thinking in the blink of an eye.  The synapse is the
place where everything starts.  Sex itself would be impossible without the
communication of one neuron to another.  By mentioning 'synapse', the
speaker also means the miracle of our understanding of each other.  We feel
each other's desire through the art of the poem.  Action, reaction, and
consensus are all born in the flash of electric currents that race inside
our brains.  I have been speaking of 'polarization' and 'counterparts', and
in the synapse, just such a situation is relevant.  Sodium and potassium
ions exist in and around the synapse as counterweights in a system of
communication (just as the speaker and reader reflect one another).
Working with the chemical neurotransmitters, the ions (one kind positive,
the other negative) alternately polarize and depolarize the dendrites and
the axons on either side of the synapse.  The charge creates electricity,
the signal is transmitted, and the message is received.  This process's
importance to our human lives -- not to mention our sexuality -- just
cannot be adequately evaluated.  The synapse is life.  The nervous system
controls muscle action, instinctive reactions, and the release of
adrenaline.  The 'fight-or-flight' response (the sympathetic nervous
system) has special control over our hearts ("speak openly in my pulse"),
lungs ("whose breathing you must have heard"), and genitals ("desire").
Our sexual legacy lives and dies in the synapse.
          As I tried to explain before, I regret all the analysis, but I do
feel, emotionally, in my heart, that it is important.  I say this because
the speaker knows its importance, and I have been in touch with him by
reading this poem.  How could I help it when he spoke to me and called me
by name?  "That random synapse leap of the world caught me too..."  The
speaker is in awe of artistic power, and of physiological power as well.
He wants us to understand, and he knows that we will because we are all the
same.  The speaker, charged with excitement, desire, and confidence, is as
much elated with his sexual discovery as he is with his artistic discovery.
   Feeling our desire in his pulse excites him as much as the mouth on the
breast or the boy at the fence.  His joy and awe are evident in his final
words: "just as I broke into the open, just as I busted through the trees."
   For the speaker, all these revelations came together in one mind-blowing
climax of emotion, memory, and instinct.  We have the luxury of slowing the
procedure down, but in the end, the emotional impact of the art is no less

"Love is born of lighting bolts, electro-magnetic force..."

                                                  -Neil Peart, lyricist of RUSH
                                                  "The Speed Of Love"

Anyway, I hope this all makes sense to more people than just me...thanks
for reading this.


          rising falling at force ten
          we twist the world and ride the wind    (Neil Peart)

* * * * *   *       *   * * * * *   *
*           *       *   *           *
*           *       *   * * * * *   * * * * *
*           *       *           *   *       *
*           * * * * *   * * * * *   *       *


Date: Fri, 13 May 94 17:31:02 CDT
From: thomas a lloyd 
Subject: Rush: Art for Art's Sake - Int'l Musician magazine, 7/84

                            ***Rush: Art for Art's Sake***
International Musician and Recording World, July 1984 issue. Reproduced without

[Cover photo: Great-looking shot of Geddy playing his Rickenbacker. His hair is
about shoulder-length, and he's wearing a white-with-blue-pinstripes sport
coat with the sleeves rolled up.]

[Contents photo: Horrible shot of Geddy with big round sunglasses on and a
sleeveless black shirt. He's got the Wal in this one, but you can barely see

***Rush's 'Grace Under Pressure': Sometimes the Best Step Forward is a Step
Backward***  by Dan Hedges

[Picture: Angry-lookin' Geddy in a red button-down shirt partly open, with
little leopard spots all over it. He's singing and playing his Rick]

   In spring, a young man's fancy turns to batting averages -- even in the Great
White North. At home outside Toronto, Rush's Geddy Lee is recovering from an
attack of baseball frostbite. "It was the windiest game in history," he says,
describing hot dogs and umpires blowing across the infield, outfielders
suddenly finding themselves in the parking lot, and singles that became home
runs in the gale-force breeze. The outing -- a precious day off during a time
when there is no spare time for Rush -- was Lee's humble attempt to put the
hassles of preparing for the mammoth *Grace Under Pressure* tour on the back
burner for a few hours. A couple of lazy innings in the sun. A fastball or two.
A major brawl at home plate to break up the monotony. That's all he wanted.
   The bassist froze his ass off.
   But then, Rush's collective posterior, if not frozen, was definitely on the
line two years ago after the release of *Signals*. Canada's platinum-tinged
ambassadors of sonic bombast had shifted course away from the Wagnerian,
guitar-laden music that had become their stock and trade, toward something
more... contemporary. Less turbulence. More sysnthesizers. Non-Rush followers
might not have noted any difference, but it was a comparatively streamlined,
chrome-plated approach in honor of the newly arrived '80s. *Rush: The Next
   Problem was, many fans weren't thrilled. The album sold, but not as well as
its predecessors. Radio continued to play the older tunes but often gave
fleeting exposure to the new. The former Ontario bar band that drummer Neil
Peart describes as "a self-contained democracy, an autonomous collective,"
seemed to have made a major wrong move at a point when its status had seemed
most secure. That's show business, though Geddy Lee admits the band was
unnerved before the LP even hit the stores.
  "We didn't get what we were looking for on *Signals*," he says. "It was a very
schizoid record. By the time we finished, we realized, 'We're a little lost,
we're losing perspective on ourselves.'"
   Although part of the problem stemmed from the fact that much of it had been
written by Lee and Lifeson independently -- without Rush in mind -- the bottom
line was obvious: too many microchips. As Lee realizes now, "It was good for
the synthesizer to take such an important role, for the feel to be shifting in
the direction it was shifting, but we felt like we'd lost a member of the band.
The guitar went out of focus in the picture. I wrote almost everything on
keyboards. Everybody got into the sound because it was new. Like, on
'Subdivisions,' we built these very thick washes; great from one point of view,
but it's very difficult to get a guitar to cut through. Here's this very
talented guitar player who didn't feel like he had enough to do. Alex was
getting frustrated."
   Neil Peart, at home a few miles from Lee's place, doesn't view that album
through such a dark lens. Citing it as "period of experimentation, certainly
worth it," he took the public's opinion with a grain of salt. "From *2112*, we
were greeted with all kinds of negative reaction from the back benches," he
says. "We found that too with *Permanent Waves*, when we started stretching out
texturally and putting in keyboards for the first time. Every time you change,
you're greeted by the reactionaries. Part of that is 'the business,' but also
-- unfortunately -- part of that is your fans. You have to recognize that some
are as conservative as any old banker when it comes down to what they'll
approve of and what they won't."
   Echoing Peart's belief that to go into the studio fearful of fan and radio
station reaction is "a poisonous and unhealthy way to exist," Geddy Lee
nonetheless admits that "I'd be lying if I said I didn't give any thought to
that. But it's a fine line. It's going in to make a great record that *could*
sell, or going in to make a record that *will* sell, and could, by accident,
be great. We believe the better the record, the more people will like it."

[Picture, the band live, Geddy with full, curly hair, Alex's less than shoulder
length. Neil invisible behind his huge kit. Ged's wearing a black shirt with
lots of zippers and blue jeans, and has the Rick again. Alex is realing a red
suit coat and blue pants (can't tell if they are jeans or not) and is playing
what appears to be a white Strat, but I'm sure it's a PRS. Blue and red lights
sweeping across the background, with the camera angle a little tilted.]

   Still, *Signals* was a shaky item. Lee concedes that, audience-wise, Rush
"probably lost some of the headbangers, the real guitar heroes." Possibly to
rekindle lost interest, the new album, *Grace Under Pressure*, was preceded by
a certain degree of prerelease record company blathering about Rush's
triumphant return to the halcyon days of yore, to what Neil Peart calls "our
baroque period" -- the epic era of *Permanent Waves* (1980), *Hemispheres*
(1978), *A Farewell To Kings*, (1977) and the founding of Canadian Civilization
As We Know It.
   "The guitar's louder than it was on the last record," Lee says with a laugh.
"That's why they're making those comments."
   He's right. If anything, *Grace Under Pressure* (recorded at Quebec's Le
Studio) picks up from where *Signals* left off, albeit in less synth-happy
style. Lifeson gets in his fair share of licks this time, even as the band
travels farther along the more spacious, sparer track that drew so much flack
last time around. This time however, Lee claims they had a clearer notion of
what they were out to achieve.
   "We've just tried to sharpen the focus a bit," he explains, pointing out that
synthesizers are still in the picture, but that Rush have come to terms with
what machines can and cannot do. "We as a band are torn because we're a
performing band. We sit here and go 'Well, we like the way the Tears for Fears
album sounds. It would be nice to get a similar sound on Rush records.' But
after analyzing an album like that, we realize it was made with a machine that
only *sounds* like it hits a drum on every beat. There are no other drums. No
wonder all the synthesizers sound so clear -- there's no guitar, or at least
none that anyone's hitting with any kind of fervor.
   "It's a different animal. We try to apply some of these things to Rush, but
we have a drummer with the largest drum kit ever created. The guy likes to use
everything, every overhead cymbal. So all of a sudden, you have this whole
range of ferocity coming through in an area where these other bands and albums
don't have anything. 'And now, here's Alex Lifeson, lead guitar player.' He's
not content to have a sound that's not emotional, that doesn't move him. To try
and get that soul with all this new technology and crystal clarity is a tall
order. That's what we've been chasing. Making *Grace Under Pressure*, we
realized part of that is just not meant to be."

[Picture: Alex and Geddy jamming. Ged on the black Steinberger, with full, long
hair, Alex with a strange, short 'do. He's got a black PRS and he's wearing a
white button-down shirt. Ged's wearing a loose blue shirt and hideous red
leather pants (luckily, they're mostly cut off of the picture.)]

   The new album marks a change in producers from old compatriot Terry Brown to
Peter Henderson (Supertramp's *Breakfast In America*), a move Lee viewed as
essential after a decade, if only to work with a new set of ears. "It wasn't
that we were dissatisfied with anything we'd done with Terry. It's just that
we'd become so close that nobody was objective anymore. We didn't trust
   If there was a step backward -- at least technology-wise -- it came out of
Henderson's discomfort with the newest digital studio techniques. While Lee
himself admits he's never heard anything special in digital, he says the band
went along with Henderson's decision to take them back to analog "for the first
time in about four albums. The results didn't suffer. Mind you, this is the
first time we went to half-inch tape, which makes a big difference over

[Picture: Yuk! The p/g album cover photo. That picture aged them all 20 years,
don't you think?]

   If Rush are continuing their streamlining process on the musical end, it's
reflected in Neil Peart's lyrics. A few years back, the drummer's contributions
came under fire from certain quarters of the British rock press. Accused of
everything from closet fascism to poor taste in clothes, Peart countered that
he'd only copped his world view from personal observation, aided my things he'd
been reading -- Ayn Rand and the like. No sinister overtones intended.
   "My perceptions haven't changed," Peart says regarding his lyrics on *Grace
Under Pressure*. "They've just grown enormously. I'm saying the same things but
saying them in a lot of different ways, taking it from different viewpoints,
and seeing other people's part in it all a lot clearer. I don't have
antipolitical feelings against anything. You have to judge by acts. If I see
terrorism from a dictatorship or from a collective society, if I see people
getting murdered, then I object to that."
   As Geddy Lee points out, Peart's new lyrics continue the universal thread the
band has followed all along, but "in a more mature way, without so much of a
chip-on-the-shoulder attitude."
   Like the music, the verbiage itself is sparser, due to what Peart says is the
band's goal ("to have that kind of economy but still cover the full breadth of
emotional power"), and his growing belief that "sometimes things don't have to
be clear. It's a style of writing I'm consciously going after now -- to seem to
be saying nothing, but to seem to be saying a lot of things. T.S. Eliot is the
writer who's most influenced me on that. He had so many images going on, so
many metaphors, that his writing is in one way meaningless and in another way
tantalizing. I'm concentrating now on avenues, on specific applications of
those earlier large ideas."

[Picture: Neil behind the drums, looking focused as always. The picture's in
black-and-white, and he's got the man-with-star on the bass drum heads and the
chimes behind him.]

   A decade after the current lineup joined forces, Peart still views its trio
status as "a limitation that we can work within, though we try to push outside
those limitations as much as we can."
  But as Lee explains, "With this album, at the last minute, we started to get a
little reckless and said, 'Well, fuck it. I'd like to put this sound on because
look what it adds to the song. We'll worry about reproducing it afterward.'
We've come to realize that you can reproduce something even if you do go
overboard on the record. With the way synthesizers are now, you can always find
a sound that will work live for what four sounds had to do in the studio.
  "But we make a lot of our decisions by judging how we felt as fans. I remember
when I used to go see Jethro Tull or Yes. I used to sit and sing every word. It
was real important to me that my hands hit the air keyboard or made that air-
guitar chord happen exactly where it happened on the record. So a little bit of
that has kept us trying to reproduce everything exactly, for the kind of fan
who's into every note on the record."
   He says things are slowly loosening up. Rush are moving away from the
compulsion to make every concert a carbon copy of the one before it, every live
arrangement a Xerox of its vinyl counterpart. For instance, the band is playing
the now-complete "Fear Trilogy" on its current tour, including "Witch Hunt"
from *Moving Pictures*. With its zillion-and-one overdubs, the piece has
previously never been performed in concert, something new keyboard technology
now makes possible. The band, Lee admits, literally learned it off the album
the same way any of its aspiring musician/fans would. "It's a different animal,
playing live," he agrees. "Maybe it's not such a bad thing that the songs are
arranged differently. Maybe that'll make them more interesting for people."
   But while the music, 10 years on, is what he, Peart, and Lifeson obviously
still view Rush as being all about, he's found there's more to rock stardom
than they originally bargained for; "a lot more responsibility to a fan in many
small ways that aren't directly related to plucking a string. There are a lot
of people around you in this kind of situation who are always going to tell
you, 'It's fantastic.' Not getting complacent or letting someone else make the
decisions we think are important -- that's the hard part. That's where the
pressure comes from.
   "The more responsible you want to be in what you do, the more pressure there
is to deal with," lee says, hoping the ball game he's driving to will be a less
chilling experience than yesterday's; hoping *Grace Under Pressure* gets the
support he feels it deserves. "This album is a statement, a personal thing
saying, 'Look, I want to keep doing what I do. I know there's a lot of pressure
on me, but I don't care. I'm going to maintain.' That's the ideal to aspire to.
Whether we actually get there or not, whether we have that kind of grace, who
can say? But we're hanging in." **

   There you go. I hope you all enjoyed - it's a little bit less downbeat than
most Rushstuff from around that period.
   Man, I must have been really bored to type all that!

   Tom (seeya on #p/g!)


Date: 18 May 94 04:06:16 EDT
From: Bruce Holtgren <70724.1622@CompuServe.COM>
Subject: A Rush Fan's Guide to Toronto

                    A RUSH FAN'S GUIDE TO TORONTO
            By Bruce Holtgren []


This guide was prepared after a mere two trips to Toronto, five
years apart. Naturally, this makes me an automatic expert,
especially since I'm a know-it-all American. :) Both my
trips were inspired by Rush; this guide should suffice as a
general outline for anyone curious enough to "do" Toronto from an
American Rush fan's perspective. My apologies in advance for the
inevitable errors and misrepresentations; I would appreciate any
and all comments and suggestions, be they positive or negative.
And obviously, the standard disclaimer applies to anyone who
takes a trip to TO themselves: Your mileage *will* vary.


Toronto is Canada's largest city. Besides being the birthplace of
Rush, it's known for being diverse, cosmopolitan, relatively
clean, and relatively safe. (Actually, the fact that Rush happens
to be from there is just icing on the cake for a place that's
already so cool to begin with.) Toronto has a reputation, not
wholly undeserved, of being conservative and restrained as
big cities go. (You'll hear the locals complain about how the
bars close at 1 a.m., and about "a million other things which are
designed to prevent people from having a good time," as one
current resident put it, somewhat bitterly.)

The people of TO (as it's widely known) are almost unfailingly
polite and friendly, far moreso than you'll find, by comparison,
in most U.S. cities. Service in stores is amazingly efficient and
friendly by U.S. standards. You'll encounter astonishing
politeness in the most implausible places. The last time I drove
into TO, a cabbie slowed down to let me cut in front of him, and
the next day a complete stranger got me high. That's Toronto for
you. Not that it's totally risk-free - the usual big-city
precautions apply, as always - but in terms of grace and class,
Toronto is a breed apart. For culture and vitality, it compares
favorably with the best of the U.S. (San Francisco, Chicago, New
York, etc.) Toronto is probably my favorite city to visit overall
- I often say that if it weren't so friggin' cold, and expensive,
I'd emigrate.


Americans are generally welcome and well-received in Toronto, as
they are throughout Canada. [As if the poor northerners had any
choice but to be nice to us, eh? :) ] Even so, a few tips will
help make your visit go even smoother.

First, use Canadian money while in Canada. It's not only easier
and cooler, it's also cheaper. U.S. funds seem to be readily
accepted almost everywhere, but you'll get a much better deal by
exchanging your U.S. dollars for Canadian dollars before you
leave the U.S., and changing back when you return. (Most large
banks will do it, especially nearer the border - some charge a
fee; some don't.) (Note: Bank machines and credit-card companies
will also do the exchange for you automatically when it comes
time to pay the bills.) As of this writing, the exchange rate
has been its best (for Americans) in years: roughly 75 cents
U.S. per Canadian dollar.

Speaking of money, if you spend a lot of it north of the border,
save all your receipts. After you get home, you can apply for a
refund of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) you paid. That's a
federal tax of 7% that supposedly only Canadians have to pay. If
you don't mind doing the paperwork, and if the amount of tax you
paid is worth the hassle to you, you can get the money back just
for the asking. Call 1-800-ONTARIO, and they'll send you the
form(s) you need. How well does this actually work out? Ask me in
a few weeks - this is my first attempt at this. :)

If you can possibly avoid it, *don't* buy gasoline in Canada.
During my most recent visit, it was more than 50 Canadian cents
per liter, which works out to be ~$1.50 U.S. per gallon. (And
it's been much higher in the past.) It's cheapest, if you can,
to fill up just before entering Canada, and then again just
after getting back to the States. If you must buy gas in Canada,
get it in the core of downtown Toronto, where it's said to be
the cheapest in all the Great White North.

Many other products are also quite expensive in Canada
compared with the U.S., including cigarettes and some hard
liquor (some of which can't even be *found* except on the black
market, believe it or not). Other products, however - notably
CDs and such things as athletic wear - can be much less
expensive north of the border. Shop around.

Speaking of the border: You're questioned by Canadian agents upon
entering Canada, and by U.S. agents upon entering the States. The
U.S. guys are (of course) almost always the bigger buttholes.
Their main concern is that you may be smuggling in people who
don't belong in their country, or (much more commonly) goods
(legal and illegal) that you can make a huge profit from. They
generally won't ask you point-blank if you're carrying any dope,
cigarettes, or booze - but if they have any reason to suspect you
may be, they'll search you and your car. They'll most likely just
ask where you live and where you're headed - not to really listen
to *what* you answer, but *how* you answer. If you appear the
least bit nervous, that's when you're in trouble. Therefore,
honesty, as usual, is the best policy. If you're not trying to
hide anything, then dealing with the goons is a much easier ordeal.

(By the way: U.S. law allows you to bring back from Canada up to
$400 worth of merchandise without having to pay a duty. If it's
more than $400 worth, they'll charge you. I've heard of duties
of absurd amounts being assessed, so it's best to keep the amount
of merchandise down to a reasonable level if at all possible.
Disclose it all if asked. You can best cover your ass if you can
produce receipts.)

This may be sheer prejudice, but I've been told that in Canada,
as in much of the rest of the civilized world, Americans are
looked down upon as being rather boorish and slovenly. If this
sort of thing worries you, avoid the T-shirt/shorts/sneakers look
if you plan to do anything besides hang out on the street. On the
other hand, there are plenty of Canadians who understand the
anti-establishment attitude perfectly well, and who won't be
offended in the least if you insist on being a slob.
(Furthermore, I'm told that some Canadians *also* look down their
frostbitten noses at yuppie Americans who "dress to snub." Another
good reason to just be yourself.)

Speaking of showing a bit of class, be forewarned that knowing
(and using) your manners will get you a lot further in Canada
than it will in most U.S. cities. Canadians, even in urban
Toronto, are usually polite to a fault, and you'll feel better if
you return the favor. But don't do it Because I Said So - do
it because it's the right and decent thing to do. [Again, though:
Feel free to refuse to be civilized. You can be assured that the
Canadians are used to it in Americans. :) ]

*Really* rude things Americans have been known to do in Canada
include actually thinking you can take your gun north of the
border (don't even try it), and getting "free" health care from
the world-famous "free" Canadian health-care system. Yes, both
of these things have been known to happen many times. Fortunately,
none of the perpetrators have ever been proven to be Rush fans.

No, you needn't know French to get by in Toronto. If you're going
to Montreal (or anywhere else in Quebec), that's another matter.
But Ontario is by and large an English-speaking province.
(However, given Toronto's large ethnic population, it would
behoove you to brush up on your Chinese, Farsi, Punjabi,
Vietnamese, Greek, Korean ...)


The main drag of Toronto is Yonge Street. If it's for sale in
TO, you can generally find it on Yonge (pronounced Young).
Lower/middle Yonge is teeming with hundreds of great restaurants,
bookstores, record stores, specialty shops, bars, clubs of all
types, and you-name-it. If shopping's your game, allow at least a
day or two to do nothing but cruise Yonge. Wear a good pair of
walking shoes; you'll need 'em. And take your credit cards.
(Yes, American cards are accepted in Canada. All too gladly.)

There's also a vast shopping district *underground*, extending
from near the lakefront several blocks north. Besides being a
unique experience on its own, it's a great way to avoid traffic,
crowds and nasty weather.

The central business district is generally centered around lower
Yonge, toward the lakefront. This is the optimal area to find
lodging, although you do pay for location. Prices vary wildly,
so call around. The best deal among the major chains that I could
find was at the Ramada Downtown City Hall (89 Chestnut Street),
which charged $89 Canadian (about $65 U.S.) per night for a two-
bed room, for either one or two people. If that sounds steep,
consider that many other places in the same general area run well
more than $200 (or even $300) a night. There are probably even
better deals than the Ramada among off-brand places. As with most
things, the more you shop around, the better you're likely to

As in all big cities, parking in Toronto is difficult to find and
horrendously priced. Your best bet is to find a place to park the
car when you first get into town (ideally at your hotel), leave
it there for your entire stay if possible, and then just gulp and
pay the ~$10-$15-a-day cost when you leave. It just ain't worth
driving around all the time when you have to look so hard for
parking that's gonna be expensive no matter where you go.

What?? Get around *without* a car??? Yes - unthinkable as it is
for many Americans, it's quite doable in a city as progressive as
Toronto, which is blessed with an excellent public transportation
system. There's a top-notch subway that'll take you most places
you need to go (downtown, anyway); a system of electric
streetcars; buses; the old reliable taxicab system; and even a
roving band of rickshaws. The latter are powered by athletic
young men who I suspect take the job mainly for its value as a
training regimen. I don't know how much a rickshaw ride costs,
but it's a beauty way to go.

One option that sounds like a good value to me (but I haven't
tried it): Get a weekend bus pass (they're on the order of
$3 or $5) - you can use it an unlimited number of times over
a weekend for buses, streetcars, and the subway.

And another boffo bit of info: The TTC (Toronto Transit Corp.)
puts out great, *free* little ride guide maps that show all the
bus routes and subway routes and let you plan your journey from
the get-go. Highly recommended.


At last - here's what you're reading this for. (Sorry for taking
so long to get to it, eh.) Actually, Rush seems somewhat taken
for granted in Toronto, at least on the surface, probably because
the group has been such a longtime institution - and because so
many other entertainers have also come from the Great White
North. However, there are a handful of special places dear to the
hearts of Rush freaks, to wit ...

1. Willowdale: The suburb where Geddy and Alex grew up, and which
is mentioned in "The Necromancer," is on the northern edge of
Toronto. (Rush trivia: It's Willow Dale in the lyrics, and you
can ford the River Don, which was rendered as the River Dawn in
the song.) Anyway, I've never been there. I suspect it's just
your basic suburb - in between the bright lights and the far
unlit unknown, and all that. I suppose Fisherville Junior High
School, where Geddy and Alex met, is somewhere up there.

2. Massey Hall: This is where _All the World's a Stage_ was
recorded in 1976. It's at Victoria and Shuter streets downtown.

3. Maple Leaf Gardens: Another venue Rush has played often; this
one's on Carlton Street, just east of Yonge. The subway stops
right at the Gardens, at the College station - known far and wide
as the MLG stop by hordes of hockey fans, Rush freaks, and

4. Yonge Street: Might as well make this a separate entry of its
own, since it has a way of coming up over and over again. And
Yonge is a genuine Rush artifact in its own right: It's where
the night cruising scenes were shot for the "Subdivisions" video.
Look for Sam the Record Man and Pizza Pizza, both prominent in
the video.

5. Danforth and Pape: Many an astute Rush fan has noticed this
intersection in east-central Toronto. Its precise connection to
"La Villa Strangiato" is unknown. The intersection itself is
graced by three banks and a donut shop. (In 1989, when I made the
pilgrimage there, it was three banks and a Baskin-Robbins. How
times change.) Interestingly, it's an ethnic Greek neighborhood,
so most of the signs are in Greek. Conveniently, the subway stops
right at the intersection, so the best way to get to it is to hop
the turbine freight: Take the Bloor-Danforth line east to the
Pape station, and you're there.

6. The Parliament Building: Famed as the scene of the cover of
_Moving Pictures_, I was surprised at how easy it was to find and
access this one. It's at the south end of Queen's Park, which is
west of Yonge Street and south of Bloor. Once again, the subway
conveniently stops right near the holy spot - in this case, it's
the Queen's Park station, on the Yonge-University-Spadina line.
When our troop of Rushfreaks visited one recent Sunday, we had
no problem parking for free right in front of the building and
fooling around on the steps all we pleased. However, since this
*is* the seat of the Ontario government, after all, I'd imagine
both parking and access would be much more difficult on a
business day. But in any event, you can at least take pictures,
moving or otherwise.

7. Lakeside Park: Not in Toronto, as is commonly assumed. It's
about an hour to the south, in St. Catharine's, Ontario, where
Neil grew up - in a suburb called Port Dalhousie (pronounced Da-
LOO-zy), to be exact. The best directions I can muster are: From
Queen Elizabeth Way (the freeway), take the Ontario Street exit
(I believe it's Exit 44), and head east (toward the lake - duh).
Go down about three lights, and hang a left onto Lakeport Road.
Follow that road until you cross a small bridge over what looks
like a harbor (there's a yacht club there). Lakeside Park is on
the right, immediately after you cross the bridge. WARNING: There
is *no sign* that says "Lakeside Park." The best way to identify
it for sure is that it's at the intersection of Lakeport Road and
a small street called Lock Street. (If you get lost, just ask a
local; they'll know. If nothing else, call the St. Catharine's
Chamber of Commerce at (905) 684-2361; they're very helpful.) The
park features three or four restaurants and a couple of bars near
the road, and parking is plentiful on both sides of the road
(unless it's Mother's Day). And yes, there are piers,
lighthouses, a beach, and willows (complete, at certain special
times, with a breeze). Admission is free, but the carousel, which
operates only during the summer, will cost you a nickel. The
place was deserted the first time I visited (May 24, 1989), but
jam-packed the next time (Mother's Day, 1994). We were told by an
Authentic Canadian on the premises that they do have a fireworks
show every Victoria Day, which is traditionally the 24th of May
but now apparently celebrated, U.S. three-day-weekend style, on
the nearest Monday. Ah, tradition.

8. Geddy's and Alex's homes: C'mon, you didn't *really* think
you'd find out where they live from the NMS, did you? Even if I
knew, I wouldn't tell. Aside from the fact that they've more than
earned their privacy, it's just uncool to barge into anyone's
lives, be they celebreties or not. And they're probably not even
home most of the time, anyway. (They're only at home when they're
on the run.)

9. Neil's home: Forget it, even more than the other two. He lives
somewhere in the wilds of Quebec. I wouldn't be surprised if even
Geddy and Alex don't know where Neil's house is. :)

10. The Spirit of Radio: Yes, CFNY (100.7 FM) is still alive and
well, and plays pretty decent tunes - but I suspect they've long
ago been burned out on the whole TSOR thing. (They don't play
Rush at all anymore, I hear tell. But you can get a peek into
their studio through a big window on Bloor Street, just east of
Bathurst Street.) Another coupla good stations, where you *can*
hear Rush, are Q107 and especially 97.7 out of St. Catharine's
(which you can pick up fine in downtown TO). Crank it!


Free TO info: There are two *free* newspapers that do a superb
job on listing the entertainment things to do in Toronto. They
are "Now" magazine and "Eye" magazine. They are widely
distributed on Thursdays downtown in shops big and small. Their
articles, reviews and ads generally are devoted to performing
arts, movies, recent music releases, concerts, the club circuit,
etc. They are the only comprehensive guide to who's playing in
the club scene (which is incredibly extensive). Anyone visiting
should definely consult these to fill in the odd free night.

Steve's Music: Anyone who is a musician and likes to browse
instrument stores should check out Steve's on the south side of
Queen Street just east of Spadina Avenue. It's the music capital
in Canada's recording capital. One source says Rush get a lot of
their stuff there, and that there's plenty of Rush paraphernalia
to gawk at. Another source says he's seen Tom Cochrane, Jeff
Healey, and Bobby Baker (the Hip) at Steve's. Sounds like a
pretty happenin' place to me! The Queen Street streetcar goes
right by the front door.

Record shops: There are many on Yonge Street alone. All are worth
checking out, since you never know what you'll find, but I'll
recommend three: 1. Sam the Record Man - on Yonge at about
Dundas; you can't miss the enormous neon records on the front of
the building. Very large record store, excellent selection. Sam's
is in the "Subdivisions" video, as noted before; there's also
said to be a big ol' Chronicles poster inside, signed by our
heroes. 2. HMV - also on Yonge, just a few doors south (or maybe
it's north) of Sam's. Another enormous store with an excellent
selection. Last time I stopped in, there were CDs selling for as
little as $7 Canadian (that's ~$5 U.S.) - AND they were having a
buy-three-get-one-free sale. I ended up buying four first-rate
albums for an average of $9 U.S. apiece. 3. Incredible Records -
*Don't miss* this place. Run by a genuine former '60s radical
(who used to be the Grateful Dead's gardener, among many other
things), this store is crammed with thousands of rare items of
all description, from old vinyl to drawings by Jim Morrison to
scads of Grateful Dead (and yes, Rush) material. Must be seen to
be appreciated - on the west side of Yonge, just south of Bloor.
4. The Record Peddler, 621 Yonge, across the street and down a
piece from Incredible. They get a lot of import stuff from
Europe, and some neat rare stuff, including from Rush.

Bookstores: Again, there are many, but the one you have to hit is
The World's Biggest Book Store. I'm not certain it actually still
is *the* world's biggest, but it's humongous. If you're looking
for any particular title (a book about Rush, perhaps?), it'll be
here. It's at 20 Edward Street, one block north of Yonge and

SkyDome: If you're any kind of baseball fan, or even if you don't
give a hoot about the sport, this is a must see. (Hey, if nothing
else, Geddy hangs out here a lot.) It's the fanciest, snazziest,
most expensive stadium ever built. It's most famous for its
retractable roof, but it also includes a hotel, a Hard Rock Cafe
(both with views of the field, of course), and many other unique
features. Be prepared to pay a lot to experience it - Toronto is
the most expensive place to see a Major League Baseball game,
both in terms of ticket prices and concessions. But it's worth
it. (And the Blue Jays ain't no slouch of a team the past couple
of years, either.) SkyDome is within walking distance of Union
Station, which is on the subway.

CN Tower: The tallest free-standing structure in the world - a
big deal for first-time tourists but probably few others. There's
a restaurant/bar at the viewing level, and of course it's a great
view (especially impressive at night). Supposedly you can see
Niagara Falls on an especially clear day, but I dunno about that.
You can definitely see Willowdale, though! Next to SkyDome - you
can't miss it. Great big tall thing.

Eaton Centre: Big-ass shopping mall in the heart of downtown.
Malls are pretty much just malls everywhere, but this one is a
monster, and with some nice urban architecture to show it all
off. On Yonge Street (where else?) between Dundas and Queen.
Subway stops: Dundas or Queen.

The Harbourfront: Lots of stuff to do on the lake, and I still
haven't gotten down there. Just looking at the map, I see a
Hockey Hall of Fame (it just opened, I think); a Sports Hall of
Fame; a Marine Museum; Ontario Place (a cultural and
entertainment complex); the Canadian National Exhibition; and
various beaches, islands, and shopping complexes. All this is
south of the CN Tower/SkyDome.


The currency is different colours (harder to counterfeit; makes
you wonder why the U.S. doesn't try it). There are no $1 bills -
they were all pulled from circulation when the gummint introduced
the widely reviled "looney" $1 coin. So called because there's a
loon on one side, loonies are ideal souvenirs - uniquely
Canadian, small, and inexpensive. Spelling is British (usually),
so there are lots of extra letters in words like colour,
favourite, and jewellery. And of course everything is metric, as
is every single civilized (or civilised) nation on the planet
*except* the United States. Canadians really do say "eh" a lot,
eh. And as much as Canadians complain about U.S. culture being
too prevalent north of the border, I must say that Canada is
enough different from the U.S. as to provide a noticeably
refreshing break from the USA! USA! USA! mentality. (Not that I
*wouldn't* mind seeing the Yankees win the World Series ...)


I started out by spewing most of this off the top of my head, but
at least regained enough sense to run it by a few people who
would know most of it better than I would - namely, Canadians. I
am sincerely indebted for the invaluable help of Brian Boyes;
Steve Cogswell; James MacKenzie Crawford; Myke Hutchings; Scott
Jaworski; Ian Sewell; and the amazingly cool and mysterious Peter
the Yonge Street Deadhead.

Thanks also to three Americans in particular: Jimmy Lang (for
daring me into taking this latest trip, which ended up being one
of the best weekends of my life); Joe Castle, for enduring my
blathering and philosophizing the entire time; and Dan Delany,
the Keeper of the FAQ, for the basic concept: Information.


Things in this are bound to be wrong, but I hope almost all of it
proves to be priceless basic info for a lot of people. Anyone
with any comments, questions, complaints, suggestions, or flames
should e-mail ME - *not* the staff and management of this fine
digest, or any of the people named above. I'm the one
responsible, not them.

I'll post addenda and errata as warranted on the NMS. If I get
enough new stuff and the rush-mgr deems it worth the trouble,
there could be a second edition of this somewhere down the road.
Ideas for more things to list, a better format, or whatever are
most welcome.

Finally, this thing is free for the taking (or at least for the
on-line time). In the spirit of crash@sonata(, do
feel free to copy, steal, pass along, change, delete, trash, set
fire to, or do anything you please to any or all of it. As Crash
would say, enjoy your freedom.

ORQ: "When we are young
        Wandering the face of the earth
        Wondering what our dreams might be worth
        Learning that we're only immortal -
        For a limited time ..."

May, 1994


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There is also a mail server available (for those unable or unwilling to
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Gopher access is now available on syrinx!
Use this command to access the gopher:

      gopher 2112

The contents of The National Midnight Star are solely the opinions and 
comments of the individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the 
opinions of the authors' management, or the mailing list management.

Copyright (C) 1994 by The Rush Fans Mailing List

Editor, The National Midnight Star
(Rush Fans Mailing List)
End of The National Midnight Star Number 970

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