In 1981, before I had much of an idea of anything at all, I bought an album.
A cassette, actually.
I was still fumbling around, trying to decide exactly why I dug what kinds of music. I’d been raised listening to just about everything so I had a wide range from which to choose. Before the cassette, I’d bought all kinds of 45s: ‘Rubberband Man,’ ‘Da Do Run Run,’ (if you can believe that shit!), probably some Captain and Tenille. All kinds of crap.
But this cassette was one of the first albums, and while saying it changed my life might be a bit hyperbolic, it was certainly foundational in my musical experience. It was lush and complex and startling and absolutely fucking filled with drums and percussion.
It wasn’t the first album I ever bought (that honor goes to Journey’s ‘Escape,’ and Billy Squier’s ‘Don’t Say No,’ (still one of the era’s most underrated albums ), but it was the first one I ever knew.
And while I was never as accomplished as Neil Peart, Rush’s ‘Moving Pictures’ was the first album I ever bled over trying to learn to play. Literally…bled. There was a horrible accident with drumsticks and the edge of some toms and trying to play as fast as Peart while moving from drum to drum…kids-don’t-try-this-at-home kind of stuff.
There was blood everywhere and I totally dug it. Splashed on the drumhead and dripping down the rim and covering the sticks and my forearm. I don’t remember specifically any spattered up on my face, but as fast as my sticks were moving, I like to imagine there was.
A few years down the line and I’ve got a few bob in my pocket and I spend LOTS of that dough on concerts. Between the big shows (Kiss’ ‘Love Gun’) and tiny little shows (Bon Jovi after the first album came out at a club in Odessa when I was…hmmm, let’s just say significantly younger than drinking age…hehehehe), I can’t even remember them all.
But I can remember each and every Rush tour. ‘Signals,’ ‘Grace Under Pressure,’ ‘Hold Your Fire,’ and ‘Counterparts.’
But the one I missed was ‘Moving Pictures.’ While I’ve seen most of those songs live, The Camera Eye and Witch Hunt I never have.
But last night, in Chicago, I was grooved and amped. This summer, Rush is touring ‘Moving Pictures’ and I’ve not been this excited about a tour probably since I was 16 and trying to get over on a school chum named Missy. We did the Sammy Hagar ‘Standing Hampton’ tour (how apropos, right?) with Quarterflash opening. Great show, but the night didn’t end quite how I’d hoped.
I’d been excited for months waiting on this show. The formative album in my experience, live and in order. Aaaaahhhhhhh….
Wait! What’s that look like? Yes, exactly. Fucking rain panchos.
Yes, indeed. For the first time in my loooong concert going lifetime, a show got cancelled. But not because of a broken arm suffered by a performer falling off the stage, or a natural disaster or even political upheaval (such as when Melissa Etheridge cancelled her gigs in Colorado in the mid 90s because of Amendment 2).
This was because of weather.
And I mean serious weather. It started raining and I told LuAnn don’t sweat it, the rain’ll be over soon and they’ll come out and it’ll rock my soul and reaffirm my faith in humanity (funny how it takes three sweaty Canadians to do that, huh?).
Instead, we had rain. Lots of it. We ducked under some stairs when it got too heavy and, of course, those stairs leaked so we got soaked anyway. Then LuAnn made a suicidal dash for some rain panchos…which I’m pretty sure stole.
I, of course, being a manly man, would have done it, but I was completely debilitated at that point. I was wet – which I could have lived with for that particular show – but my head was killing me and my back was twinging and – thanks to the blood thinner – I was absolutely frozen.
I’m not sure I’ve been so cold since the chemo treatments. It was horrible.
So we got our panchos and made it back to our seats and waited….
And every once in a while, everyone would start cheering and everyone would get hopeful and stare at the stage and I’d hear ‘There they are!’ I wanted to shout, “You fracking idiots, they haven’t even taken the rain covers off the instruments yet! How they gonna play?”
Eventually, an hour after start time, they announced the show’s called because of heavy storms coming in. Lots of boos, lots of disappointment.
I couldn’t breathe. This show, that I’d waited so long for, was slipping through my rain-soaked little fingers.
“That blows,” I think I said, being the wordsmith I am (and those of you who remember the unfortunate airline ticket gate fiasco/near arrest from a few years ago will remember at least part of that phrase well….)
But in the middle of all this madness, I see a guy I think I know. Richard Christian Matheson. He’s a good writer (his father is brilliant, wrote a book called ‘I am Legend’ that became a fairly shitty movie), and he’s a drummer and quite good looking.
So this guy, exact same look, wearing a damned Zildjian shirt, gives me the eye every few minutes. Eventually, I go over and start talking.
“Yeah, this is weird, I know, but is your name Richard?” I ask.
He smiles and shakes my hand. “Yeah. You look so familar to me.”
“We met a bunch of years ago. World Horror Convention in Chicago, I think.”
He shakes his head. “No, I don’t think that was it. But I know you.”
“Yeah,” I say, “Jo Fletcher introduced us.”
“Who’s that?” he asks.
“Uh…what’s your last name? Matheson.”
“Sky,” he says. “Are you an actor?”
And then we both marveled in how freaky that entire exchange was; that his name was Richard and that he thougth he knew me. Man, just weird.
And then we left.
And drove home in soaked clothes.
Having never seen another drop of rain….