Wednesday, May 7, 2014

No. 29 – Scars

Performer: Rush
Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart
Original Release: Presto
Year: 1990
Definitive Version: Presto Tour, 1990. It’s the one I have on my iTunes, although I suppose pretty much any live version will suffice.

Well, after the past few entries, particularly yesterday’s, I think we’re ready for a bit of a respite, aren’t we? I don’t know about you, but I’m a little exhausted myself.

In a way, Scars is the one Presto song that Rush has played not only more than any other song from that album beloved by me but hated by pretty much everyone else, including the band, apparently, but perhaps more than any other Rush song since the Eighties. Only a hard-core Rush fan would realize this.

The reason is that Neil included portions of this song’s beat in his epic drum solos on every tour from at least 2002 to 2007. It’s easy to see why: the rhythm just reaches out and grabs you. Obviously, it was fun for Neil to play.

Scars is Rush at its most funky, but Scars isn’t pure groove. On top of Neil’s African beat, you have Alex—in the midst of hating playing synth-driven songs—throwing out spectacularly eerie guitar fills and Geddy filling in the spaces with atmospheric synth. There’s so much going on, it’s too much to take in at once. You feel the song first, then you hear it.

I’ll never forget the one and only time I heard Scars in its entirety—at the first Rush concert I saw, at Franklin County Stadium in Columbus in 1990. Scars was the first song after Neil’s drum solo, and it was the only song where Geddy played just synth.

I knew the song a little from Presto, which I’d bought not long before the show to prep up on Rush’s newest material. Jin, who sat next to me, did not, but she definitely felt it. Midway through the song, her dance moves were such that she was flipping her long hair into my face.

The first few times were accidental, but before long, she recognized the irritation she caused her older brother by doing this, so, naturally, she kept it up. Flip. Flip. Flip. Thereafter, whenever we were together in a dance situation, she would make sure at some point to reprise her Scars moves to her general amusement.

Immediately after the Rush concert, I made her a tape of Presto, so she’d have a copy of “that funky Rush song.” Not long after that, she made another request that took me a bit aback: She asked for a loan.

She was living in Chicago, attending Columbia, and was short of cash for various reasons—mostly having to do with being a student and not a professional. I don’t remember whether I even knew the specifics at the time, but it was none of my business anyway. All I knew was that she was asking me—to some discomfort—for a loan of $275.

There were two things about this that I really liked. The first was that I was in a position where she COULD ask me. Only two years before, I didn’t have enough money to cover my own expenses, let alone those of anyone else. But now I was doing well enough that I was self-sufficient.

More important was the knowledge that when she really needed help, she turned to me. She didn’t go to Mom or particularly Dad. She didn’t go to our grandparents. She didn’t seek out a friend. To me, it was a show of how close we’d grown over the years.

Well, because I loved my sister and I could help, I sent her a check for the full amount. I told her to pay me back when she could even if that ended up becoming never. The best loans are the ones you don’t expect to be repaid, because then the money doesn’t cause problems later.

That was the situation with Jin: I lent her the money fully expecting to never see any of that $275 again. A few months later, however, I did—all of it. I told Jin that she didn’t need to repay me, but she insisted. It was the principle of the thing, she said, and I certainly respected that. I would’ve done the same.

Well, as far as I was concerned, this was found money, so I did what you should do with such windfalls—I blew it, not all but most. I got a catalog from Dave’s for Manny’s Baseball Land in Florida (formerly of New York), and I bought myself an authentic properly numbered Frank Thomas White Sox home jersey.

When it showed up a few weeks later, it was a thing of beauty, and I wore it all the time, particularly when I went to Chicago to see Jin. Years later, when I had another windfall of some type, I bought Jin her own Good Ol’ No. 35 after she moved to L.A.

I don’t know whether she still has her Frank jersey or remembers why I bought my own years ago, but the reason is because of her.

No. 28 – Pirates

Performer: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

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