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Reviews and Rush and Baked Tapes: Oh My!

May 22, 2012

Before I post the second part of my mournful “End of an Era” series (and it’s a tearjerker, I assure you), let’s take a moment and appreciate my most recent bad-ass accomplishment, as well as some great tidbits I’ve found here and there.

In case you missed it via Twitter, I have a piece published in “The Review Review”! It’s about “Unstuck,” a new literary journal straight outta Austin that — spoiler alert — is pretty damn good. Go read my review and, if your interest is piqued, buy a copy of “Unstuck” and check it out for yourself.

Between that review and finishing up final revisions on my novel, I’ve been pretty busy lately — but not too busy to gleefully anticipate Rush’s upcoming album and tour (what’s up, San Antonio?). I try not to be too much of a massive fangirl on this blog because 1) there are several other blogs out there that are entirely devoted to Rush, and 2) I know not all of y’all are into them. But OH MY GOD I AM SO EXCITED YOU GUYS.

Among the several articles I’ve read lately about “Clockwork Angels,” the tour, etcetera were two items I really wanted to share. The first is this article excerpt about some of Rush’s lost master tapes. Let me be clear: the subject matter itself isn’t awesome. As both as a creative type myself and as a massive Rush fan, it’s heartbreaking to learn that the masters to all those amazing songs are lost. It’s mind-blowingly depressing, in fact. But as someone with a preservation background — someone who spent grad school studying practices like deacidification and digitization, and who has read articles on baking tapes — I was beyond delighted to see the following snippet from this article in “Metal Express Radio,” where Alex Frickin’ Lifeson briefly talks about analog preservation:

You’ve recently released the Sector box sets featuring remastered editions of all your albums including surround sound recordings of Signals, Fly By Night and A Farewell To Kings. Did you come across any difficulties in creating a surround sound album from records that were made in the ’70s and ’80s?

There was quite a lot missing. We have full albums missing. The master tapes for Permanent Waves, I just don’t think we have the masters for that record. That is typical of those days. Your recordings would stay at the studio where you last worked. You’d get home and the master tapes would go to be mastered and then the record was released and they would keep your masters as it was safer that way. When we did Permanent Waves, Trident kept the masters but they went bankrupt and everything disappeared so we don’t have the multi-track masters for that one. The same thing with the first record. There are takes missing. The original “Working Man” that’s on the album is missing but we have a second version that we did that’s slightly different and had a different solo with a wah-wah pedal and that’s the version that exists now but that’s not been a released version. There’s lots of stuff missing, there’s parts of 2112 missing. That’s the problem we have, some tapes have gone missing, some had degraded. Baking the tapes doesn’t necessarily fix them. What it does is it allows you to play the tapes through one time, if you’re lucky, so you have to make sure you get it and if you get something that sticks then you’re out of luck.

OMG OMG OMG. Super depressing, yes. But Alex Lifeson knows about tape baking. That is so bad-ass, I don’t even have words for it.

The other Rush-related reference I want to share also stars Mr. Lifeson. It’s the two closing paragraphs of this article from “Classic Rock Magazine,” in which Geddy Lee reminisces about some happier memories they made just before losing a good friend, longtime Rush photographer Andrew MacNaughtan, who died of a heart attack at age 47:

“When we were living at the London Hotel here, while we’re mixing the first time around before Andrew passed, right around two or three in the morning I’d be just drifting off to sleep and I’d hear this acoustic guitar playing and I’d be, ‘I know that sound.’ And Big Al would be out on his balcony, which was right underneath mine — he’d had some refreshment, apparently — and he’d be playing to LA. He plays all the time.

“And I would just lie there in the darkness and look up at the ceiling with this huge smile on my face every night even if he had just woken me up. I knew the headspace he was in and I knew what he was doing – he was being Al and he was playing to LA. Those moments are forever — so sweet, so funny.”

It reminded me of this (seemingly now-defunct) interview Lifeson gave to Crawdaddy in 2008:

Crawdaddy!: Music fans often find comfort and companionship in a great song or their favorite band, especially through difficult times. I think that’s why you see 40-year-old men tearing up at Rush concerts — it’s not the beer prices! [Laughs] As someone who’s been making music for a living for over 30 years, does it still work that way?

Lifeson: It absolutely does. And one of my favorite things to do is, we live in a really nice part of Toronto, it is a residential area and quite mature, our house is a little over 100 years old. We have a beautiful little porch up front and the street is a very quiet street, and during the summer, probably two or three times a week, I’ll just go out and sit on the step out front, late at night — maybe eleven or midnight — and I’ll just quietly strum and play. And I’ll do that for a couple of hours and it’s just a wonderful escape for me. It puts me in a wonderful place and I feel really blessed to be able to do that, and boy, I wouldn’t exchange that for anything.

I’m not one of those people who fantasizes about befriending celebrities. Even if I met the members of Rush, I’m not naïve enough to think the meeting would last for more than a few seconds. But the idea of hearing Alex Lifeson play from some distant balcony really comforts me. Ever since my grandmother passed away, I’ve had some rough moments late at night, whether I’m working on my book or just unable to sleep. The very early morning hours are when the sadness gets the worst. That’s when the memories and the guilt grow claws and attack. And the thought of hearing an acoustic guitar in the distance — an audible light in the darkness — is one of the most lovely things I can imagine.

So I hope beyond hope that, one day, I hear that faraway guitar. Because even if it’s not really Lifeson, I’ll believe it is, not unlike a kid believing that Santa Claus really ate those cookies. I’ll believe that he really is nearby, playing for the world. And I’ll get to hear it. And just that idea — that possibility — makes the darkness seem brighter already.

Copyright 2012, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.

One Comment
  1. May 24, 2012 7:54 pm

    Hi again! I just wanted to let you know I nominated you for a Kreativ Blogger Award. You can find out what the dilly-yo is on my blog, over here:

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