[A slightly different version from the one that appeared at The American Conservative. With thanks to TAC and all concerned.–BB]
Sometime just prior to spring break, March 1981, I sat at one of the old wooden tables in Liberty Junior High, in Hutchinson, Kansas. The building no longer exists, having been destroyed that same year to make way for Liberty Middle School. The old building had charm, even in its dilapidation, while the updated one, not surprisingly, reeks of prison. What happened to those lovingly carved, tagged, and scarred tables at which I once sat, read, scrawled, and thought, I have no idea. They either sold at auction or met the same fate as the scarily swaying staircases. In the end, the bulldozer comes for us all.
One particular March day in 1981, though, means something quite special to me. Being in detention for some reason that now eludes me (though, I was probably in for having talked too much in class; I never did get good conduct grades), I sat with my fellow detainees and friends, Troy S. and Brad (yes, same first time) L. I had gone to early grade school with each of them at Wiley Elementary, reuniting in junior high after three years apart while I attended Holy cross Catholic school, grades four through six. Since we’d last seen each other in third grade, our music tastes had changed rather considerably, and I started pontificating about the brilliance of Genesis’s 1980 album, Duke. Troy and Brad were into harder music, and they asked me if I’d ever listened to a Canadian band called Rush? I hadn’t, I admitted, intrigued. Having two older brothers, I knew Jethro Tull, Yes, and Genesis quite well, but neither of them had ever embraced anything harder than Kansas. After Troy and Brad gushed about the band, I rode my bike to the local record store immediately following school that day and purchased Rush’s latest album, Moving Pictures.
To write that the album changed my life would be nothing less than a trite understatement. It radically altered my understanding of the world, not only by its words, but, especially, by its example. To this day, I can remember the smell of that album sleeve, glossy, thick, and oily, quite different from the cheap paper-thin sleeves prevalent among so many commercial albums. With three kinetic photos of the band members on the right side of the sleeve, white lettering giving credit on a black ground on the left side, and all of the lyrics on the alternate side of the sleeve, I devoured every word and image. Something profound spoke to my eager and open thirteen-year old mind.