Neal Peart's "Traveling Music"
By stern on Aug 27, 2008
First book I finished on the trip: Neal Peart's Traveling Music, a bit of a departure from Roadshow and Ghost Rider in that he didn't write it to chronicle a momentous occasion in his personal or professional life; he wrote it because he wanted to capture the backstory of his own musical influences. So the storylines wander, diverge, meander into seemingly unrelated areas to add color or depth. Of the three, I found it the most readable, probably because it's more about music than travel, and I thoroughly enjoyed Peart's implicit recommendations of bands and albums.
There were tons of little nuggets in the book to keep any Rush-head happy: seeing the lyrics for Workin' Them Angels (from "Snakes & Arrows") take shape as the epigraphs for each chapter; seeing how his travel adventures formed the backstory for the song; the exposition of Ellis, one of Peart's pre-Rush friends who is the "hero" in Nobody's Hero (a song which always reminds me of the great friend I have in Tom Chatt, who has been a hero of mine - for every reason Peart touches on - for 27 years. Thanks, Tom); the story behind Mission and the pressures placed on creative artists to continuously be, well, creative.
Best of all for me was the insight into how Buddy Rich's drumming influenced Peart. At first, I found this surprising; but listening carefully (especially to later Rush works) exposes what music critics in the 1970s referred to as "a jazzy drummer, like Bill Bruford." Peart quotes his teacher Freddie Gruber as saying "There are no straight lines in nature," imploring Peart to think away from the 1-(2)-3-(4) rock drum (straight) lines. One of Mr. Santoro's drummer friends put it another way: Find the beats in a circle, not a square. Beats on the downward stroke of the circle are straight-ahead -- it keeps you moving. On the upswing of the circle is laid-back -- you keep moving it. But never at the top or the bottom.
As soon as I put the book down I had Groovin' Hard by the Buddy Rich Big Band on the iPod. Non-traveling vacation music, straight ahead.