Classic Albums: Rush – Power Windows

In the fall of 1988 I received a call from Russell, someone I couldn’t stand from my cousin Franc’s junior high sleepovers. He goes, “Hey, you’re a singer, right? Well we need someone for our band since Franc’s grounded for life.” That actually happened, by the way. Franc fucked up in some silly way and his parents flipped, so he wound up not hanging out anymore with Russell, or the guys in the band, which worked out for me. Because I went down and auditioned. It was terrible, WE were terrible, but, surprisingly, there was a certain rapport between me and Russell that you can’t fabricate. It was real and organic, and despite our differences, he is one of my best friends to this day almost 30 years later.

“So what the fuck does this have to do with Classic Albums?!?” You’re probably screaming, yeah? Well, let me tell you, if it wasn’t for that phone call or those Saturday night hangouts I wouldn’t be the HUGE RUSH fan I am today. Sure I saw the videos on MTV back in the day, and was in love with “Time Stand Still” and the Hold Your Fire album, but that’s all I knew aside from the MTV singles. I didn’t get into all the records until early ‘89 when I was busy borrowing cassette tapes from Russell and Dana who were all too happy to introduce someone else to the majesty of RUSH.

Power Windows is a special album for me because I used to listen to it on my 40 minute bus ride to and from Catholic school in 1989 (I was politely asked to leave later that year). It was a place I hated so the music was my sanctuary. When I first pressed PLAY on the now-legendary Walkman and “The Big Money” started it was like I was transported to another world. Hearing this wall of sound coming from just three men was mind-blowing to 15-year old me and this song is still one of my favorites to this day. “Grand Designs” is very synth-heavy, but that’s something I’ve always loved. “Manhattan Project” is a great track that is actually better in a live setting. This was a hook that always stuck in my head when the album was finished, too.

Now, let’s talk about “Marathon” for a minute. This is more than a song, it’s an experience. For six minutes and change the band takes you on a journey, and when it’s over you’ll probably have sweat on your brow like I did. Side two begins with “Territories”, a song that deals with nationalism around the world, and “Middletown Dreams” talks about monotonous suburban life, something those of us who grew up on Long Island can relate to. But the chorus of this one always spoke to me. “Emotion Detector” is one of those tunes that, for all its synth work, still hits hard on the hooks, and I can listen to it over and over. I can still remember being on the bus and punching the seats to the rat-a-tat-tat of “Right to the heart of the matter.”

The album concludes with “Mystic Rhythms”, a song a didn’t fully get at first, but learned to appreciate later. The drum pattern is classic Neil Peart, and almost robotic, which only adds to the flavor. At the end of the day, Power Windows will forever be that album I keep in my memory as not only the one that helped bring me closer to my friend Russell, but also the one that made the ride to and from that Hellish Catholic school infinitely more tolerable. Plus, it only helped to cement my love of all things RUSH. The memories I have of this record, of Saturday night hangs, of awful band “practices”, and even more awful girlfriends, capture a time in our lives when we really didn’t have a care in the world. And that my friends, is why this will forever be a Classic Album.   ~dc

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