Goodbye to “Today’s Tom Sawyer”

Neil Peart September 12, 1952 – January 7, 2020

Before I was able to buy my own music my early youth was spent listening to FM radio. Growing up in Northeast Ohio that meant listening a lot to WMMS which was out of Cleveland, Ohio. And as any listener of that radio station knows – you became familiar with RUSH very fast. The station and region was largely responsible for the breakthrough of Rush (a Canadian band) onto the US music scene. They not only would play the full epic songs of a Rush song but also entire album sides.

Neil was the long-time drummer and primary lyricist for the band. He was responsible for the epic multi-part songs that had lyrics with a science-fiction, magical, and/or philosophical viewpoint. He was responsible for introducing me to the Objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand. Although I had been listening to RUSH for years on the radio the first Rush album I was able to buy for myself was A FAREWELL TO KINGS. I remember that I skipped school to go the store and purchase the record the day it was released in September 1977. It felt like holding a bar of warm pure gold.

Rush had several members since they formed in 1969 but solidified into the trio we have all come to know and love when Neil joined the group in 1974. The lineup would remain intact from the 2nd album, 1975’s FLY BY NIGHT, through 2012’s CLOCKWORK ANGELS.

Here are 5 tracks:
The title track from the first album FLY BY NIGHT which marked a distinct departure from Rushes eponymous first album and and showed Neils significant influence.

A favorite track from the first Rush album that I purchased with my own allowance. I still ask myself some of the questions in this song.

Here is the most popular song from A FAREWELL TO KINGS. A beautiful ballad.

And a popular favorite from MOVING PICTURES often considered Rush’s best album.

This final track is THE GARDEN from the final studio album CLOCKWORK ANGELS. As one commenter noted, “This how to end a legacy. Not with a bombastic exit, but with a tear-jerking melody”. And like the song says, “The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect”.

Thank you Neil for all the great music that inspired the thinking and ideas in my early years. Rest In Peace.

Vaughan Oliver R.I.P.

Vaughan Oliver 1957-2019

I just read some sad news today. One of my art heroes has died at the age of 62. Vaughan Oliver has provided constant inspiration for me. Through his design company, Envelope 23, sometimes simply designated as v23, his design and type face work along with Nigel Grierson’s photography provided insights to the music of the albums it graced adding to an enriched music listening experience. If you do not recognize his name you surely would recognize some of his works. He leaped into the public imagination with artwork and graphic designs for the 4AD label in it’s founding years. Each album cover was different and would often have surreal qualities to it. He designed such memorable covers for The Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, The Pixies, The Breeders, This Mortal Coil and many, many more. I remember back in the 1980’s and 90’s I would love going to the record store and seeking out 4AD albums just for the artwork even when I knew nothing of the bands or the music inside. It was always an adventure and the music never let me down.

“My goal was always to turn music into an object, granting it a physical dimension,” Oliver said in an interview with online publication O Magazine.
And even in the digital age when physical artwork is on the decline he still championed album artwork and design saying, “The cover, even if it has no physical presence, is another music tool,” he said.“That’s why there are still covers today that are very … true. Any cover capturing and expressing the state of mind of the music it represents is true.”

He has been a constant inspiration and will continue to have a lasting influence on album art and design.   Thank you Vaughan.

You can check out this artwork at the Envelope 23 Tumbler page by clicking on the link below.