Roll the Bones: Tour Book

Row the Boats
By Neil Peart

We’re only immortal for a limited time.
Musicians are sometimes said to be immature. Not us guys, you understand, but some of the other musicians we know. Like them, we spent our adolescent years welded to our instruments, obsessed by music to the exclusion of nearly everything else in “normal life.” And maybe that youthful seriousness, which in a way is growing up too fast, means that the adolescent sense of immortality and irresponsibility stays with us a little longer, into the time when we’re supposed to be adults. This is called the “artistic temperament.” This is also called a good excuse.

The point is, each of us experiences a time when we feel immortal, when time is not passing and we’re never going to die. But it’s a limited-time offer—time does pass, and soon enough the realities of life comes crowding in on us, whether we’re ready for them or not, and we have to get serious. This is called “facing the real world.”

We’re only at home when we’re on the run.

Being mature doesn’t have to mean being dead. You just have to get out there and rock, keep your bones rolling, and stay out of the ruts. That has been true for Rush as well. We have continued to learn and grow and change, but behind all that the important thing was just to keep moving. Rolling bones gather no rust.

Through seventeen years and umpteen albums and tours together, we seldom stopped to look back, but neither did we look ahead much beyond the next album or tour. We just kept doing what seemed right, without worrying about the future—it would take care of itself. That is called being philosophical. That is also called a good excuse.

But suddenly it’s different—all at once it seems obvious that we have a long-time creative partnership ahead of us. Maybe we’re growing up a tiny bit. I’m not sure. But I do know that we are excited about this band in a whole new way. Each of us feels it, and Roll the Bones was the catalyst—this record was so enjoyable to make, and the process was so satisfying through each of its stages that suddenly we feel a new conviction, a sense of rebirth. We cut our holidays short in order to start the record sooner, we finished it in “record” time, and now we’re eager to get it out so people can hear it. We’re even cutting our holidays short again in order to start a tour, then get on to the next record. We are psyched. And still immortal . . .

We will pay the price, but we will not count the cost.

A line from John Barth’s The Tidewater Tales (he said I could use it) which echoed around inside me for a long time after I read that book. To me, it just means go for it.

“There are no failures of talent, only failures of character.” I think that’s often true, too. Sure there a lot of talented people who don’t achieve artistic or worldly success, but I think there’s usually a reason—a failure inside them. The important thing is, if you fail once, or if your luck is bad this time, the dream is still there. A dream is only over if you give it up—or if it comes true. That is called irony.

We have to remember the oracle’s words, from Nike, the Greek goddess of victory and lumpy athletic shoes: Just do it. No excuses.

The night has a thousand saxophones.
And nary a clarinet between us.

Turn it up—or turn that wild card down.

The line that started it all. On a rainy day in late summer, cool enough to draw me close to the fire, I sat on the floor of my cottage with a pile of papers around me—notes from the previous two years, lines and phrases collected on the road or in that dreamlike moment before sleep. I began playing with the phrases, “turn it up” and “turn it down,” thought about turning a card down. I started to think more about the “wild card” idea. I guess that’s called inspiration.

So many wild cards we are dealt in life—where we’re born, the genes we wear, the people we meet along the way, and the circumstances of the world around us. Sometimes we even choose a wild card: Faith is like that, and so is Trust—one of the biggest chances you can take in life is trusting somebody, and yet most of us take that chance, at least once or twice. Some of us pursue ambitions where the odds against success are great (and where we might have to stay adolescents all our lives). That is called bravado.

There is truth in homilies like “the harder I work, the luckier I get” and “luck is when preparation meets opportunity,” but they are only tendencies not laws. The best-laid plans, et cetera. No matter how intelligent, talented, and beautiful we might be, we still don’t know what the hell’s going to happen next. But we can improve the odds by the choices we make.

I am not an existentialist; I am a free man!

Where’s my thing?

Where indeed. No deep meaning here, I’m glad to report—just one of those things people say: “Where’s that . . . um . . . oh, you know . . . where’s my—thing?”

We had a lot of fun with this one, putting so much stuff into it there wasn’t room for a small kitchen sink. And for once, the lyrics are guaranteed politically correct. We’ve been meaning to do another instrumental (exercise in self-indulgence) for a few years, but something always seemed to derail our good intentions—as soon as Geddy and Alex would come up with a good musical part, it would fit some lyrics I’d just written.

This time I outsmarted them; I wouldn’t give them any more words until they finished writing an instrumental. It worked.

Playing the game, but not the way the big boys played.

Yo, D. J.—spin that wheel!

Sorry. You lose. Life is so unfair. I mean, shuffling around this mortal coil, this vale of tears, playing the cosmic game show and waiting for the party-at-the-end-of-the-world, taking commercial breaks and flicking through the channels—then suddenly the show is over? If you played well and gave it all you had, you’re certainly a winner, but sometimes the winner takes nothing. That is called tragedy.

Do we have to be forgiving at last?

I suppose. The deconstruction of the Eastern Bloc made some people happy; it made me mad. For generations those people had to line up for toilet paper, wear bad suits, drive nasty cars, and drink bug spray to get high—and it was all a mistake? A heavy price to pay for somebody else’s misguided ideology, it seems to me, and that waste of life must be the ultimate heresy.

The drum part in this song was inspired by a different part of the world. One hot night I lay under the stars on a rooftop in Togo, and heard the sound of drums from across the valley. Even on the edge of sleep the drumming moved me, the rhythm stayed in my head and while working on this song I used variations of it and other West African influences. Depending on your point of view that is either called cultural cross-pollination, or plundering the Third World . . .

Somehow we find each other through all that masquerade.

The timeless quest—find somebody to love, and make it last. We know the odds are not good, but most of us keep trying. Some of us get lucky. Some of us don’t. C’est la vie.

Some great guitar stuff in this song, I think, but don’t tell him I said so. This is the kind of song that we always think ought to be a massive hit single, but by this time we’ve learned that it won’t be, because we’re too weird.

Life is a diamond you turn into dust.

Some people can’t deal with the world as it is, or themselves as they are, and feel powerless to change things—so they get all crazy. They waste away their lives in delusions, paranoia, aimless rage, and neuroses, and in the process they often make those around them miserable, too. Strained friendships, broken couples, warped children. I think they should all stop it. That is called wishful thinking.

Bebop or a one-drop or a hip-hop lite pop metallist.

Yep, no matter what kind of song you choose to play, you’re betting your life on it, for good or ill, and what you believe is what you are. So there. However you slice it, you’re taking a chance, and you might not be right. (Just this once.) No one can ever be sure, in this best of all possible random universes.

That’s why the essence of these songs is, if there’s a chance, you might as well take it. So what if some parts of life are a crap shoot? Get out there and shoot the crap. A random universe doesn’t have to be futile; we can change the odds, load the dice, and roll again.

And there’s no escaping the dice, even if you try to take the sting out of a random universe by embracing the prefab structure of Faith, you still have to gamble that it’s the right one. Say the secret word and win a hundred dollars. For anyone who hasn’t seen Groucho Marx’s game show “You Bet Your Life,” I mean that no one but Groucho knows the secret word, and one guess is as good as another. You might have lived a good long life as an exemplary Christian only to be met at the gates of heaven by Mohammed . . .

Anything can happen. That is called fate.

Why are we here? Because we’re here. Row the boats.

Management by Ray Danniels, SRO, Toronto
Tour Manager: Liam Birt
Production Manager: Nick Kotos
Stage Manager: Skip Gildersleeve
Concert Sound Engineer: Robert Scovill
Lighting Director: Shawn Richardson
Stage Left Technician: Jimmy Joe Rhodes
Centre Stage Technician: Larry Allen
Stage Right Technician: Jim Johnson
Keyboard Technician: Tony Geranios
Stage Monitor Engineer: Bill Chrysler
Personal Assistant and Tour Photographer: Andrew MacNaughtan

Cocnert Sound by Electrotec: Ted Leamy, David Stogner, Larry Vodopivec
Lighting by See Factor: Larry Hovic, Edward Duda, Mike Frantz, Donald Lodico
Varilites: Steve Owens, Dave Larrinaga, Stuart Felix
Lasers by Laserlite F/X: Charlie Passarelli
Rear Screen Projections created by BearSpots: Norman Stangl, Clive Smith and John Halfpenny
Projectionist: Bob Montgomery
Concert Rigging by IMC: Billy Collins, Mike McDonald, Marc Renault
Carpenters: George Steinert, Sal Marinello, Moe Haggadone
Drivers: Tom Whittaker, Mac McLear, Tom Hartman, Stan Whittaker, Ron Sagnip, Danny Shelnut, Jim Dezwarte, Dave Cook
Tour Merchandise: Mike McLoughlin, Shannon McLoughlin
Booking Agencies: International Creative Management, NYC, The Agency Group, London, The Agency, Toronto

Art Direction & Program Design: Hugh Syme
Typesetting: California Phototypography, Inc.
Photography: Andrew MacNaughtan

Location for Mr. Lee’s portrait made available by The Winter Garden Theatre, Toronto
c/o The Ontario Heritage Foundation

Alex Lifeson

Have you ever noticed how fish have scales and you can play scales on a guitar? I wanted to have a guitar made from fish, but I don’t know. I asked my friend Gil about it and he said it would probably cost more than a fin and then gave me some line about only a bass player would use a guitar made from fish. He’s a reel jerk anyway.

I wanted to try some new ideas for guitar picks. I tried a donut first. Then I tried another donut as a pick. That was stupid. Next, I tried an axe. I’ve always wondered why people call guitars axes. Axes make lousy picks but they’re great for cutting wood. I had to get another guitar because axes are great for cutting wood. Axes are also great for cutting fish so there’s another strike against a fish guitar. I tried a plastic bag but the green ones have a dull tone and as far as I’m concerned, they’re garbage.

Well, what about amps? I had a great idea. I wore a hearing aid, turned it up loud and just played and just played and it seemed loud enough. I found that I could hear conversations more clearly when I sat in the back seat of cars or in movie theaters. Sounds of the wild outdoors were amazing. The only problem was the guitar cord plugged into my ear. I almost called my friend Yuri in the Soviet Sort of Union of Kinda Socialist Republics to see if he had any Khrumy amps left but discovered he moved to Florida to become an actor. And I thought I was desperate.

I was totally lost as to what to do. I went to see the Pope and he liked the idea of the fish guitar. I also told him about the donut pick and he said, “My son, that’s stupid.” Big help! So I made a trip to England and talked to my pal Queen Elizabeth. She said, “Al, why don’t you try these Crown amps I use in my rig?” I said; “Hey, great idea, Liz.” So we finished our beers and she took me down to the Royal Rehearsal Studio. She cranked up these amps and smacked the longest E sus chord I’ve ever heard. She looked at me with this great big smile and yelled over the decaying chord, “Six hundred watts! It’s really rather super, don’t you think?” So she sold them to me at cost.

Well, I had the amp scene together and now I just needed to work out the guitar situation. The fish guitar idea was not going to fly, so I gave George Bush a call. He asked me: “What do you know about PRS?” I told him I thought a couple of Tylenol, maybe a few Valium, and avoiding any confrontations was the best way to deal with it. He said “No, you idiot! PRS guitars. You know, Paul Reed Smith? I got mine around the corner at the factory. They stay the line and have a kindler, gentler tone.” So he sold me his at cost plus ten percent. “Cost plus ten?” I asked.

He said, “Yeah, well, we’re in a deficit, you know.”

I’m still working on a donut pick. Maybe a fish-flavored donut. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Neil Peart

On the day we began setting up for the writing stage of Roll the Bones, I stood in the little studio and watched Larry putting my drums together. It occurred to me that I’d been using the same basic setup for years now, and maybe it was time for a rethink—time to make some changes, take some chances. Just putting the drums in different places might alter my approach to them, push me in some new directions.

So we started moving the toms around, putting the floor tom under my left hand, and shifting the others down one position, placing the 15″ where the floor tom used to be, the 13″ where the 15″ used to be, and like that. This gave me some new rhythmic possibilities, new ways to construct fills, and even familiar patterns would sound different.

Also, I wanted to try using a single bass drum, with two pedals—to eliminate a big resonating chamber (the other bass drum) which I hardly ever used. I also decided to try a different size: 22″ rather than 24″. So we did all that, and it was good.

My first set of Ludwigs had survived five years of hard labor: recording Hold Your Fire, Presto, and Roll the Bones, as well as two long tours which included the recording of A Show of Hands. They’d gone from pretty-in-pink to plum-crazy, and still sounded good, but maybe it was time to give them a rest. Time for a new kit.

And here it is: Ludwigs once again, in their “Blue Shadow” finish, with the brass-plating and “Vibrafibing” coordinated by the Percussion Center in Fort Wayne. Other than the above-named changes, the setup remains the same; Zildjian cymbals (but for the two Chinese Wuhans), Slingerland snare, assorted cowbells, and Tama gong bass drum. The In the “back forty,” we find the Ludwig 13″ piccolo snare, 18″ bass drum, plus d-drum pads, Shark pedals, and KAT midi marimba triggering Akai samplers. Remo heads are punished by Promark “Signature” sticks.

And that’s what ‘s new in the toy box—I mean tool box!

Geddy Lee

Questions, questions . . .

This is the space normally dedicated to my equipment list, but from tour to tour my equipment changes so little, I ask myself, Does anyone reading this really want to know what equipment I use? Or would they be interested in something else? If so, what? What would be appropriate? Would they be interested in the same things I am? Especially this time of the year? (Autumn ’91)

Would they care if the Blue Jays won in the pathetic American League East? What is going to happen in Russia? Will Gorbo pull it all together? Can the Democratic party ever find a serious opponent to George Bush? How about that Colin Powell? How about Frank Thomas, first base for the White Sox? Is it true that he is so good that one day he’ll be referred to only as “Big Frank?” What about Canada? (Our home and native land.) Is Canada really rich in resources, poor in policy?” Can the people of Ontario survive the effects of a quasi-socialist government? Maybe I should move to Chicago. After all they have two major league teams, Wrigley Field, a real great Art Institute, and all those magnificent buildings. (Not to mention Big Frank.) And all those great restaurants.

Speaking of food, should I finally stop eating red meat completely? (Is a hot dog technically red meat or what?) And will I really live longer if I get rid of most of the fat in my diet? Or will I just feel better? More important, will it help my tennis game? Do Jimmy Connors or Nolan Ryan watch what they eat? Did Satchel Paige, or Vince van Gogh? How about Big Frank, for that matter?

Can the Jays make it to the Series? Would that really piss off Americans to see the Series played in Canada? Why are the questions always easier to come up with than the answers? I dunno.

Why are we here . . . for the beer?
Roll dem bones.
Call me, we’ll do lunch!

P.S.—2 Wal basses, 2 BGW amps, 2 Furman PQ-3 pre-amps, 2 API eq units, 2 big ugly cabinets with 15″ speakers. In Synthworld; Korg midi pedals, Taurus pedals, Roland D-50, Roland S-770 samplers, Korg Wavestation, Yamaha PF-80.

~ by rvkeeper on March 12, 2011.

One Response to “Roll the Bones: Tour Book”

  1. “so get out there and rock,….roll the bones!!!!”

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