Back to the Red Sector as Clockwork Angels European Tour Ends
Neil’s ride through Poland and the former East Germany for the last part of Rush’s European Clockwork Angels tour this month became a trip down memory lane as he returned to some of the points he was trying to make in “Heresy” in Roll the Bones, released in 1991, and “Red Sector A” in Grace Under Pressure, released in 1984.
As picturesque as some of the old East German towns and cities are, like Rothenburg (pictured) and Dresden, and as impressive as their economic comeback has been after decades under Soviet influence, the repressive character of their past continues to haunt them, Neil says in his June 2013 blog update, “Shunpikers in the Shadowlands.”
“Everything I saw was colored with the lenses of that shadowy history—what those places had endured, and what the people who lived there had done, what had been done to them, and what they had been denied.”
Neil has suggested previously that “Heresy” is all about wanting to pull your hair out in disgust and frustration that the world for so long was turned upside down by ideologues and sadists who operated under the cover of a perverse ideology, Marxism, and now, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, all we can do is forgive and forget and just write off the experience as a big mistake. “All those precious, wasted years / Who will pay?”
In this latest writing on the topic, he applies the same thoughts about forgiving and forgetting to the holy warriors and fundamentalists who are wreaking so much havoc on civil society today. “Someday, I trust, the same will be said about religion,” he says.
He doesn’t make the connection, but that’s pretty clearly what “Wish Then Well” on Clockwork Angels is all about: moving on rather than trying to exact punishment on someone who so obviously deserves it. And since Clockwork Angels can be interpreted in large part as a critique of religion (it channels Voltaire’s criticism of Leibniz’s “best of all worlds” Christianity), presumably it’s religious fanatics at least in part that we’re supposed to wish well.
In Poland, he reiterates points he’s made in the past about how “Red Sector A” looks at the idea of how people liberated from the death camps believe, as a kind of coping mechanism, they’re the last people left alive because they can’t believe civilized society would allow them to be treated so inhumanely by others. But he also fills in a blank about what he means by the line “For my father and my brother, it’s too late / But I must help my mother stand up straight.” It refers to how the inmates would hold up the sick and the feeble lest they get plucked out of the camp by guards and gassed because they’re too weak to work.
“A memoir by [a] female survivor of Auschwitz filled in more details, like how if anyone appeared too ill or feeble to work, they would be sent straight to the gas chambers,” he says.”So even in that dehumanized nightmare, people showed “grace under pressure,” and tried to help each other appear “healthy.”
It’s interesting that Grace Under Pressure came out in 1984, the title year of George Orwell’s masterpiece about totalitarianism, and of course critiquing authoritarianism, whether secular or religious, is what much of the album is about. That Neil: he is a clever guy.
In any case, the blog post is far from all gloom and doom, and indeed, upon finishing the European leg of the tour, he mentions how Brutus, his good friend and riding partner, was riding for the first time since being treated for cancer.
“I was happy and relieved to see Brutus making it—keeping up with me, and enjoying the ride,” he says. “Out of all our darkness, he and I had emerged purified, ennobled, and enlightened—we knew how to appreciate life.”
And how to write about it. Neil’s post makes great reading, as his writing always does. Access “Shunpikers in the Shadowlands” now.
Aaaand . . . speaking of Caress of Steel, I think the image on the album cover, when looked at from afar, looks a lot like an Indian head penny. Take a look. —Rob Freedman, Rush Vault