Page 105

MAGNETIC MEMORIES By Neil Peart

Photograph: FIN COSTELLO/REDFERNS/GETTY IMAGES

Photograph: RONN DUNNETT

M

y first experience in a recording studio was around the age of seventeen, when I had been playing for four or five years. Those seem the most important details — age and experience. For the record (ha!), it was early 1970, and the band was J.R. Flood, from my hometown of St. Catharines, Ontario. We were thrilled to be invited by a record company — actually two companies, in that one year — to make a demo of our original material, in professional-grade recording studios in the “big city,” Toronto. We figured we had pretty much made it. J.R. Flood was a serious band, my first “full-time pro” outfit, with Paul Dickinson on guitar, Wally Tomczuk on bass, Bob Morrison on Hammond, and Gary Luciani singing. They were a good bunch of guys, disciplined and dedicated — and funny. (I’ve been lucky that way.) We practiced hard every weekday in the Dickinson family basement. (Paul’s mother has surely been sainted.) Weekends we played at high schools and small halls around Southern Ontario. What had been called “dances” in the early ’60s were firmly “concerts” by 1970, when pretty well everyone in the audience sat down on the gym floor or stood around the walls to listen and watch. That was a nice level of attention for a young musician to feel.

FOUR DECADES IN THE STUD I O WITH RUSH

Best of all, in those times there were gigs — audiences — available for a night or two every weekend. Plus the musical climate was open enough that our originals were welcomed along with the cover material. (The drinking age in Ontario was still 21, soon to be lowered to 18, which would change everything for local bands — not necessarily for the better, I’m afraid. With alcohol involved, fewer people tended to “listen and watch.”) J.R. Flood played covers of bands we liked (a few by Santana and Blood, Sweat & Tears, Jethro Tull’s “Teacher,” Deep Purple’s “April,” that I recall offhand), and had a small repertoire of original songs (among them my first two attempts at lyrics, “Gypsy” and “Retribution”). However, if the local live-music scene was healthy in the late ’60s, the music business was not so robust, at least in the Great White North. The paths to success were an alternate-universe version of what young musicians everywhere face today — the conditions were unfavorable, and the odds were slim. Canadian record companies were mere satellites of American labels, or tiny, local independents. They had little power in either case, and were certainly not interested in a band with no obvious singles — the gold standard of the day. (Again, not so different now; it’s still all about one song at a time — only the media have changed, not the mechanics.) So, they “politely DRUMmagazine.com December 2015

D234_102_112_Plugged_In_v3.indd 103

DRUM!

103 10/15/15 4:32 PM

DRUM! Magazine December 2015  

Try a copy of DRUM! and learn to play better faster. The huge (144 pages) holiday issue features jazz triple grammy winner Teri Lyne Carring...

DRUM! Magazine December 2015  

Try a copy of DRUM! and learn to play better faster. The huge (144 pages) holiday issue features jazz triple grammy winner Teri Lyne Carring...