Friday, April 30, 2010

Why 'The Spirit of Radio' is My Favorite Song

Can you answer the question, "What is your favorite song"? I can. Yep, I have whittled it down to one and I have known it since I was 12 years old. This is my desert island song; my funeral song. I am talking about The Spirit of Radio by Rush. It played a very big role in what remains one of the most decisive musical experiences of my life; it was the opener of the Power Windows tour '85. If I close my eyes, and lean back, I can still feel the sheer impact of the lights going up and the bombastic opening riffs coming down. I must have heard this tune some 5000 times throughout my lifetime. 5000. Seriously, how can someone listen to a tune 5000 times and not get sick of it?

Yes indeed, how and why? I will attempt, to the best of my conscious abilities, answer those questions below. Most of the deeper intangibles escape the surface, but, the things I can describe, I will.

First, this tune always makes me happy. Always.

Second, this tune f'ing rocks. I mean, it seriously rocks. It is a prime example of virtuosic rock. It is one big fat timeless sprawling epic masterpiece of a tune exhibiting sophisticated jazz man chops yet is completely accessible to the masses. You can sing it, you can dance to it, you can air guitar to it, you can play your air drums to it, you can just listen, you can analyze it, and it always satisfies in every dimension.

Third, it is smart writing. The lyrics alone read with the smooth grace and perfect rhythm of a Longfellow poem.

Invisible airwaves crackle with life
Bright antenna bristle with the energy
Emotional feedback on a timeless wavelength
Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free

Fourth, the impeccable musicianship. The sum of the parts are certainly the strongest force, but, when broken down individually, they hold up on their own; almost like three, or four, solos playing in tandem. Remember, there are only 3 guys in this band. I love power trios and the amount of sound they project is astounding. Also, the bass tone is killer.

Fifth, the tune is very dynamic and takes the listener on a musical journey. Like a great novel, it is so easy to lose yourself in the experience. When you wake up you wonder, "What the hell just happened?" "Where was I?" "Whatever, man, that was awesome!"

Sixth, it is innovative and has withstood the test of time. It juxtaposes some seriously heavy rock guitar riffs with a perfectly pretty pop melody, and then, a reggae breakdown. What is THAT all about?

Lastly, and certainly not least, this tune always makes me happy. Always.


  1. "Begin the day with a friendly voice!" You nailed it Ben. This is a great Rush song!

  2. Great blog, Ben. It's a wonderful song. I remember many of the shows of that era opening with 'Spirit of Radio'. I'm pretty sure they opened with it on the "Snakes and Arrows" tour a few years ago in Milwaukee. I was in a Rush cover band in high school, I remember that song being a fun one to play.

    Should we expect to see a fingerstyle arrangement soon? We must compare Rush anecdotes at our next lesson!

  3. Thanks David. Thanks Mark. We are going to see Rush this Summer at the MN State Fair. Kinda odd venue, but quite cool. They are going to play Moving Pictures in it's entirety for the the first time live.

    Rush:Finger-style has been elusive thus far. It has been on the brain for a long time but have yet to fine a way in. Some day. Let me know when you want to connect for another lesson! Next week? BdW