This post is about the influence the band Rush (Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart) had on my life.But first you’ll need a little background about how their music became just a little more than simple entertainment for me–at a critical juncture.
For those who don’t remember, Elizabeth Clare Prophet predicted nuclear war in the late ’80’s, and exhorted her followers to build shelters to survive the catclysm. In the runup to the ‘war,’ she directed the building of massive shelters for 750 people, which were well-designed but hastily buried in a previously pristine valley near Gardiner, Montana. Two key dates were set on which she claimed the war would occur. The first was October 2, 1989, which passed without incident. (The shelters weren’t done yet.)
Local pubs held “end of the world” parties.
The next date was March 15, 1990. “Beware the Ides of March” was a phrase she repeated often. That night she ordered every man, woman, and child in the community into the almost-completed shelters for a “drill.” But to her it was no drill. It was the real thing. She expected Soviet nuclear missiles to hit the United States shortly after midnight. It was to be God’s ‘judgement’ of a corrupt and decadent civilization. She even said the prayer aloud, dozens and dozens of times: “Lord God, let the right arm of your Son Jesus Christ descend in judgment…”
Yours truly was out there with a bullhorn at 11:50 pm (following her instructions) warning the stragglers to get inside before it was too late. “Whatever you’re doing, whatever stuff you’re bringing in, leave it outside…it’s more important to save yourselves…”
After the shelter doors clanged shut, the only sound to be heard was furious chanting. Some of us ventured a look out the observation ports, which were reinforced with removable panels of inches-thick glass. All we could see was a clear starry night. People paced, fumed, chanted some more, and maybe tried to grab a few winks. The sewer system wasn’t finished (legally), so hundreds of people had to relieve themselves in makeshift toilets made out of 5-gallon buckets. The next morning everyone dragged their asses out of the stinking shelters and tried to figure out what the hell happened, or rather, hadn’t happened.
Prior to the “drill,” I had been packing up my house in Mol Heron canyon, getting ready to put all my belongings in underground storage, or bring what would fit into the bomb shelter itself, which was only about a mile down the road.The whole community was doing the same thing, basically packing up offices and personal belongings and transferring them to “bins” to be moved into the underground storage bunkers. Local moving giant Megenthalers ran dozens of semi-trucks up and down Mol Heron Creek Road. Refiners from Billings made nearly a hundred tanker truck deliveries of gasoline, diesel, and LPG to the shelter site. Since my house sat across the canyon from the main road, I remember watching this parade going on through all hours of many nights. Truck after truck. It finally came to be my family’s turn to move our stuff. Furniture and bulky items were stretch-wrapped and left in the house. Clothing, essentials and personal mementos were packed.
I had a couple of days to pack up, and I remember going through my music collection. I had all my then ‘current’ music, which consisted of mostly classical, and a few ‘new age’ artists like Enya and Mannheim Steamroller. Then there was that “other” box which had a combination of my old personal rock albums and CDs plus the “research” discs I had bought for the rock lecture. (It had been a little less than three years since I had given my infamous lecture denouncing rock-and-roll in July of 1987.) Everything had been painstakingly organized, all CDs entered into a database, with numbered stickers.
The “research” process had been tough for me. Because since I had mixed feelings of admiration for some of the artists I was denouncing, I had to be careful. I picked a lot of death metal and speed metal artists. I didn’t really care for the music, and the ‘satanic’ themes of bands like Slayer made them an easy target for a church audience. Also, stories about troubled teens listening to Judas Priest, Ozzy, or Metallica and killing themselves were rich fodder for invoking the “wrath of God” for the “binding of Death and Hell.” But then I had to be ‘fair’ and include music I liked as well. So I picked on one of my favorites–Rush.
This was under the heading of “political rock” in which I denounced artists who used music to advance what I then saw as the goals of ‘world communism.’ Steve “Little Steven” Van Zandt was one who had particular collectivist sympathies. This was before even more blatant anti-capitalist bands like “Rage Against the Machine” came on the scene. As for Rush, I played the song “Territories,” from Power Windows, which is a discussion of the origins of human conflict. The reason I took issue with the song at the time was that it engaged in a certain relativism–making all reasons for conflict equally suspect. My main point of disagreement was to say that when threatened with a greater evil (slavery, dictatorship, communism, theocracy, etc.) there are things worth fighting wars for. In retrospect, I think this still holds true. More and more, after seeing the fruits of violent Islam, I think even Rush might agree with me.
So I had a little time one night while I was packing. No one was around. I guiltily grabbed my headphones to listen to the prohibited music, all in the name of research, of course ;-) and popped in Power Windows. It had been a few years since I had listened–really listened to this music. I was overwhelmed. It was like a dam burst. I was even able to hear “Territories” in a different way, as a plea for peace and enlightenment. Next I moved on to Hold Your Fire, and was moved to tears listening to this song:
Mission [lyrics by Neil Peart]
Hold your fire, keep it burning bright
Hold the flame til the dream ignites,
A spirit with a vision, is a dream with a missionI hear their passionate music
Read the words, that touch my heart
I gaze at their feverish pictures, the secrets that set them apart
When I feel the powerful visions, their fire’s made alive
I wish I had that instinct, I wish I had that driveSpirits fly on dangerous missions, imaginations on fire
Focused high on soaring ambitions, consumed in a single desire
In the grip of a nameless possession, a slave to the drive of obsession
A spirit with a vision, is a dream with a missionI watch their images flicker, bringing light to a lifeless screen
I walk through their beautiful buildings, and I wish I had their dreams
But dreams don’t need to have motion, to keep their spark alive
Obsession has to have action, pride turns on the drive
Its cold comfort, to the ones without it
To know how they struggled, how they suffered about it
If their lives were exotic and strange
They would likely have gladly exchanged them
For something a little more plain, maybe something a little more sane
We each pay a fabulous price, for our visions of paradise
But a spirit with a vision, is a dream with a mission…
I realized I could not equate the passion, skill, and drive I was hearing, with the idea that such talented musicians could be “fallen ones” as the church taught. It just didn’t add up. They felt like brothers to me. Interestingly, after that epiphany, I became a little less personally worried about my mom’s war prophecies.What was really striking was listening to the words of “Mission,” and then thinking about what we were all doing. We had a mission alright, we had obsession. Our lives were exotic and strange, we paid the fabulous price–for our visions of paradise. Just not the paradise I had in mind. We were preparing for the end of the freaking world!
[Yes, that’s me under the flag in the shelter entry tube–kind of ironic we put up an American flag when we thought America was about to be bombed out of existence!]
All in all, I think I listened to six or eight Rush albums that night. From the latest one I had, Hold Your Fire, all the way back to A Farewell to Kings. They really galvanized me. I made a decision right then and there that if there was no war, I was outta there. It was an epiphany. From that moment on, I wanted no part of it. I kept packing, and went through all the “drills,” but I stopped taking it so seriously, and my heart wasn’t in it. Rush renewed my faith–in myself. I could do better than this! I didn’t belong here. It took a little longer to resolve the other big questions which had kept me in the church: Were the masters real? Did I believe in reincarnation? Was there really a god? Those questions took me years to sort out. But that night I knew, listening to those Rush albums, the three players were my true kindred spirits–not the ever-invisible Ascended Masters. In fact the ‘masters,’ with all their gloom and their doom, were really starting to piss me off.
You see the power of inspiration? Music can do great things. It really gave me a wake-up call, and put me back in touch with my critical mind when I had completely lost my grip. So it was with a sense of anticipation I read an article a couple of days ago that Rush is writing their upcoming album based entirely on their musings about faith and its impact on the world. Wow. It’s due out in early 2007. Hopefully their sure-to-be insightful songs will help ‘save’ some others.Hard to believe all that went down 16 years ago. Seems like another life. A few years later, my family and I packed up once again–and headed back to Los Angeles for good. In 1996, I took my entire family including Lars, who was 5 at the time, to see Rush in concert, twice. Chris immediately took up the drums, at the age of 10. Now they are all musicians. Chris is already doing national tours as a drummer for Horse the Band, and has also become a pretty damn good composer in his own right. Nate is also a great drummer. Laurence has become a real shredder on his guitar. Between the three of them, they are in 5 bands. My garage is loaded with stacks of Marshalls, keyboards, drums, etc. There’s a free “rock concert” practically every night of the week at my house now. Even the neighbors don’t mind! So I didn’t get to be a rocker myself, but still my dream has come true–I’m the happiest and luckiest man alive.
Cheers Sean, you’re not the only one who had his separate collection of classics and Enya!
during those days
My secret ‘guilty’ albums..were Marillion (prog Brit band – Fish era….very good stuff….I was intrigued)
Script for a Jesters tear; Fugazi and Misplaced childhood
and early REM…
That simple old singalong favourite from Document comes to mind after what you just wrote above.
“Its the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine) and Mike Mills (i think) on backing vocals: “Its time I had some time alone”
Interesting enough my birthday is on the Ides. Do you reckon that makes me a prophet of doom too? ; )
Music does help a lot in its own kind of way. Its one of the arts that hits our senses, tickles our brain cells and just makes us feel great to be human!…long may it continue.
Sean, that is so freaking cool that your kids grew up to be musicians! My son plays the bass. My youngest plays guitar and my middles child can sing her ass off. I keep trying to get them to start a band with me writing the lyrics, but they are still in school and have lots of time to figure out what they are going to do with their lives.
Like you music has been a great influence on my beliefs. Tool and System of a down have been the biggest. I love their anti-religious views!
PS. Last week I had a nasty sinus infection and my spelling and grammer was all fucked up on some of my posts here. I hope you were able to read them and get the point. Sorry about that.
Strange Days Indeed
Holy crap Sean. What a great post. You have been on fire lately with your posting. Im overwhelmed!
Talk about an epiphany! If Rush doesnt get your mind free, then nothing will. Music has helped me quite a bit in my life too…
And like you, I had a time where I was denouncing rock and pop music. Although my story PALES in comparison to the intensity of conflicting emotion that you endured, I still feel like I can relate to you in a way:
When I was a teenager, before I became an atheist, I had been increasing my religious zeal and fundamentalism. I had been in the Church Youth Group for a few years, and was all serious about being pious and faithful and putting all thoughts and actions towards God and Jesus.
I remember another youth group kid who had a Nine Inch Nails album ni his hand outside the church doors. I looked at him with a squinted, disapproving eye, and I told him “you know, Nine Inch Nails is not good music. It will pull you away from Jesus!”
He looked at me guiltily, and replied “yea, but its not my Bible…” before walking off.
At the time I felt very holy, high and mighty, and very vindicated for my comment towards him.
Years later, I look back at that moment and feel like a total asshole! I am the guilty one, not him.
Obviously though, you went through those kinds of emotions and mental struggles to a FAR greater degree than I did. You endured a gauntlet that I am thankful I didnt have to pass through. But I think I can identify with what you felt.
Im so glad you had the courage adn honsetly to self reflect and to wake up. The fact that, ultimately, you were brave enough to use your mind independently, is a very commendable thing, especially considering the severity of your circumstances.
And look how far youve come. Look where you are today. You saved yourself and you whole family! And now you are spreading the “good news” of godlessness across the internet.
Rush better have a tour after they release their next album. And they BETTER play in Los Angeles! Because I am gonna go with you to that concert. :)
Sean, an absolutely wonderful post. I gave you some linkage on this one:
See I never had that problem… I was the Rush, Pantera, Megadeth listener from the git go. :)
I feel for ya after that story though, rough spot you where in.
Good thing those bombs didn’t go off too. ;)
Sean – wow! I thought my dealings with Jim Jones were trippy, I’m afraid your experiences are a little more intense than mine were. I love the role music played in your life. It is much the same in my family. One of the proudest moments Iâ€™ve had recently was hearing my sonâ€™s Japanese language radio program where he discussed the role of music as a metaphor for connection to the human race. Music is what we share as a family and its power carried him through some hard times when he was teaching overseas.
Thanks for sharing your story â€“ Iâ€™m planning to post a link at Deep Thoughts. It is one of the most uplifting blog posts Iâ€™ve ever come across.
And a bit of trivia â€“ Rushâ€™s Tom Sawyer absolutely captures the essence of my 1981 USAF experience. Even hearing the first note brings back the smell of jet fuel.
@PP So it sounds like you were there too! I know quite a few of the guys driving trucks had a lot of time to listen to ‘tunes.’ Probably the only thing that kept them sane. I really quit listening to rock for a while, I guess to not be a hypocrite. But that just made my experience all that much more powerful when I finally did. I know a lot of other people who like Marillion, and listened to them a couple times myself.
@Amy, all my kids were in band class at their schools, but they met their bandmates elsewhere, like at “battle of the bands” events and stuff like that. You might get your kids to play together, but they may do better playing with other kids. Sounds like they’re pretty young though. They’ve got plenty of time.
@Aaron, I was on a big project for a few weeks, and I guess I just got backed up with ideas. I’ve been wanting to tell the shelter story for a while now, and with the Rush tie-in. When I saw the article about Rush’s new album being all about religion, I just about flipped my lid! We are SO THERE when they tour–we’ll have to take the day off so we can meet for drinks a few hours before they start. I hate this whole “leave work and rush down to Staples center” thing. That’s what happened with Tool, and for me part of the enjoyment is relaxing beforehand with friends. I’m beginning to think some of us who live in the area should get together anyway once every month or two for drinks and talking all night about philosophy or something. You guys are getting to be some of my best buds!
@olly, thanks again–too bad you don’t live closer, because I definitely want to get drinks with you sometime.
@adron, yeah it was crazy, I blame myself for most of it, I was an adult, after all. I listened to everything when I was a teenager, cruising around in my Celica in SoCal. But like anything else, once you start down a road, it becomes harder and harder to see things objectively. Once I decided to become a minister, move to the ranch, and work on the shelters, I was pretty committed. Plus I had a bunch of small children to take care of. So it took some hard work to get out of there.
@Mojoey–Thanks for stopping by, I’ve checked out your blog a few times. Jim Jones is the granddaddy of the cult leaders. No one directly died at my church (unless you count wasted years as a partial death), but there were certainly weapons around, and any confrontation with the feds could have turned into something like Waco. But aside from all that, I think people become their own worst enemy. The forces keeping people involved in any cult are similar: idealism, in-group out-group thinking, believing you are chosen people, spiritual purity, etc. etc. Fear of defilement or loss of salvation becomes worse than fear of death, as in the bible quote: “Fear not those who kill the body, but fear those who destroy the soul in hell.” Once you accept that line of reasoning, it’s a slippery slope all the way to kool-aid or jihad.
Tom Sawyer and jet-fuel, that’s gotta be a great association! Cheers!
During the shelter cycle, I had left the Teachings and was journeying through a diverse set of cultures outside trying to explore and make sense of “life outside the bubble”.
Having grown up in the Teachings, I could not believe it had occurred. It’s surreal to comprehend the group psychology, with such a large community believing fully that nuclear holocaust was imminent, and that therefore the premises true before no longer applied–most primarily: creditors would cease to exist, so it would not be irresponsible to make large purchases though capital was not available to pay for them.
I know from this (though I have at times questioned whether or not the powers that be within the organization had faith matching my own) that leadership of the organization, as well as Mother, believed completely in the imminent danger.
I can only begin to imagine the disillusionment, doubts, and furthermore, as the son of the Guru, having people turn to you in their bewilderment and pain, expecting your natural born God-given insight to explain it, provide answers. I don’t think it would be possible to imagine the burden this would leave upon you and your sisters.
You inspired me to take a second look at Rush–Peart’s lyrics are hard to hear the way Geddy Lee sings them–back then, after posting writings in some letter or blog somewhere. I did look at them then, and understand completely why his words inspire you.
Regarding Rush and Neal Peart’s genius, I posted thoughts under “Set it on Fire”.
I heard an accidental nuclear launch from the Soviet Union on March 15 almost occured but was averted. I havn’t been able, using Google, to find sources verifying the claim.
I stumbled upon your site by accident while following up on some Rush info.
What a great story. I must admit, however, that I was wondering how an individual as intelligent as you are could get caught up in one of those “End of The Workld” cults.
It all made sense when I discovered it was your mom that was leading the group. Now I understand.
I’ve been a Rush fan since the late 1970’s and still listen regularly to this day.
I’ve always felt that their music had a certain power and influence about it like no other. In a good way of course.
I was a drummer back in the day and sold my kit after getting married and having my first child. You know, no time to play, no place to set up, job, responsibilities, etc.
It was a red Tama set that I patterned after the kit that Neil Peart was playing at the time.
I do plan to buy another kit someday just for fun. Bigger house, self-employed and more time for fun now-a-days.
Thanks for sharing your story. It’s inspiring how it all turned out.
Your kids sound great and you should be proud — I am quite sure you are.
I don’t remember your mother prophesying the end of the world, the masters said they were going to try to save this world with a minimum of destruction and loss of life. Your parents were never doomsday prophets, ever. Sound from the dawning of creation precedes light and the misuse of sound can destroy a civilization. In the early 1970’s thirteen years before I came into the teaching of the ascended masters I was taken to my first rock concert by my boyfriend Harry to see the grateful dead. The music started playing and I instinctively jumped out of my seat and said to him “Get me out of here this is not music!” I never felt comfortable with the way it made my heart feel when I listened to it. I didn’t care if the words were good or bad I couldn’t stand to listen to it. I use to say to him, “No wonder you get violent headaches listening to that sound!”
The bomb shelters were to show the world we have no civil defense and our decrees did avert nuclear holocost, “Thou shalt Decree a thing and it will be established unto thee.” The church of the 144 thousand was prophesied to save this planet,even if we are fools for Christ sake!
United we stand, devided we fall!
Yours truley, Doris Anne Tracey
Interesting story. I connected to it because I was spent some years living on a ‘hippy commune’ set up by my dad. I couldn’t wait to get out of that nutty place, although there was a cool side to it as well – at least it means you have interesting stories about your childhood.
I lost myself in movies, though…
I would not say all rock stars are fallin angels, I was fallin until I came on the path of soul restoration. I would not have functioned in this world at all if I hadn’t found the Teachings of the Ascended Masters and I thank your parents for sacrificing their lives for all of us. One day in the future after the darkness that has covered the land is cleared we will walk and talk with our cosmic brothers and sisters again as in the days of old. The fourth dimension will be clearly visable and accesssable to us all. All worldly desires will mearly melt away by the magnificent beauty of it all. God desires to bring back all fallin consciousness to him. His will,will be done on earth as it is in heaven, the etheric octaves of light!
I really hope one day you will be free too
But if you are happy right now. Then that is what counts.
However, what you write in your posts are quite sad to read, because they are so opinionated with belief that it sounds like someone encaged.
I met many people like you in the past, during my own decade of involvement. I’m sure Sean has had his fair brunt through this site.
I mean you no harm, but your views sound very extremist, judgemental and full of what was termed in CUT: ‘spiritual pride’
Or should it be re-termed: ‘too much pride in your own beliefs…that you try to force your opinions on others’
What you describe are YOUR experiences, because you chose to have them. You cannot judge someone else just because they think differently, or enjoy something you do not, or if they feel free from illusion.
Wake up to REALITY! Even if there are other worlds beyond the human senses and comprehension. We have to live in this one and be HUMAN!
Find yourself Doris, for your own sake.
Its incredible. You have the very son of the inventors of CUT, a person who lived through all of that stuff, revealing us the load of bullshit and manipulation behind curtains, â€”by the way, someone who could be making LOTS of money playing the “successor” role, but instead has the guts and honesty to denounce all of it as false delussion. Still … there are people out there who don’t get it!
Next time i’m in L.A., beers for me and you and Kinney are on me!
I really hope that someday, you will begin to understand that reality is a far more beautiful place to live then the fantasy world of superstition you’ve wrapped yourself in.
when we lived in VA. my son was in the middle school band. Unfortunately the schools here in northern CA(where we live now) are loosing a lot of their funding for music and art, but they do offer music lessons for $300 for the school year. My youngest took lessons last year and didnt want to do it this year. She didnt like the music teacher(he doesnt jam enough). My middle child is in corus and drama with the school, but they are struggling to keep it. It really is sad to see the arts disappear from our schools.
I agree, my kids all have different tastes when it comes to music and would do better with others. I just tease them about being an atheist family band to counter those stupid christian family bands. lol
you do have one of the most interesting stories to tell. I’m so glad you made it out to tell the rest of us. I’ve always wondered what happened to those religious groups who swore a nuclear war was going to happen. I was a teenager at that time and remember hearing about it on the news. Thanks for sharing.
Oh yeah, when I had that sinus infection my dating was off. It was the early eighties that I told my mom. It could also be that I refuse to get older as well. ;)lol
This is an amazing post and an excellent band. I’m commenting so that reference to this article will go back onto the home page to the attention of those who haven’t yet read it. Listening to the song “Mission” inspired my own poetry. A great deal of suppression goes on in hankering after these beliefs and music can help to crack the seal and release the gusto to move forward and plan without boundaries.
Probably the greatest BSJ ever. Thanks for bringing it back.
It’s been very interesting to see the comments and outcome of your
experiences over the years.
My mother was a member for twenty or so years.
Our family had quite mixed emotions about this association between my mother and CUT
So far , i”m the only one to accept …..I think!…that this was what mum wanted to do!
I was never a follower! But would support my mother in her ideas…..(If that’s what you want to do)………..But when it came to the ” The end of the world” phenomenon , I ‘ve gone ….what a load of crap……………I just couldn’t quite get it!
Well ,now that i’ve been monitoring your website and your sister’s;
I would like to thank you for your insight of what can happen in a family, let alone a group of friends ….And I wish your mother an insightful life and your family \ ies
The best of luck…for there are many that will not..!!
Cheers from UpsideDown Land
Hi Sis, er I mean Fletch. I don't think you were the "only" one, or even the first.
One of the best songs ever, “Mission”
Indeed Rush are musical geniuses.
I found your website by accident… Wow, talk about one crazy clan you belonged to. I'm glad you got out of it.