A Remembrance of Neil Peart, by His Biggest Fan at Reverb

Neil Peart (1979). Photo by: Fin Costello/Redferns Getty Images.

Editor's note: Neal Markowski is the Operations Manager on Reverb's Customer Engagement team and a true Neil Peart super-fan. He first posted this remembrance on his personal Facebook page this weekend, following the news of the Rush drummer's death at the age of 67.

It starts a few months after I'm born, when Roll the Bones comes out. Less keyboards, a rapping skeleton, the whole deal. I spend a lot of formative time split between U2's Zoo TV: Live from Sydney and the Rush Chronicles VHS tapes. "Sometimes he has long hair, sometimes he has short hair. Does he have more than one drum set? Mom, can I get a triangle for my drum set? What about a gong? How did they make his kit move in that 'Time Stand Still' music video?"

It continues when The Loop announces they're going to premiere a track from "the new Rush album," Test for Echo, when I'm getting dropped off at kindergarten. I remember sitting in my dad's truck hearing the song play out (I'm going to say on THE LOOP) before running out to catch up with the other little dudes. None of them have heard of Rush and do not share my excitement.

Rush - "Time Stand Still"

It's seeing my first concert on that tour: June 14, 1997 at the New World Music Theatre in Tinley Park. Somehow my parents get me up to the front row for part of the show, and I'm there watching "Force Ten." "Let's give that kid some ear plugs?" No way. The late night/live music thing hits me hard—"Every night should be like this." We get McDonald's after the show and I swear to god that this instilled some weird rule in me of not eating dinner until after gigs that I still prescribe to (I've been trying to break it for years and I can't.)

It's getting the double VHS copy of A Work in Progress as a "you finally learned how to tie your own shoes" gift from my folks. For some reason, I was one of the last kids in the first grade to learn how to do that—but thanks to that video, I was one of the first (only?) to learn that there's no such thing as too many snare drums.

Neal's photo of Neil on his desk at Reverb.

It's using those interim years to take in every recording put out between 1974 and 1997. Never thinking that Geddy's voice sounds "weird" or "kinda high," never considering there were "too many keyboards" on some of those '80s albums, never truly realizing that some of these lyrics are "for dorks." It's all the same band, it all fits into place, it all makes sense. I definitely get spooked out by the synth intro to "2112" and am very disappointed to learn that if I try to skip past it on the CD, it goes straight to "Passage to Bangkok."

It's my dad buying Vapor Trails the day it comes out and immediately burning me a CD so I have my own copy to listen to on my boombox in my room. I remember reading about the drum intro to "One Little Victory," an idea by Geddy to announce "He's baaaaack!," and how goddamn right he was.

It's seeing them only five weeks later at the Tweeter Center (same venue, new name). I'm older now and remember more of this show. During "2112" my mom says, "Is this that 'Overture' crap again?" and I finally get to experience just how long the line is for the men's room at a Rush concert.

It's feeling downright betrayed to see that Neil switched to Sabian after 20+ years with Zildjian. After all, that's why I played Zildjian! I hear the cover of "For What It's Worth" and am convinced that the light playing on the first half of the track is his way of creating an "aural cymbal advertisement." Also worth noting that I'm 13 here, and I have no idea where that's coming from—but let's say it's my dad.

Rush - "One Little Victory"

It's having to wrap up my first recording session early so my folks can get to the R30 show. I miss this one.

It's my dad pulling me out of high school early so we can see the R30 kit set up in the parking lot of the Arlington Heights Guitar Center. Neil isn't there—but his tech is—and boy do I learn that there are some nerds out there. I'm definitely not one of those. I still buy the promotional poster and limited-edition drum sticks that are commemorating the tour of a drum set without their actual drummer. Yep, definitely not one of those nerds.

It's confusion that sets in when Snakes & Arrows features three "sorta weak" instrumentals that leads to the realization that "maybe this isn't a great Rush album," but we still see them both times they come to Chicago on this tour—First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre (once again, another name change) and the United Center.

It's standing on the beach outside the Charter One Pavilion because like hell am I paying $95 to see Moving Pictures live (mistake No. 1.) Still, I idle by the gate and they give me free baseball hats that commemorate the show for being a rain date for one cancelled a few weeks previously. We see Neil run straight from the stage into his bus, which takes off before Geddy and Alex are even off the stage. "That dude does not mess around."

Neal's pair of Peart's S.S. Professor Tour drum sticks.

It's a call from dad: "We saw the show last night. You should really try to see them in Boston if you can." I convince one of Beth's roommates to come with me. It's the first/only tour where they have additional musicians regularly onstage for the Clockwork Angels material.

It's the day I move back to Chicago. We split the drive into two days. My folks have tickets for the show at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre; I don't. We're running slightly behind on time and it's decided that we'll need to go straight to the venue, so now I need to buy a ticket to get into the gig. We make arrangements with Gold Coast Tickets over the phone: "Yes, you'll be able to find us—we're the only Budget moving truck in the parking lot."

It's missing the R40 tour because we were convinced this wouldn't be the last one.

It's thinking about how for the last three-and-a-half years, Geddy and Alex were constantly asked questions about playing shows and recording, knowing full well their best friend was dying.

It's about watching those interviews with him where he'd talk about his experiences studying with Freddie Gruber, or talk about the shell construction of his drums, or talk about pretty much anything. He never lost his enthusiasm for the instrument and the music. He was constantly pushing, growing, wanting to learn, and wanting to share. Yeah, he never really learned how to play jazz, but damn did he try—and we were all along on that journey with him.

It's my phone blowing up on Friday afternoon with messages from friends and family, playing a show that night and folks coming up to me because they knew how hard it was hitting me. I'm truly grateful for their outreach and kind words. I call my dad, and we end the call with us encouraging each other to play drums as much as we can this weekend. I wear a Roll the Bones shirt at the gig because punk is whatever we made it to be, right?

It's realizing that it's absolutely part of my DNA. That it's a family thing and an essential part of my upbringing. That this one was always going to hit the hardest. That the best thing to do is to never lose that enthusiasm and excitement that comes from making music/art/whatever it is that you do.

Now, let's break out the concert toms and cowbell trees and get to work!

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