I have to come clean.
For most of my adult life I’ve been lying to friends, co-workers, and loved ones. I’ve been dishonest about a crucial milestone in my life.
Whenever I’ve been asked to name my first rock concert, my answer has always been (without hesitation) REM.
I saw the indie darlings from Athens, Georgia on an unusually warm night in the fall of 1986. They played at Vancouver’s University of British Columbia gymnasium. I went to the concert with my first love on the back of his Kawasaki 750.
That night is still one of the best memories of my youth.
Michael Stipe was charismatic and passionate and frenetic. He sang Radio Free Europe and made me a lifelong fan.
Okay, so most of this is true.
It wasn’t my first concert. That happened five years earlier. It was June 23, 1981.
And the band was (gulp) Rush.
You can see why I’d reinvented history. REM has remained a group that I’ve listened to religiously until we all lost our religion when they disbanded last year.
My relationship with Rush has always been more complicated. I was 12-years-old when the Canadian rockers were touring to support their hit album, “Moving Pictures”.
My best friend had become obsessed with the song “Tom Sawyer”. Her mom spent a morning on the phone, on hold, waiting for a Ticketmaster operator to take her order (remember when that was how we bought concert tickets?)
Our seats were up in the nose-bleed section of a rather rundown concert arena in Vancouver called the Pacific Coliseum.
Geddy Lee was the size of an ant from where we were sitting. His wild long hair was barely visible, but his high octave voice boomed from the speakers.
I remember that we couldn’t stay for the encore because my friend’s dad was waiting outside the arena in the family station wagon to drive us home.
So there it is.
As an adult, I chose to tell the story of REM, the first love, the Kawasaki 750.
It was a sexier narrative than the story of Rush, the childhood friend, the station wagon. But looking back on it now, I wish hadn’t been so quick to dismiss Rush from my life story.
Those Canadian rockers have been making music together for over forty years.
They’ve recorded 19 albums.
They are living legends in Canada.
Now they have been nominated for induction to the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
It’s a big deal for a band that has been snubbed by US music critics for decades. And this year is the first time that the Hall of Fame has opened its voting to fans.
So the quirky, tele-genically challenged prog rockers might just get the recognition they deserve for their contribution to rock and roll. And in recognition of that night in 1981, I’ll be voting for Rush.
It’s the least I can do after snubbing them from my musical history for so long.