Rush, Moving Pictures – My gateway record and why it should be yours as well.

Rush, Moving Pictures – My gateway record and why it should be yours as well.

As Record Store Day draws near, we’ve been talking a lot about “gateway records” – music that made a life-changing impact..

Whether it was a cassingle, an LP, an MP3 or a pre-recorded reel-to-reel, every one has a “gateway record” … one cut – or an album’s worth – that profoundly shifted the way that music fit into their lives.  Rush’s Moving Pictures was mine.  And “Witch Hunt” was the cut.

It wasn’t just the message; though a song dealing with the mob mentality with obvious references to race riots and book burnings certainly makes an impression on a 13-year-old.  And it wasn’t just the fact that it was Rush, a band that every self-respecting teenager from 1975 on knew (or at least claimed to know).

Witch Hunt knocked something loose inside me.  And I now know, after 30 years of looking, right where it happened.

Right at the measures leading up to and including the lyric “…confident their ways are best/Oh, oh.”  at about 2:15 in the song itself.  

As a build-up to the first chorus, Neil Peart does a little tom fill/cymbal crash/tambourine hit at end of two dozen or so measures of spare cowbell and floor tom figures.  It’s the chord progression that does it.  Gm – Bb – Dm – C.  The D minor (“the saddest of all keys”) pulls you upward before dropping you over the cliff as the phrase resolves into this sprawling massive C anchored by bass and Lifeson’s Taurus pedals.  Geddy Lee’s wailing “Oh” gets a little echo as it fades.  Maybe a little help from the YouTubes…

I heard it the first time and I knew I was listening to something that would become profoundly important to me.  It was like peering over a ledge at a massive valley below and realizing that everything that had come before was getting me ready for that precise musical moment in time.

I’ve had life-altering musical moments since then. But none that I can recall with the complete visceral response that I get to hearing “Witch Hunt.”

What about you?  What one record or song flipped a switch for you?  Leave us a comment.  Then make sure you sign up for the contest.  You could win one of 45 super-limited edition iPhone cases made from real vinyl records.