I believe these were the first albums I ever bought with my own money. I was staying with my grandma in Oregon that summer, and I bought the two albums on cassette in the Astoria Fred Meyer.
As I recall, Power Windows was the most recent album by Rush that year. This means that it couldn't have been any later than 1985. I remember buying Hold Your Fire when I was in junior high school, so yeah, it was 1985 at the latest. This also means that I would have been in the fifth or sixth grade.
I bought the first, self-titled Rush album because it was cheap. Back then the "Nice Price" cassettes went for four or five dollars, and buying two Rush albums instead of one seemed like a good way to start my tape collection. I don't believe I'd heard a single song off the first Rush album, though I remember being familiar with the song "Big Money" on Power Windows.
After buying my cassette tapes my grandma and I went back to her house in Bay City, Oregon. Bay City is just north of Tillamook, where they make the cheese. It was about an hour drive past foggy, tree-lined beaches, through several tunnels, and over bridges that spanned small streams. The Oregon Coast was a lot less developed back then, though some of towns closer to Tillamook look just as they did when I was little.
In my grandma's house I had a cassette player which I used to play my tapes. The walls in that house were very thin, so my initial acquaintance with Rush was punctuated by my grandma's banging on the door and insisting that I turn the music down. To this day I have no idea what kind of music my grandma favored, but whatever kind it was she must have favored it in exceedingly small amounts.
At ten or eleven years old I favored Power Windows over the first Rush album. Power Windows was full of synthesizers, I thought the lyrics were "deep," and it seemed more "modern" to me. These elements are, of course, the very things that date that album now. Whereas the first album - if you knew very little about hard rock - could have been produced in any decade from the 70s onward, Power Windows is very much a product of the 80s, in both good and bad ways.
The first album was also a product of its decade, but you'd have to know a bit more about the band to understand this. At 44 years of age, I know all about how Zeppelin and Cream influenced that band, and yeah, it's very much in the vein of other albums released during the mid to late 70s. In some ways it wasn't quite as on top of things as Power Windows, but it definitely belongs to that era.
Over time, my appreciation of both albums has gone in opposite directions. In 2019 I'd have to say that I love the first album's purity, its energy, and its lack of pretension. Yes, the lyrics to songs like "In the Mood" are ridiculous, but that's part of the fun. It's cock rock, and Geddy Lee was always about as far from the archetypical rock screamer as you could get. This incongruity only adds to the music's charm.
Power Windows, however, hasn't aged well for me. I'm not fond of the way Geddy Lee sang at that stage in their career, and the earnestness/pretentiousness of Neil Peart's lyrics is downright embarrassing. That, and it's sequenced to death - to the point where you don't know who's playing what. It's certainly an album that tries very hard - Rush always put everything they had into every album they did - but in 2019 it sounds pretty old fashioned.
A lot of stuff is like that though. Some bands - and some albums -age like wine, while others turn to vinegar. There are still albums from the 80s that I've enjoyed for decades, but Power Windows isn't one of them. In 2019 it just doesn't convince me the way it once did, even though it blew my mind back in 1985.
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