Goodbye, Neil Peart

[A guest post by my younger brother, Suleman Khawaja.]

I can still remember being six years old, sitting on the asphalt basketball court behind St. Joseph’s church, tagging along with my older brother and the other neighborhood 12-year olds, trying hard not to be so conspicuously small. A hushed anticipation fell over the churchyard. I can still hear the ephemeral bumps and clicks as the tape unspooled in the little boom box, the sonic artifacts of fingers pressing Record and Play on someone’s Dad’s hi-fi, the click of the needle touching down on vinyl. “This is it, man!” The LP-to-cassette knock-off of Moving Pictures cued to launch the opening burst of “Tom Sawyer” into the air of North Jersey suburbia.

1981. West Orange, New Jersey. That’s the first time I heard Rush. The first time I ever heard of Neil Peart. One story among so many others. But mine.

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“Bohemian Rhapsody”: A Rhapsody

The year is 1977–maybe late October or November. I’m eight years old, having dinner in a pizzeria with my immigrant family in Blairstown, New Jersey–Dominick’s, I think it was. Suddenly, the stereo system at Dominick’s pipes out the unforgettable bass-snare drum beat of the latest hit on the radio:





Buddy you’re a boy make a big noise
Playin’ in the street gonna be a big man some day
You got
Mud on yo’ face
Big disgrace
Kickin’ your can all over the place

Everyone in Dominick’s but us–maybe two dozen Warren County rednecks–starts stomping their feet and clapping their hands in time to the music. Somebody yells out, “Fuckin Yankees!” (The Yankees had won the World Series that year.) And then, two dozen voices in unison, between bites of Jersey Neapolitan pizza, sing in commemoration of the Yankees’ victory over the Dodgers, and anything else that comes to mind:

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Malcolm Young (1953-2017), RIP

“A real entertainer, a mischief maker, lover of no fixed abode…”

I never thought, at the age of twelve (when I first discovered AC/DC), that I’d be reading Malcolm Young’s obituaries in the mainstream press. And yet, here they are: Rolling Stone, NPR, The Los Angeles TimesCBS News, The New York Times, The Guardian, and Guitar World. Angus Young, on behalf of the band.

Never has one man done so much, so many times, with so few chords.  Continue reading

AC/WTF in Lisbon: A Requiem Mass

I don’t understand this. I will never understand this. I try to come to terms with it, but words fail me. In my grief, I can only call upon the words of others, wiser than me.

“Mysteries like these can no man penetrate…”
–Voltaire, from “Poeme sur le desastre de Lisbonne,” on the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755

“Oh Voltaire! Oh humanity! Oh idiocy!”
–Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, II.35

“You been…thunderstruck!”

It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll. A long way down, too.

Postscript, May 9, 2016: OK, Axl/DC is starting to grow on me in a weird-ass musical Frankenstein’s monster guilty-pleasure sort of way. I mean, it could have been worse, but then, it could have been better (cf. Lizzy Hale).

Letter from a Chevalier to a Lady of No Quality

Dear Lady Who Was Sitting in the Middle of Row E at the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra’s All-Beethoven Concert, Enlow Recital Hall, Kean University, Hillside, New Jersey, February 6, 2016, between 7:30 and 9:30 pm:

I think it’s really cool that you brought your three young children to an orchestral performance, I really do. Audiences for classical music are starting to dwindle nowadays, and if classical music is to survive, it needs the support of the younger generation–like your three delightful little children.

But still, I would like to point out to you that

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