I’m sitting here at work, working (as one tends to do at work), and I’m playing my ‘old man’ music… Today is a selection of old Rush from the recent 40th anniversary reissue of “Moving Pictures”.
Moving Pictures came out in ’81… I remember picking it up at the record store shortly after it was released, zipping it up in the front of my jacket (it was February in Colorado), and biking home as fast as I could. This was so I could put the album on before my parents got home, so that I could listen to it with some volume.
The opening chords of “Tom Sawyer” literally stopped the world for me.
But, while the album is chock-full of amazing music, as a Rush album tends to be, it is the dystopian “Red Barchetta” that sticks with me the most all these years later.
I was a serious motor-head growing up, and the late 70’s and 80’s tended to have an undercurrent of dystopia to it, so the song instantly lit my imagination.
The song’s lyrics tell a story set in a future in which a “Motor Law” has banned cars. The narrator’s uncle has kept one of these now-illegal cars (the titular red Barchetta) in pristine condition for roughly 50 years, and is hiding it at his secret country home – a farm from before the Motor Law was enacted.
Every Sunday the narrator commits a “weekly crime” of evading omnipresent surveillance, hoping a cargo train to get outside ‘the wire’, and sneaking out to his uncle’s farm to go for a drive in the countryside.
During one such drive, he encounters a “gleaming alloy air car” that begins to chase him along the roads. A second such vehicle soon joins the pursuit, which continues until the narrator drives across a one-lane bridge that is too narrow for the air cars. The song ends with the narrator returning safely to his uncle’s farm.
Kid-me in 1981 thought the song was an excellent musical story!
Adult-me in 2022 thinks the song was prophetic and that I should buy a very analog sports car and hide it away before the Church of Climate Change enacts the inevitable “Motor Law.”
Listening to "Limelight" by Rush