A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was a music critic (a pretty lousy one). Also a big fan of Son Volt. When they came through town, I got to do a profile for the local alt-weekly and interview Jay Farrar, their lead singer, which was probably the highlight of my year. Later, at the show, Farrar and his bandmates, the Boquist brothers, were hanging out by the stage, drinking beers and watching the opening act. I thought it would be cool to say hi to Farrar. I motioned to one of the Boquist guys to tap him on the shoulder. He stared at me, and then shook his head. Farrar glanced over and kind of snorted, and they both turned back to the stage. I thought, "Holy shit! What a fucking DICK!" But I have to admit: it stung.
I mention all this by way of sympathizing with Rand Paul, since he seems to be going through a similar episode with his favorite band, Rush—only much, much worse. They're threatening to sue him.
Here's the back story. On election night, at that Bowling Green country club where he held his victory party, the sound system started blaring Rush (to avoid confusion: the Canadian prog-rockers, not Limbaugh). For some reason, I found this hilarious. Maybe it was because I was a HUGE Rush fan as a high school freshman, worshiped their drummer, Neil Peart, and went and saw them—chaperoned by my friend's dad—at the Hartford Civic Center. I even had one of those sweet three-quarter-length-sleeved black concert T-shirts, which I wore with earnest pride just about every day. I was not popular with the ladies.
Anyway, maybe it's because I don't associate Republicans with hipness or musical taste that extends beyond Andy Williams—and, come to think of it, Rush is probably the last band on the planet I'd expect any politician to like, but especially a Republican because...well, because they're Rush, and the mental image of a Rush fan hews pretty closely to Beavis and Butthead (BTW, that is not a cheap punchline: Beavis and Butthead did a whole episode in 1994 on Rush's "Stick it Out" video)—but I was suddenly consumed by the hilarity of it all (I was operating on very little sleep) and started Tweeting that Rand Paul was listening to Rush, and that went viral, and so I huddled with Perry Bacon of the WashPost and a friendly Paul staffer to try and figure out what Rush song was playing—freshman year was a long time ago—and it turned out that it was "The Spirit of the Radio" and so I Tweeted that, too. Then a bunch of readers Tweeted back that the members of Rush were well-known libertarians and that the album 2112 was actually an homage to Ayn Rand, which made the whole thing even stranger and funnier.
Fast forward to last week. News breaks that Rush's lawyers have issued some sort of threat or injunction forcing Rand Paul to stop playing their music at his rallies and campaign events. Feeling that I pretty much own the Rush/Rand Paul beat—and, truth be told, being kind of a sarcastic jerk and also hard up for a blog post—I published this item about how "Rush Hates Rand Paul." Cheap and easy, and it allowed me to justify spending a half hour on YouTube watching "Tom Sawyer" videos.
I took some grief in the comments section from people who read the headline and thought Rush Limbaugh had a beef with Rand Paul. I found this slightly annoying. My defense was that the headline was accurate—and besides, I told a commenter, what was I supposed to call it? "Geddy Lee Thinks Rand Paul is a Tool"? (For the uninitiated, Geddy Lee is Rush's lead singer.)
What I hadn't realized, but also learned in my comments section, was that Rand Paul is a huge Rush fan. The Paul staffer I'd brainstormed with at the victory party wrote in to tell me. And Paul isn't just a fan—it turns out that Rush is his favorite band. I have to admit, I felt kind of lousy for having made light of the whole thing. It summoned up the burning humiliation of getting snubbed by Jay Farrar.
But the story gets worse. Yesterday, the music blog Tiny Mix Tapes published an article titled "Geddy Lee Thinks Rand Paul is a Tool." It rehashed the whole affair and added the news that Rush's lawyers had even forced YouTube to remove a Rand Paul campaign video that featured Rush music playing in the background. I don't know if the author is the same guy who was posting in my comments section, but he credited me with the headline. I felt terrible!
So while Rand Paul has other issues to concern himself with right now, and while I probably rank far below Rachel Maddow and others on the list of people he might not be fond of, I want to apologize to him and say that I feel like a total shitheel for bringing this all down on him. There are certain things that are simply out of bounds in national politics, and messing with somebody's favorite band is definitely among them. I don't know if Jay Farrar is a libertarian, but I would probably deserve it if he punched me in the gut.
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