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.