Saturday, September 27, 2008

Maples and oaks and cleaning the bathroom

I am always surprised that I enjoy listening to RUSH.
On paper, this Canadian band seems like an incongruous combination of high-pitched vocals, guitar histrionics and Ayn Rand-inspired libertarian lyrics.
Once the songs come blaring out of the speakers, though, I find myself captivated by the sum of the unlikely combination.
There is no better example, for me, than the Rush song about the forest, and what it might mean.
Right now, I am cleaning the bathroom and listening to "THE TREES," from the 1978 album "HEMISPHERES."
"There is unrest in the forest, there is trouble with the trees,
for the maples want more sunlight and the oaks ignore their pleas."
This song has been debated by Rush fans for 30 years. Surely there must be some important symbolism surrounding this fable in which the maple trees charge the oaks with being "
just too lofty" and that the taller trees "grab up all the light."
"But the oaks can't help their feelings If they like the way they're made.
And they wonder why the maples Can't be happy in their shade."
Is this a song about class distinctions that can never be broken?
"There is trouble in the forest, and the creatures all have fled, as the maples scream oppression! And the oaks just shake their heads."
Is it an anti-Communist rant by Rush lyricist and drummer Neil Peart?
"So the maples formed a union and demanded equal rights.
The oaks are just too greedy; We will make them give us light.
Now there's no more oak oppression, for they passed a noble law,
And the trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe, and saw."
Or, as some surmise, is this song a parable about CANADA (where maples are predominant) and the UNITED STATES (where oaks are the most common tree)?
A song that demands this much lyrical consideration is commendable, but usually doesn't interest me much when I want to enjoy myself.
However, just as Rush seem so much greater than the band's incongruous parts, so does "The Trees" stand apart as a truly great song.
I love the "The Trees," even if it does make me think too much for a Saturday morning when I just want to take my mind off scrubbing the toilet.


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