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Drum Cover – Rush, “Double Agent”

by Omar on December 4, 2010

in drum cover

A drum cover decades in the making.  The history behind this cover is, well, loaded, as you’ll see.  And there’s more than one reason for the way this one come came out.  Here’s the scoop…

If you were able to see the documentary “Rush:  Beyond the Lighted Stage” (a highly recommended view), you’ll note that the 80’s for Rush was very synthesizer-heavy.  This resulted in the guitar having to compete in the same frequency range as the synthesizers.  You could say that it took a little toll on Alex Lifeson’s psyche, in that he wanted his guitar sound to come back out more into the fore.  The other band members agreed, and both Presto (1989) and Roll the Bones (1991) reflected a move back towards a trio-like sound, with keyboards being used more to accentuate rather than as a main feature.

However, in my ears anyway, these two releases, especially Roll the Bones, sound a little too tinny, if you will.  Even though it was a trio, there wasn’t really much power behind those chords.  I thought they could have sound a little heavier.  Well, I was about to get smacked in the face!

Out comes Counterparts in 1993, and I was blown away. This was the sound I was looking for.  Very heavy guitar, deep bass, and articulate but loud sounding drums (Neil Peart’s Slingerland snare never sounded so good), and I thought that at that point this might be the best sounding Rush record of all.  To this day, it’s arguably my favorite sounding of all Rush releases.  And the songs don’t disappoint.

I could go on ‘for miles and miles’ about all the songs, but that’s beyond the lecture at hand.  One song in particular really caught my attention:  “Double Agent”.  Very creative drumming on that song, like I’ve not heard before.  A dark theme, almost nightmarish, “caught between darkness and light” – the song seems like it goes back and forth between the two extremes, then eventually breaks free in the end.

Throughout the verses Neil alternates between the china and ride cymbal on each beat.  The hi-hats are not used at all in the song (that I can tell), which again I thought was very creative pulling that off.  Also, where in the first two verses Neil is alternating the china and ride with the china on the down beat, on the last verse he reverses it and plays the china on the up beat, and the ride on the down.  He just can’t play the same way throughout a song!  The genius of the drumming is not so much in the complexity, but in the creativity.  I didn’t have a drum set at the time, but I figured someday that if I had one, that would be a song to go immediately on my list.

“Double Agent” was played live during the supporting tour, but never made it to the set list in subsequent tours.  We’ll get back to that in a bit.  In any case, one of Rush’s best songs, in my opinion.

Ok, now let’s flash back a few years to my youth.  When I discovered Rush, I did as any new Rush fan does – I went through the entire catalog!  It was incredible to me how intricately and detailed (and complexly) this trio played, even in the earlier years.  One record I fell in love with right away was Caress of Steel. Not every song was a gem, but for certain two stood out:  “The Necromancer”, and “The Fountain of Lamneth”.  The latter was Rush’s foray into the side-long songs.  As a kid developing my taste for reading, I came across Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara, and in reading it it reminded me very much of “The Fountain of Lamneth”.  Each made me like the other more.

“The Necromancer” was another story.  Half the size of “The Fountain of Lamneth”, it has three compact ‘movements’, each building with intensity and speed, with the last one slowing down with a triumphant ending.  However, the second movement has a fast-paced instrumental that showcases the dexterity and energy of the three young musicians.  My favorite stretch on the whole record, which I thought would be awesome to play, and even better to see Rush perform live.

However, the album was not Rush’s favorite.  Even though they thought much of it when released, it was not received very favorably by the public, so as time went on very little of it was played live in later tours (“Bastille Day” mostly – still a pretty good song).  I still held on to the hope of at least seeing the instrumental jam of “The Necromancer” incorporated somehow in the live show.

Ok, now we flash-forward back to the future.  As I’ve mentioned previously in the article titled “The Paradiddler’s Wish List for Rush’s Next Tour”, once I found out that Rush was planning a tour, I set out to list what songs I wanted them to perform, as sort of a public request.  Two of those songs made it to the tour, although for a reason not expected:  “The Camera Eye” and “Witch Hunt”, but because they decided to play Moving Pictures in its entirety.  None of the other songs from the list made it to the show.

I did have another very special request that I purposely excluded from the article.  I didn’t want to make it public because I really didn’t know how to put it in words.  In the aforementioned article, it stated, “I do have a couple of other items on my list that are so good (again, at least I think so!), that I won’t reveal them here.  I have special plans for those, and if they come to fruition, trust me, you’ll find out in due time.”  Well, this cover is the result of the ‘couple of other items’.  I figure if Rush doesn’t want to play anything from Caress of Steel, this would be a sweet compromise.

I don’t really know when it hit me that the aforementioned instrumental part would sub nicely in the middle of “Double Agent”.  I went over it in my head, and concluded that it would work.  So using Audacity audio editing software, I mixed “Double Agent” and the instrumental part of “The Necromancer” so that they seamlessly blended together, without missing a beat.  I wanted to make sure that it sounded like it was meant to be played that way.

This cover also marked my foray into multiple camera angles.  I really wrestled with this idea since I’m very much into playing the entire piece from start to finish, in one take.  But I only have one camera, and this ‘medley’ lent itself perfectly for multiple angles since there was more than one song involved, and the instrumental section I thought merited special attention.  I couldn’t avoid it – I had to play and record multiple takes.

All of the angles are a combination of three full takes of the song.  I then selected the angles I thought best ‘fit the part’, so to speak, but I didn’t want to go crazy.  The song is still the most important thing, even though I added some special effects as well so as not to look too monotonous.  Of course, I had to ensure that when I cut away to another angle, both the audio from the video (meaning me playing) and the audio from the song were in perfect sync.  This was quite a challenge with Windows Movie Maker, but I think it worked out ok.  And that guy at the end – who’s that?  🙂

On another musical note (hm, unintended pun, but I like it!), on the original “The Necromancer” instrumental, of course you hear Neil playing the ride on the eighth notes (I believe the instrumental is in 6/8 – please correct me if I’m wrong).  But he’s also simultaneously opening and closing the hi-hat in sync with the ride, on the eighth notes.  This was a little too much for me to handle, so I only struck the hi-hat with the stick when the song called for it.  Something else for me to practice!

So in essence, this article* is also a ‘double agent’ of sorts.  Not only is it my typical drum cover article, but it’s also a public request from The Paradiddler for Rush to play something from Caress of Steel! There is some great musicianship exhibited on that record, and “The Necromancer” has some fantastic hard rock passages that I think is overlooked by most, and even by Rush!  I would be so happy if they played anything from that album.

Another interesting thing to note is that some really great songs are played once when it comes out, then not played again for a very long time (when Rush comes to their senses!).  This happened with “Between the Wheels”, which is on the Grace Under Pressure release of 1984.  Only played on that tour, it came back during the R30 tour in 2005.  I believe the same has happened to “Double Agent”.  Great song, played on the Counterparts tour, but overlooked subsequently.  It’s time to bring it back!  You can add this cover to ‘The Paradiddler’s wish list for Rush’s next tour’.  I’m just giving them an idea, is all.  🙂

Anyway, enjoy the song, and please!   Let me know what you think below.  Drum on!
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*I want to acknowledge the assistance of Pauliewanna, one of my YouTube friends. My initial upload of the video was blocked by YouTube because of copyright (meaning my sound was very close to the original, so I took it as a compliment 🙂 ). He assisted me in disputing the block, because my videos are for educational purposes (and yes, and maybe laugh while you learn!). Have a look at his drum covers. If you like Rush, he does a great job playing those songs. Again, thanks Pauliewanna!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

AdiR April 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Some quality stuff on your site mate, thanks for sharing. Will keep coming back for more tips, vids and reviews.

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Clark Goble December 20, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Good job! Very fun to watch. I’m gonna have fun looking around your blog … thanks dude!

Clark

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Omar December 20, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Hey Clark.

Never perfect, but always fun! Thanks very much.

Have fun perusing!

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Rich December 5, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Another awesome video!! Double agent was phenomenal. Each video gets better and better. Keep it up Luke! “You keep for your cowection!!”

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