(Re)Collection #31: Rites of Spring
Updated: Mar 31
Rites of Spring came along at a time in my life when I was primed for them. I was in college, staring down graduation. My impression was that everyone else had it worked out. I was the lone loser. It was just my impression, but it was a heavy weight nonetheless. Like many college kids before and after me, I couldn't fathom having a serious job. I had worked a number of unserious ones and I even struggled with those. Sadly, I was still a long way from adulthood.
When I first heard Rites of Spring in 1987, after they had broken up, I was dumbfounded. How had this band been right under my nose and I missed them? In an odd twist, they played the Chevy Chase Community Center with Embrace in October of 1985. That was a stone's throw from the apartment my family lived in for a few years and under a mile from the house we moved to after that apartment. I spent many summer days in the basement game room playing heated games of pool and ping pong with my best friends. I took courses there. I played Biddy Basketball in their league. The fact that they played there somehow hurt my feelings. That was my damn neighborhood, and I fucking missed it. I was away at college.
As I have mentioned previously, I tend to be late to catch on to things. This was a painful example. Anyway, I loved Rites of Spring from the first listen. It was raw, turbulent, earnest and unrelenting music. It was both cathartic and thoughtful. It was an intertwining of punk, prog and I don't know what else. It spun my head around.
I was listening to it again the other day looking at the sleeve and noticed that I had underlined this lyric in the liner notes in black, ballpoint pen:
Remainder by Rites of Spring
Not the self-indulgence of a self-devotion
Too many situations left with too little to say
So we try to feel our way
And if decisions cause divisions
Tell me who's to blame?
I felt misunderstood by my family and did not know how to express myself to them properly. I couldn't get out of that box. I listened to that record over and over again wearing my black Champion hooded sweatshirt, ripped jeans and some black leather work shoes. I was trying to look like what I thought a DC punk looked like. I related to the seriousness of the music and the scene. Maybe to the discerning ear the lyrics are overwrought and adolescent. But not to mine. And that is the magic of the right band, the right song, the right words, the right sound at the right moment. I don't question that.
That music made me cry. It released something that other music at the time did not. It was crushingly personal. Now, I have also been known to cry when listening to Ozzy solo LPs or Black Sabbath records. I don't know why both Guy Piccioto's and Ozzy Osbourne's voices do that to me, but they do. Sometimes I wish I could find another singer who had that affect on me. It would be wonderful if I could. I would pay $500 for that record. But alas it doesn't work that way.
My openness to music is not what it once was. Nowadays, I don't have that deep thirst as much. I wish for the thirst again. But at the same time, the thirst was not that pleasant at all. It was born of something deeper. It led me to dark places emotionally. If I am searching for a life raft, then my ship is probably sinking. I have worked really hard over the last few decades to not get lost at sea.
In 1997 when Number One Cup was recording our final LP People People Why Are We Fighting, we had a little extra studio time and decided to each pick a song we would like to cover and record it as a band. The person who picked the song then sang it.
I chose By Design from the Rites of Spring LP. I felt like I had come full circle. I was in a famous recording studio up in the Minnesota woods recording their song with my band. It was really emotional. I love this band still. So precious, so incisive, so beautiful.