Rush is a progressive rock band from the wayward land of Canada. The power trio consists of high-pitched wailing vocalist/bassist/keyboardist/violinist/sitarist/banjoist/samisen-player Geddy Lee, distorted wall-of-sound guitarist Alex Lifeson, and 4/17 jazz time 154-piece drummer/hat enthusiast Neil Peart. Geddy and Alex are cool dudes; even Neil is pretty cool, despite the fact that he's kind of introverted. Musically, they're very cheesy, whimsical, adolescent sometimes-prog sometimes-pop rock with songs about hobbits, slaying dragons, and overlord sharks who wear silky capes and eat people. Despite (or perhaps because of) its cheesiness, their music can't help but make you smirk smugly and feel simultaneously dorky-yet-cooooool every time it rushes through your ears.
Rush have accomplished a lot in their 21^12 years on this Earth. They've traveled time and talked to Tom Sawyer, battled the Priests of the Temple of Syrinx, spent a day in the limelight, made big money after becoming working men, single-handedly invented progressive metal, and done so many other things that only hardcore Rush fans care about. Their musical style is considered the prime inbred cousin between Iron Maiden and Yes, and they are, along with Dream Theater, one of the most famous examples of non-British musicians who make progressive rock.
- 1 History
- 2 Members
- 3 Musical style
- 4 Acclaim and recognition
- 5 See also
Rush's original line-up, consisting of lead vocalist Bob McKenzie, bassist Doug McKenzie, drummer John Rutsey, and Guitar Jesus Alex Lifeson, was formed in 1968 by school friends in Willowdale, a neighbourhood of the vast canned foods aisle that is Toronto, Canada. Bob and Doug were later replaced by Gary Lee, known for his rather famous gargantuan nose and Ozzy Osbourne-esque glasses. Due to a fatal Canadian mishap, the band's accents made it come out as "Geddy" when they said his name, and this mondegreen stuck.
Before they released any album, Rush frustrated themselves at venues where barflies threw beer at them, and they were much different from what we know today, being something of a Led Zeppelin tribute band. Their first single, released on their self-founded Moon Records label. was a cover of the Buddy Holly song "Not Fade Away" that would ironically fade away from the public eye very quickly. Later, Mercury Records offered them a contract after watching them try out for Canada's Got Talent, which they enthusiastically accepted. Unbeknownst to all except nerds and stakers of Rush, there are rumor of other Rush singles and B-sides released pre-1974; the names and subjects of these songs are even more shrouded in darkness than the very existence of the songs.
1974–76: Singin' the blues
Together with producer Terry Brown, Rush recorded their 1974 self-titled debut album Rush, originally titled We Refuse to Have a Self-Titled Album. Like many other bands such as the Beastie Boys, Rush did not know what kind of sound when they first stated; the album had its merits, but sounded more like faux-Led Zeppelin blues/hard rock than the prog we would know and love them for in the future, although the track "Before and After" hinted at prog aspirations to come. The band found moderate success with the single "Working Man", a blue collar anthem Geddy wrote about his grandpa that was too senile to realize he could retire, and it sold enough for them to produce a second album.
After the first album, Rutsey left the band because his newly-acquired diabetes made him drum too slowly to keep up with the rest of the band; apparently, Lifeson forgot to close their apartment refrigerator properly, leading the drummer to ravage the leftover cake. This led Geddy and Alex to look for a new drummer, which they found in the walking, talking, and occasionally hallucinating drum machine, Prof. Neil Peart. Peart also became the group's lyricist, because Geddy would only write about things he read in fairytales. Pitying the current state of the band, The Professor decided to give the band a shake-up in every sense of the word. His hiring lead to instantly improved drumming and more science fiction- and libertarian-oriented songs on their 1975 second album Fly By Night, such as "Anthem", a Randthem ode to Peart's idol Ayn Rand, and their first epic "By-Tor and the Snowdog". However, the band had not quite shed their faux-Led Zeppelin mold yet, as shown by other songs like the title track and "Best I Can". The album's title was derived from what the Professor told Geddy after he lost his ticket to a daytime flight to their next concert.
The beginning of Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign resulted in the somewhat lackluster 1975 effort, Caress of Steel (And Other Various Metals). This questionable title was developed when Terry Brown brought Geddy to the zoo, and they witnessed how seals were trapped in claustrophobic steel-encased pools, away from their natural habitats and constantly feeling the caress of steel when bumping into the walls; this shocked Geddy, as he himself had seal relatives in Winnipeg. The resulting album is seen as the band's first true meddling into long-ass music, with not one but two epics, "The Necromancer" and "Fountain of Lamneth", both of which occupy the majority of the record's grooves. The hit singles on the album, however, were the least progressive: "Bastille Day" and "Lakeside Park". The album received mixed reviews, indicating Rush was still getting their legs through the door and hadn't yet mastered the art of "Let's make our songs really really long." Robert Christgau gave the album a "dud" rating, saying "This album is so full of evil that it would make even KISS cry from sadness. Caress proves that, if anything, awful cockrock will take over the world and outlaw good music, but perhaps in the future, there will be a lone hero to restore the musical order." Rush apparently took offense to this review, seeing as they used it as the concept for their next album.
After the disappointing sales of Caress of Steel, the meandering cokeheads at Mercury pushed for Rush to create something, in their words, "...ahhh liTtlE morrreee acceSsibleeeee." Being the rebels that they were, the band gave Mercury the proverbial middle finger and wrote their most sprawling epic yet, 1976's 2112. The album proved to be one of their most memorable and successful, and showed Rush finally sticking the landing. It was most notable for its titular 20-minute suite, about a boy in the dystopian future of 2112 where music is outlawed, who discovers a stray guitar and is banished from society, but returns to save the day from the oppressive tyrannical Priests of Syrinx; some stuff regarding Ayn Rand is also present. Despite being considered a concept album, only half of the album actually explores a concept; the second side consists of standalone generic blues songs like "A
Train Passage to Bangkok", which is said to have been about drugs. That year, the band also released the live album All the World's a Stage (We Are Merely Players, Performers, and Portrayers); this album began the tradition of the band releasing four studio albums followed by a live album to demarcate each of their eras.
1977–81: Progressive bloat
Invigorated by their recent efforts, Rush followed up and delivered 1977's A Farewell to Kings, Queens, and Other Dignitaries. The album takes a nostalgic look at the Medieval days, where you were greeted not by a psychotic, wannabe President but rather the warm, glowing image of monarchs laughing at your peasant ass. The album also included the strikingly depressing "Closer to the Heart", which details how dodgy heart surgery used to be in Medieval times and how sometimes blacksmiths performed it on artists, thus getting germs on their organs and causing infections. The last song, the epic "Cygnus X-1: Part I", is the tale of an idiot who flew into a black hole, in fact part of a larger tale divided into two parts, but with the second part coming on the next release, much like a king and his queen. This album saw the band pushing the prog envelope even further, as Lifeson began to experiment with guitar distortion, Lee started wearing fancy robes and playing the Minimoog, and Peart's drumsticks grew several inches in size, producing an even bigger drum sound.
After the success of Kings, the band released their next album, 1978's Hemispheres. It contained the conclusion to the Cygnus story "Cygnus X-1: Part II", where the idiot escapes the black hole through spaceships and Greek mythology, another Ayn Rand tribute "The Trees", about economic and class inequality between the Maples and the Oaks, and the appropriately-subtitled instrumental exercise in self-indulgence "La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self-Indulgence)", featuring an excerpt from that factory-type song you hear in every cartoon. After noticing how poorly other prog bands were doing at the time with cheesy albums like Yes's Tormato and ELP's Love Beach, Rush wisely decided to move away from their proggy roots after Hemispheres.
1980's Permanent Waves was originally intended as a King Arthur concept album a la Rick Wakeman, but the band got bored with the idea and scrapped it. This album saw the band shifting their musical style via the general retirement of prog epics and the introduction of shorter song lengths, more pop-oriented rock, Geddy beginning to yodel less and singing in a lower register, Peart starting to write about more down-to-earth Ayn Randisms instead of Medieval/sci-fi Ayn Randisms, and white-boy faux reggae. This new style was best exemplified on the hit singles "The Spirit of Radio" and "Freewill"; despite this, Rush still tossed their retro fans a bone with the faux-prog epics "Jacob's Ladder" and "Natural Science".
Rush's popularity reached its pinnacle with the release of Moving Pictures in 1981. The lead single, "Tom Sawyer", explored the struggles of Today's Tom Sawyer who had a mean mean pride, while the followup single, "Limelight", dealt with how strangers are not long-awaited friends and how kids should stay away from them. The album also contained the famous instrumental "YYZ", but nobody really cared about it except when they saw Rush perform it live, where Neil would perform 20-minute drum solos in the middle of the song. Pics was Rush's last album to feature a bloated prog epic, the eleven-minute "The Camera Eye"; conversely, the closing track "Vital Signs", where the band desperately tries to morph into The Police, also contained their heaviest usage of fake reggae yet, hinting Rush's musical picture was moving once more. The album reached #2112 on the Billboard Hot 'n Sexy 100 chart and was certified quadruple-duple-rectified-platinum by the RIAA. That same year saw the release of the live album Exit... Stage Left, which shut the trapdoor on this Rush era.
1982–89: '80s synths and mullets
“God, imagine if we had to play like that now, or I had to yodel like that now? What a pain in the ass.”
While Geddy's mirror-shattering voice had been featured since the band's first album, 1982's Signals was when he started greatly utilizing another instrument: synthesizers. Keyboards were suddenly shifted from the cunnilingus rear-end to the violent frontlines of every song. The album incorporated heavy use of flange, washed-over guitar feedback, analog distortion, cheesy '80s synths, and more whiteboy reggae, producing an intense New Wave euphoria that was just great to some fans, but felt like a sellout to others. Although Rush consciously decided to move in this direction to make more money, creative differences between them and longtime producer Terry Brown began to emerge. The band felt dissatisfied with Brown's fuzzy sound mix of Signals, while Brown was becoming more uncomfortable with the synthesizers that were gnawing at his legs, and ultimately, the two parties parted ways in 1983.
The band's next album, 1984's Grace Under Pressure, continued the direction of Signals, while incorporating more songs about generically dark and depressing themes including the Cold War, the Holocaust, and eternal nuclear winter. Peter Gabriel producer Steve Lillywhite was enlisted to produce Grace, but blew the band off at the last minute, forcing them to hire some other chap instead, that chap being Peter Henderson of Supertramp fame. Musically, although Geddy's synths still overpowered everything else, Lifeson was allowed to rock out more than on Signals, resulting in more radical guitar solos and tubular power chords than last time.
With new producer Peter Collins, Rush released 1985's Power-Chord Windows and 1987's Hold Your Fire. These two albums put even less emphasis on Lifeson's guitar and more on automated drum machines and cheesy synths, making them smash hits with the the MTV crowd, but further steering away the TruFansTM. A live album, 1989's A Show of Hands, was the last to showcase their one-finger-driven synth-based sound, closing the book on yet another era of Rush.
1989–2001: Return to guitar roots
Mercury Records then dropped Rush from their label, so they found refuge in Atlantic Records, home of fellow progheads Genesis and Yes. The band soon decided to ditch the synths and return to a more stripped-down, guitar-driven sound. With this new sound, they produced Presto (1989), an album with cute little wascally wabbits on the front; Roll the Bones (1991), notably featuring the first (and only) rap section on a Rush album; the Nirvana-esque Counterparts (1993), an album featuring sexual innuendo in the form of a nut and bolt on the cover; and the slightly disappointing Test for Echo (1996), featuring a little man made of rocks on the cover. However, after Peart lost his wife and son in a car accident, the band abruptly went on hiatus.
During the hiatus, Lifeson collaborated with Les Claypool on an out-of-left field industrial grunge solo album titled Victor (1996). Lee also released the solo album My Favourite Headache (2000), a headache-inducing imitation of Rush's pomp-rock, that soon became a fan favourite.
2002–14: New Millennium Men
After regrouping, the band released Vapor Trails in 2002. Like the albums prior to this one, it featured a return to Rush's heavy rock sound; unfortunately, the album was badly-engineered which made it rather loud and painful to listen to, but fans still bought it solely because it was Rush. They also released the live albums Feedback in 2002, consisting of leftover feedback recorded from the Vapor Trails sessions, and Rush's Rio Adventure in 2003, which ruined their previous "four studio albums/one live album per era" tradition.
The band continued throughout the new millennium with 2007's Snakes and Arrows and 2012's Clockwork Angels, probably their best works in a decade, being virulent displays of monster craftsmanship with impeccable production quality. Unfortunately, these albums were still rather compressed and flat in their production, causing many fans to yearn for Terry Brown to come back.
2015–20: R40 tour, retirement, and Peart's death
In 2015, Rush held the R40 Live Tour commemorating the
40th 41st anniversary of the band Neil Peart joining the band in 1974. After the tour's conclusion, Peart stated that Rush has largely retired from the music business, and may have quit making albums and touring for good.
After three years of leaving fans hanging on the edge, Lifeson bluntly said in 2018 that the band is done and has nothing to say anymore. Peart unfortunately passed away on January 7, 2020, after a long battle with brain cancer and a complex time signature he just couldn't nail, rumored to be 67/68. Currently, Rush are looking into merging with the Orkneyan heavy metal band Limbaugh and bringing back Peart as a hologram.
Geddy "Heady Geddy" Lee is a walking nose and glasses known for his voice capable of shattering paper and musical virtuosity on the bass. He is noted for being able to play insane licks on his bass by literally licking it, without even using his fingers. He has funny little glasses, a big nose, a goatee, and a headache that he oddly seems to enjoy. His big nose is actually fake, and he has a lot of fake noses in his dressing room as seen in the Roll the Bones liner notes.
Alex "Lifeless" Lifeson is regarded as a master guitarist/instrumentalist and a pioneer of electronic effects and chord structures, who records all his songs in the nude. He was voted guitarist of the year by Rolling Stone, but was stripped of his award when it was discovered he was growing madrigal inside his Gibson Limited Edition '12 Les Paul. His guitar solos often render listeners unable to control their bowels.
Neil "Real Pearty" Peart is a balding Drum Lord with a beanie who plays lots of drum solos, in which he hits numerous things in an angry fasion to achieve a very John Bonham-esque sound. His solos are also known to melt people's faces on a regular basis.
Rush is known for the insane instrumental virtuosity of its members, who often pull off their skillz one-handed and without wearing underwear, as well as their complex compost and electric lyrical bodies drawing heavily on Ayn Rand novels and high school bathroom scribblings. Rush has changed its musical underwear dramatically over the years, beginning in the vein of blue-blooded hard rock on their unanimous debut to styles encompassing progressive rock on the next five albums. From Permanent Waves on, they shifted to a more stripped-down pop rock style, then on Signals, moved into a 1980s New Wave synthpop style with guitar shoved into the background, to stay afloat in a period dominated by The Police and Phil Collins. On Presto, they ditched the synths and actually played guitar again, but had thin and brittle production until they regained that tougher sound on Counterparts.
Acclaim and recognition
“Rush are quite good. You might say, they give me the Rushes...”
Rush's three-member lineup of Lee, Lifeless, and Purty has dominated old folks' home grampcore talent competitions all over Canada and the underwater music industry, and has earned the band many, many ice-cold beers and minor congratulations in the form of asexual favors from their fans. Indeed, Rush could be considered the greatest band ever, but they're Canadian so they automatically rock/suck depending on who you ask. Rush has influenced various notable rock and prog artists such as Mentallica, The Smashing Mailboxes, Primutive, Cacophony X, Dream Theater, and Nightmare Cinema.
Rush has been awarded several pieces of pie and was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1994. Over their careers, the individual members of Rush have shat all over their fellow talented studio musicians with each member being voted the most proficient players on their respective instruments in magazine readers' polls; this has often led to dangerous bar fights between rock fans over which poll candidate is better, culminating in several arrests and suicides by jumping off skyscrapers. As a whole, Rush boasts 21 gold and 12 platinum records, making them one of the best-selling rock bands in history; these statistics place them a way fucking long way in front of the The Non-Denomonative Insects, The Moving Rocks, PASH, and Aeronautica for the most consecutive well-deserved media headjobs.