‘Hold your fire
Keep it burning bright
Hold the flame
‘Til the dream ignites
A spirit with a vision
Is a dream with a mission’
Mission, from Hold Your Fire (1987)
This band is part of my DNA.
Earlier this week, Alex Lifeson had revealed that Rush had spent two years no longer recording and touring and there were no plans to do so in the future. A totally quiet and un-rockstarlike way to bow out gracefully and to be honest, I would expect no less from such a band.
I discovered the music of Rush at the age of 9. The same time I had just started learning to play the guitar. My Mum had decided to buy me and my brother one of those Portable CD players each. The year was 2001 and the mp3 players and iPod had still not quite hit UK stores. My Mum decided to test the CD player with ‘Presto’. Now every Rush fan knows how that album starts; ‘Show Don’t Tell’, those quiet drums, at which point she is convinced that the CD player is a bit quiet, whacking up the volume at the point to which the full band is about to kick in with the riff and subsequently, having the shock of her life.
There you have the introduction of Rush into my life. I listened to ‘Presto’ religiously, and my teenage years saw me embark on a journey of discovering their entire catalogue. From the weird and wonderful 70’s era that saw the band dressing up in Kimonos delivering sci fi concept albums, 2112, ‘A Farewell to Kings’ and ‘Hemispheres’ to the thought provoking more concise and synth dominated records of the 80’s to the heavy guitar driven records of the 90’s.
The band ignited my love for physical records at a time where it was swiftly disappearing for my generation. I couldn’t just listen to the music, I had to own it, unpack the concepts within the artwork and the deeply thought provoking lyrics. Listening to their music became a way of life.
For those who like myself, had Rush as a pivotal soundtrack in their lives, there is just so much to admire about them. For a start, their untempered ambition to do whatever they wanted to do, despite the initial pressure in what was a considerably shaky start to their career. Three albums to their name and a fair amount of negative criticism, particularly with ‘Caress of Steel’ and less than satisfactory sales. Their label pushed Rush to develop a more commercial friendly album and how did they respond? By making ‘2112’ a twenty minute Ayn Rand inspired epic about a futuristic totalitarian state! The result…unprecedented success.
The second is their musical prowess. All three musicians are simply insane at their instruments, Alex Lifeson is one of my favourite guitarists, Geddy Lee’s driving bass and his ability to simultaneously manage singing and playing bass and synths…with his feet! Of course, Neil Peart’s presence behind the kit needs no introduction.
The third is the philosophy and the lyrics. Not to say I don’t love Led Zeppelin and AC/DC but unlike most rock bands, Rush were willing to dig deeper into a wide range of themes. I can think of four love songs that they wrote off the top of my head! Beyond the initial records where they let their imaginations fly, they managed to explore so many dimensions that covered science, society, suicide, ambition, probability, fame and conflict. ‘Subdivisions’ is often mentioned with praise for the way in which it captured that feeling of alienation in an incredibly heartfelt way for those who felt like an outsider. It was an anthem for me in my high school days. That is one of many songs I could delve into. There is so much about Rush’s music that resonates.
The final point that has to be made is that Rush were a definitive rock band, but they carried such a sense of humility about them. All three members are intelligent individuals who have always been weary of the weight that fame could have had on them. They never took themselves too seriously, and are just seriously cool and interesting people and always remained captivating, grounded and funny in interviews and documentaries.
Rush is a band that not everyone knows, yet they are the third most successful band in terms of gold and platinum albums, behind The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Arguably, they are the biggest cult band ever. The ones who do know of them and are fans truly stand as one of a kind in terms of the abundance of passion they have for Rush. So much so that it became a central theme in the 2009 comedy ‘I love you, Man’ where the two main characters share a crazy love for the band. Admittedly there is much of that sensibility in myself and my fellow Rush fans. Take one of my Science teachers as example. When he found out I was a fan, he grabbed every opportunity to talk to me about 2112. My brother also told me small anecdotes of times he would play the record to the entirety of his form group, trying to convert unimpressionable teenagers into embracing the trio.
I saw Rush three times. 2007’s Snakes and Arrows tour, 2011 The Time Machine and 2013’s Clockwork Angels tour. The first time I saw them was one of the most exhilarating live shows I have ever been to. Their live show is utterly mesmerising, the power they can carry as a trio was just unbelievable as is the overall production of each tour they did. To have seen them live three times was a privilege.
And then there is the influence they have on my Music.
The first time I met the Kinky Wizzards, I distinctly remember myself and Miffy talking about our love for the band after commenting on the R30 T shirt he was wearing at the time. Incidentally, one of the first songs we learned to play together was YYZ and we still cover it live to this very day. The first song I played when trying to find musicians for Eden Shadow was ‘Tom Sawyer’. There is no surprise as to why so many listeners and critics of my own music often compare it with Rush.
Rush is part of my DNA.
And I am eternally thankful that this band exist. They have taught me so much and have inspired and continue to inspire me. After four decades of music, the band are done with their work, but their legacy will remain a long, long time.
To quote Alex Lifeson’s ‘Hall of Fame’ speech;
‘Blah Blah Blah, Blah Blah Blah Blah.’