The Rush Story


The Rush Story
Burn Down the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
Top Ten Great Forgotten Rush Songs
The Rush Discography
No One Gets to Their Heaven Without a Fight

 
The Rush Story      1      2     3      4     5      6     7 
 
It is hard to believe that it has been nearly a quarter of a century since Rush composed the song “Time Stand Still”, a song filled with nostalgia for the past which came at a time when it appeared to many of us that the band’s career was winding down. In that sense, it was a good time to look back and wish “time would stand still”, but in another sense, as fans we are quite fortunate that it did not stand still at that point in time.

The Canadian trio seemed to have lost their mojo – their absolute control of the sound, with each of these virtuosos making it do acrobatics on a tight rope 1000 feet high and then coming back to do something even more amazing, had all but devolved into a muddle mess of synthesized sound behind a monotone vocal and sophist, preachy lyrics. It was 1987 and Rush had just released Hold Your Fire, their second consecutive album that had tilted fully towards a synth-led sound that had to be as close to 180 degrees away from their classic rock power trio sound that they had delivered so masterfully a decade earlier.

Many of us were absolutely baffled by this radical (or lamely ir-radical) move off the edge. Following the phenomenal success of the breakthrough Moving Pictures in 1981, the band had edged towards new sounds with the new-wave influenced Signals in 1982 and the pop-oriented Grace Under Pressure in 1984, but this was something totally different – and not the a cutting-edge, artistically satisfying sort of different – but it felt cheap and uninspired. Between 1985’s Power Windows and Hold Your Fire, there are a few good moments reserved for the radio-friendly song or two on each, but even so, it is doubtful that a single quality album could be compiled from all the tracks on both.

It was about that time, in the late 1980s when I was introduced to many of the great albums that preceded Moving Pictures. To me the dichotomy was very confusing, because the band was still around and still releasing new albums every year or two, but these new albums sounded nothing at all like the older ones. Many staunch fans defended their new turn towards “modern music” as an extension to their creative journey, but others felt like they had lost their creative drive altogether after becoming mega-stars. Personally, I felt like their career was winding down and reflective songs such as “Time Stand Still” was a tacit acknowledgement of that fact. Boy was I wrong. They had not yet come upon the midway point and still had some fantastic classic work to be produced. And in 1989, the band embarked on the first of two major “comebacks” with the release of their fantastic album Presto.

Looking back now, it was just a bend on the long road of their career; a road that still stretches forward in 2011 as we await the upcoming release of what will be the band’s 19th full-length studio album, Clockwork Angels, so the adventure continues.

For Rush IS a journey – an adventure that takes one to places wild and lame, adventurous and mundane, to unbelievable musical heights to baffling musical stagnation, and all this is decorated with the story telling and the philosophy of “the professor” Neil Peart.

There has never been a rock band like Rush. They are three modest and unassuming men who have each excelled deep into the realms of virtuosity with their respective instruments. They have a single guitarist, Alex Lifeson, who plays any style imaginable and often switches instruments mid-song to replicate the original feel of the song. They have a singer lead singer, Geddy Lee who often plays at least two other instruments while singing. They rarely harmonize and almost never produce anything in the studio that they can’t reproduce on stage. And then there is Peart, loves to come up with mathematical formulas to make multiple time signatures fit and is considered by many (if not most) to be the finest drummer who ever sat behind a set. Together, these three have jived together like no other before them and will likely not ever have adequate company in the stratospheric category that they call their own.

Rush is a band made up of musicians’ musicians. To be able to master a part of a Rush song on any instrument has been a brag-able milestone for generations of rock musicians. There are little to no simple or easy Rush songs.

Beyond these artistic intangibles, Rush has the solid metrics to validate their stature (as of May, 2011):

  • They have placed all 18 studio albums on the United States charts since 1974, with 10 of those reaching the top 10. And this is not just good ole day, prime success, as Rush has placed its last five albums in the U.S. Top 6.
  • In Canada they have six No. 1, two No. 2 and three No. 3 entries.
  • In the United Kingdom, Rush had 16 albums reach the top 40, half of which made it to the Top 10.
  • Since 1980, Rush also has charted hit albums in Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Sweden.
  • Year after year, Rush continues to be one of Rock’s best drawing concert attractions.
  • They rank third behind just The Beatles and Rolling Stones for most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band.

Still, they have been slighted as no band before or since, most especially by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2013 update: Of course, Rush is now in the H.O.F. but still check out our related article >a href=”/burn-down-rock-hof/”>Burn Down the Rock Hall of Fame). The mainstream rock clique has always scoffed at the band, at once ridiculing their sound while dismissing their virtuosity as “fringe prog rock”.

This “banishing” by the self-appointed elites has, in fact, isolated the band from certain corners of the entertainment world but has also served to galvanize their prestige among fans and a growing number of true musicians. In the 2010 documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage, commentary is provided by a diverse set of established musicians that range from Trent Reznor to Les Claypool to Billy Corgin to Kirk Hammet of Metallica to Gene Simmons of Kiss, all of which was influenced by and/or hold the band in grand reverence.

The Rush Story
1 Beginnings
2 The Terry Brown Sound
3 Rock n’ Roll Rebels
4 The Universal Dream
5 Losing It
6 Presto! Rush Is Back
7 Workin’ Them Angels

10 thoughts on “The Rush Story

  • June 11, 2011 at 5:23 am
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    Saw these guys in 1979 and spent the next few months reflecting on their performance which was absolutely staggering;….I could not figure out why but,they were great.And they have only got better since then.I was worried during that Power Windows/Hold Your Fire epoch that I had seen the best of them but I could never forget that first performance and so I went to every San Francisco bay area performance Rush gave.Though this chapter of their career didn’t produce their best albums their live playing abilities were always beyond belief……..and of course for the Presto tour Rush nailed one of their best set lists ever with mind boggling performances of what seemed like every one of thier best songs from every album.The greatest feat of all came after their 5 year break after unspeakable tragedy.I was almost afraid to see them after not playing together for 5 years because I was sure they would sound rusty.My lady friend and I lucked out and somehow wound up in the 19th row at the Concord Pavillion after purchasing our tickets that night at the venue and I waited with apprehension…That night Rush exploded with what may go down as the greatest rock concert I ever witness! Hitting the stage with thier traditional closer,Tom Sawyer, it was as though they had never stopped playing and it got better and better with each song……And as we head into 2011 it seems as though Rush continues to deliver the same awesome performances that that got me hooked 32 years ago. The fact that they are nearing 60 years of age and still performing as well as,or,perhaps better than ever only adds to the greatness of this band;…..Here’s to Rush…The greatest rock band ever!!!!!!!!Thank you so much for all you have done to entertain us.

  • June 11, 2011 at 2:29 pm
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    As Rush have said many times in the past, they are always changing, always experimenting. That said, no two Rush albums (even the early ones) sound alike, so to say that they “lost their edge” or became “muddled” or anything other criticism of their style is meaningless. One could say exactly the same things about the Beatles—experimentalists to the extreme for their generation, and even by today’s standards—and wind up with exactly the same empty reasoning. Like or dislike a song or an entire album? Sure, I can buy that. But don’t slap labels on anyone’s work just because you don’t think it fits in with past work. If everything an artist did sounded exactly the same, what on earth would be the point of continuing to listen to them?

    I for one, don’t at all care for Vapor Trails, and had a hard time swallowing Snakes and Arrows. But that’s because I didn’t like the engineering, which clearly Rush did. Those albums were way too harsh and distorted for my taste. But there are probably some real gems in there which I’ll never enjoy because I find the sound itself utterly fatiguing.

  • June 13, 2011 at 1:59 am
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    Just looking at Rush’s work in the eighties and nineties you find verses, and rhymes that are no where near as intellectually complex as something like Witch Hunt, Something for Nothing, or Ghost Rider. Songs like Dog Years, which have lines like

    “In a dog’s life
    A year is really more like seven
    And all too soon a canine
    Will be chasing cars in doggie heaven”

    Point to the loss of inspiration Rush had during this period. This extra kick in the writing came back with Vapor Trails and Snakes and Arrows.

    “Sometimes the spirit is too strong
    Or the flesh is too weak
    Sometimes the need is just too great
    For the solace we seek
    The suit of shining armor
    Becomes a keen and bloody sword” -Armor and Sword.

  • June 13, 2011 at 6:27 pm
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    I agree with Mr. Satyre about the last two or three Rush albums — their dependence on a dissonant guitar and bass sound has ruined my enjoyment of certain songs, which might otherwise have been “classics.” I also disagree with the author’s harsh criticisms toward Power Windows, which is perhaps the zenith of their classic era. I can agree that Hold Your Fire relied too much on sequencers, but I would have actually lumped that album in with Presto, which also suffered from studio limitations. Notice that Rush was still able to perform nearly all songs from Power Windows in concert during the “Big Money” tour.

  • June 13, 2011 at 6:38 pm
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    Incidentally, “La Villa Strangiato” took its main musical theme from composer Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse.” Rush later acknowledged this fact in 1986, and even paid the ageing composer for his copyright permission.

  • June 13, 2011 at 6:53 pm
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    One last thing — good overall bio for Rush — but please get an editor. I have found a number of spelling errors and a few malapropisms. This will do Rush credit, but it needs airtightness and professional quality. Speaking as a journalist and published scholar, I would like to see the bar raised on rock music history.

  • June 14, 2011 at 9:24 pm
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    Followed Rush since 74, loved ALL their albums, never worried about where they were going, every album has had something great on it…..winding down, what? Rush are always evolving, thats whats exciting about them, can’t wait for the next album, thats the way it’s been for me the last 37 years, a great adventure.

    • June 24, 2011 at 7:40 pm
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      I’ve been following Rush since 2112 and I have to agree with Don…every album
      is awesome in its own way. Rush is an never-ending story and has been an
      important aspect of my life. I wish it would never end, but when it does, the
      world will have a collection of music that will be immortal!

  • July 11, 2011 at 2:48 am
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    I agree wholeheartedly with the author on this piece. I’ve like most everything they’ve done. The Power Windows-Roll The Bones period easily thier “down period” for me also.
    Snakes & Arrows easily the best since Moving Pictures, and the R30 shows were fantastic.

    Big Props to the guys that do it better than anyone else in the biz, and their pushing 60!

  • July 15, 2011 at 9:44 pm
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    There are so many things in this article that ‘I disagree with’…and I’m not trying to put the author down. To me its like some people want Rush to make 2112 over and over again. Could you imagine how incredibly boring that would be? Not to mention, it would be a formula for disaster. I think Rush needed to change and grow….and thats just what they did. And like Geddy said on the classic rock album doc (2112 and Moving Pictures)…sometimes you make mistakes. However, that being said, in my opinion, there are some incredibly good songs and moments from the albums that this author “in my opinion” has put down. But, like I say….opinions are like cell phones…every one has one.

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