Rush: The World’s Biggest Cult Band

I understand why females don’t dig Rush. Singing about “the black holes of Cygnus X-1” and various other Dungeons and Dragons style mythology probably didn’t endear them to the fairer sex. And the odd time signatures and epic instrumental passages most likely bored them to tears. If you wanted to score you didn’t put on 2112, to be certain.

But for those of us raised on this peculiar band (read: Canadians) understood the attraction. Girls, chicks, weren’t the only ones who didn’t get it; rock critics hated their guts as well, and often referred to them as “progressive wankers”. There is some truth to that, especially on early recordings such as Caress Of Steel. 2112, the first side being a 6-part concept piece loosely based on the works of author Ayn Rand, was the breakthrough. The second side, built upon shorter compositions, hardly ever gets played. The next two albums, A Farewell To Kings and Hemespheres, continued the space odyssey (of special note is the Hemespheres track La Villa Strangiato), but Permanent Waves is where Rush, Mach II began.

Shorter numbers, influenced in part by “new wave” bands The Police and Talking Heads, ruled the day and gave Rush the commercial kick in the pants it needed. The Spirit Of Radio, based on Toronto alternative radio station CFNY, even contained a reggae passage! Entre Nous and Freewill were, lyrically and musically speaking, more accessible and sales skyrocketed. Their next album, Moving Pictures, took advantage of this newfound musical freedom and expanded the band’s fanbase into the stratosphere. Tom Sayer, Red Barchetta, YYZ (the best instrumental song EVER!), Limelight and especially The Camera Eye (Rush’s last ‘epic’) were brilliant compositions and helped propel Moving Pictures into legendary status.

Their next, Signals, took things a little too far. By no means a stinker, Signals relied a little too much on the synthesizer. New World Man was retitled “New Wave Band” by some of Rush’s more unforgiving long term fanbase, and many left in droves, myself included. I didn’t purchase another Rush album until 20 years later.

Last years career overview documentary, RUSH: Beyond The Lighted Stage is simply revelatory. It chronicles the band from the very beginning, from way back when the band was playing Laura Secord’s Secondary School in Toronto, up to present day. In between the band earned it’s stripes by weathering constant critical scorn time and time again, the death of drummer Neil Peart’s wife and daughter, and releasing album after album after album, and they did it by trying new styles and, perhaps most importantly, did it all with a sense of humor and a true love for their fans.

They are more popular that ever. Singer Geddy Lee calls them “The Biggest Cult Band In The World”, and how right he is! Why this band, after almost 40 years in the business and after influencing countless other bands, isn’t in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is a great injustice.

Here are some facts about Rush to get you started with your musical education. Did you know…

…that Alex Lifeson tried to get Donald Duck comics banned from Canadian soil because he was offended that he(Donald, not Alex) doesn’t wear pants?

…that singer/bass player/keyboardist Geddy Lee uses his massively fleshy nose, during his time off from RUSH, to help the Canadian government rid the Yukon Territory of the dangerous, troublesome and elusive creature known only as The Gooch? Only Lee, utilizing the impressive powers of his olfactory glands, has been successful in locating it’s whereabouts.

…that Neil Peart, who is generally regarded as the best rock drummer of all time, and who’s awesome skills with the skins make it sound as if two people are drumming, is actually two people? His mutant twin Kuato, who was never separated from Neil’s belly, is the man responsible for those impossible sounding triplets.

…that Peart’s first attempt to write a book was entitled, “Embarrassing things that might happen to you while using a light saber?” It was universally rejected.

…that guitarist Alex Lifeson is the great, great grandson of famous 19th century occultist Madame Blavatsky and that he once cured former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s facial warts with a tonic first used on Napoleon III?

…that in Toronto it is illegal to drink beer out of a bucket while you’re sitting on a curb? Lee and Lifeson are responsible for this obscure law after they incited a riot by getting a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman’s horse drunk on Molson Canadian, who proceeded to embark on a violent rampage, absolutely demolished a 4 square mile of Yongue Street, and put exactly 2,112 people in the hospital.

…that Neil Peart once submitted a proposal to the Canadian Mint to develop doughnut shaped fifty-cent pieces?

…that Lifeson can open his mouth wide enough to fit a 4 foot tall child inside?

…that Lee’s Grandfather wrote the song “Zee Lolipop Song” which appeared in the Three Stooges film entitled Wee Wee Monsieur? He still receives royalties to this day!

…that RUSH has yet to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?!?!?!! I know they’ve been pegged by some to be terminally unhip, but that’s some serious bullshit