Rush are a very polarizing band for some reason. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the sound of Geddy Lee’s voice. It can get shrill at times I suppose, but for some reason it has never bothered me. The good news is Rush doesn’t need everyone to love them. They long ago rose above the discussion as to whether or not they had talent or had anything worth listening to. Not only are they unreal musicians, but they have been making great records for approaching 40 years now. There aren’t many bands over the long haul that cannot be stopped no matter how hard you try to contain them. The Grateful Dead could be considered one. Santana might be another. Yes is in that discussion as well. I’m talking about bands that, for the most part, have been around for 25 years or more and have maybe a handful of hits that anyone on the street can actually recite. Then there are the other 25-30 albums in their respective catalogues that their diehard fans keep buying even though their last hit on the radio was in 1987. That’s when you know a band has a serious following.
I know I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but my very first Rock concert took place in 1977 at The Tower Theatre in Philadelphia. I just found the ticket stub taped to my copy of 2112! March 11, 1977. I love ticket stubs. How the hell am I supposed to remember what happened on what date decades ago? Now I don’t have to. March 15th is my birthday so I was four days shy of my 17th birthday when my four buddies and I crawled into the back of a baby blue VW Beetle owned by an older brother of a friend of ours for the hour drive to Philadelphia from North Jersey. I don’t recall if my mother actually gave me permission to go, but I do remember pulling it off without incident. I remember falling asleep at the concert during the warm up act as a result of too many party favors, but I’m sure Max Webster and Cheap Trick were fantastic.
I had owned Rush’s 1976 LP 2112 for several months by then and they were still touring behind it. I think their next brilliant LP, A Farewell To Kings, was not due until September of 1977 so I don’t recall if I heard “Closer To The Heart” or what, but it didn’t matter at the time. I wanted to see drummer Neil Peart fire those drums sticks twenty feet into the air during “Temples of Syrinx.” That is what I came for. Naturally he didn’t disappoint. I had no idea the guy would go onto creep into the discussion of who the greatest drummers in the history of Rock. I just knew 2112 was a great record and I wanted to see them perform it live. Even at 16 I was a Rush fan.
As I have gotten older I have come to recognize the bands that critics love to bash, that became associated with Beavis & Butthead, that people look at you 30 years later and say “you still listening to those guys?” and that would seem, on paper, to have a dwindling audience as their core fan base ages. The funniest thing about doubting what you like is that these very same bands; Kiss, AC/DC, Rush, etc are all the ones that are able to withstand awful touring seasons and no record sales. They just keep on doing their thing, their fans still love ‘em and sell their shows out and the world keeps turning. Love ‘em or hate ‘em they aren’t going anywhere. I love that about Rock & Roll. The fad band of the day is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but three to five years on, with no real body of work to point to, they fade from the scene. Were they great? Probably, but real staying power in this business takes more than two or three decent CDs. Touring is very hard work, but you have to be good too. And not just in your own mind or amongst your fan base. It’s so easy to fold your tent these days without record sales to validate what you are doing. I get that completely, but there is a reason why bands like Rush and AC/DC have endured. You may not like their genre or sound, but you have to tip your cap to them. They carved out their respective markets and locked them down. They deliver the goods. Rush is definitely one of those bands. There is nobody that even remotely sounds like them.
Gary Lee Weinrib, better known as Geddy Lee, was born on July 29, 1953. He is the lead vocalist and bass player in the three man powerhouse band Rush. He has been in the band since 1968. Alex Lifeson, the lead guitarist in Rush, had asked him to join after original bassist Jeff Jones left the band. I didn’t know Jeff Jones was in the gospel band Ocean, famous for the 1971 song “Put Your Hand in The Hand.” I’m sure I had a copy of that 45 rpm at one point or another. He also went on the play in Red Rider with Tom Cochrane. You may remember Red Rider for the killer 1981 single “Lunatic Fringe.” Interesting no? See what you learn researching for these posts? Drumming God & lyricist Neil Peart didn’t join Rush until 1974, but the trio has been in place ever since. 20 albums later they are Rock & Roll Hall of Fame candidates. It would a complete shock if they didn’t eventually kick that door down. They are, of course, in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. They are, by any standard of measure, superior musicians.
Their litany of fantastic singles is a long one; “Working Man, Fly By Night, Closer To The Heart, Circumstances, The Spirit of Radio, 2112/The Temples of Syrinx, Freewill, Limelight, Tom Sawyer, Distant Early Warning, Subdivisions, Time Stand Still, New World Man, Vital Signs, Bastille Day, Lakeside Park, In The Mood, You Bet Your Life, Nobody’s Hero, Cinderella Man, Anthem and I Think I’m Going Bald” just to name a few off the top of my head. People love ‘em or they want no part of them. That’s too bad because they are fantastic in concert. I’m going to see them perform Moving Pictures live this fall and I’m really looking forward to it. They are a synthesizer based Progressive Rock band, but they have always been musician’s musicians. Rush rocks, period. End of story. I just felt like it was important to wish Geddy Lee a Happy and Healthy 57th birthday today. I hope their forthcoming record, tentatively called Clockwork Angels and scheduled to be released in 2011, will on a par with some of their very best.
Buy or download Rush’s Greatest Hits from Amazon here.