I took part in one of those Facebook ’10 album covers’ things recently………and it got me thinking.
Specifically it got me thinking about Rush. Now I’m aware that there is an element of the ‘marmite’ about Rush. Many music fans love them unreservedly. And others? Well they just don’t see the attraction.
Anyway, I was struggling to choose a single Rush album to feature in my top 10. And this is what happened next……
NORMAL SERVICE WILL BE RESUMED TOMORROW. IN THE MEANTIME……
I know I’m not supposed to make any comment on these Facebook posts, however this particular album cover has left me with no choice.
I was, and remain, a massive Rush fan. I own every one of their ‘early’ albums (12 in total) on vinyl, from the eponymous first album in 1974 through to 1984’s Grace Under Pressure. We did eventually part company as we both grew and diversified around this time. But I have continued to follow their work with interest and have subsequently bought albums (and created Spotify playlists) from their later cannon. And, although I know it’s not true, I like to believe that they have followed me too.
Rush may not have always been ‘cool’ (according to those who just never got it), but they have always had integrity. It is exactly because they refused to bow to label pressure to produce something a bit more ‘commercial’, and have absolutely furrowed their own path in spite of external forces, that they are so loved.
And boy could these guys play! As a young wannabe guitarist, one of the very first things I learned to play (after ‘She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain’) was the riff to ‘Fly By Night’. I spent days and weeks trying to work out ‘La Villa Strangiato’. And every guitarist, bass player and drummer I know has tried to nail ‘YYZ’. Most with limited success.
People who know me will tell you that I am a massive Jimmy Page fan. And that is true. However Jimmy’s playing in Zeppelin has always been the zenith. But Alex Lifeson, well he made me believe that being an awesome guitar player was ever-so-slightly achievable. I have stolen so many licks, chords and phrases from Alex Lifeson over the years it’s embarrassing. Alex (he’d be okay with me calling him ‘Alex’) taught me that it’s okay to be the best version of yourself that you can be, and wear your influences on your sleeve. And for that I say thank you.
Lyrically, Rush have nearly always been driven by the Professor. Neil Peart’s love of literature has influenced pretty much every song on every album. Yes there were futuristic concepts, yes there were songs about trees (although its not about trees). But I defy anyone not to find something that resonates with them. For me, there are so many lyrical moments that stop me in my tracks. It would be impossible to mention them all, but I shall give an honourable mention to ‘The Spirit of Radio’:
‘All this machinery making modern music can still be open-hearted.
Not so coldly charted, it’s really just a question of your honesty. Yeah, your honesty.
One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
But glittering prizes and endless compromises shatter the illusion of integrity.’
The precise moment when Geddy Lee sings these words (and boy can he sing) is so utterly joyous, intelligent and insightful, that even now (40 years later) I cannot help but sing along at the top of my voice with an emotional tear in my eye.
There was such a unity between the members of the band that their chemistry was tangible. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else being in Rush! They played so well together, I used to wonder how any musicians could ever be that good. The fact that they made it look simple is part of the magic. Because it’s not easy to be that together. It is not easy at all.
The recent and unexpected death of Neil Peart really hit me, and many many others, hard. He was so talented, so intelligent, so motivated. He was an explorer, he was a loner. He appreciated the success of Rush, but he never truly understood the trappings that came with it. He loved literature and became an author. He loved the drums and was a student to the end. And he loved Rush.
So I’m picking ‘Permanent Waves’ purely because I have to pick one. And it is a seriously good one. It may not be the first Rush album to influence me, but it represents a lifetime of joyous musical exploration and discovery.
And you know a band is good when they make you feel like you’ve been part of it all.
If you know Rush’s music then please enjoy this playlist on Spotify. If you don’t know their music, or think you know better, please listen as well: My Rush Playlist
Author: Ian Edwards