A Six-Pack of Rush

If I’m honest I’ll say that I’ve never particularly been a big Rush fan. I was in a band once and we had a bass player who could not believe it when I told him that. But many of their songs have never really done much for me. And if they had gotten a better singer than Geddy Lee things might have been different.

So why am I writing about them? Well, despite what I said above they have a handful of songs I really like and so, why not feature those? Most of the ones I know have had significant airplay but I tried to dig a little deeper. As sometimes happens I came away digging Rush more than I came in. And man, can they play. Neil Peart was not an overrated drummer.

First, a little obligatory history courtesy of Wikipedia: The band was formed in the neighbourhood of Willowdale in Toronto, Ontario, by guitarist Alex Lifeson, bassist and frontman Jeff Jones, and drummer John Rutsey, in August 1968

They wanted a name that was “short and to the point” (“fuck” was taken? – ME) and so they chose Rush. Due to increasing difficulties in getting to Lifeson’s house for practice, Jones suggested that Lifeson get his schoolmate Gary “Geddy” Weinrib to step in on lead vocals and bass.

Rush rehearsed a set mainly formed of covers by various rock artists, including Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and John Mayall. At some point, their new manager found Geddy “unsuitable” and kicked him out.

But then they asked him back and they wound up getting a contract. Their first album was released in 1974 and the drummer was not Neil Peart but original member John Rutsey. For a veriety of reasons – health, aversion to touring, etc. – Rutsey left the group, Neil Peart joined and the rest is history.

First up is one of my favorite Rush songs, “New World Man.” Some guy in a comment section said, “This song is *clearly* about the USA. Consider the time it was written, 1983, when the Cold War was still raging. America as the “New World Man”, full of power “with weapons on patrol”, admired and yet resented by other nations, trying to save the day (from Soviet aggression) for the Old World (Western European) Man, and trying to pave the way (a way other from Communism) for the Third World Man.”

Hmm, okay, well, whatever.

I tell you what, that original 1974 Rush was pretty good and pretty hard=rockin’. Not that that isn’t true of the later iterations but Geddy’s voice wasn’t so shrill and they were less prog and more hard rock. Hey I never said these guys couldn’t rock.

From their debut album, the balls out “What You’re Doing.” Smokin’ guitar here by Lifeson:

It seems almost inevitable that bands that become succesful -that yearn to become successul and famous – write a song about the strain of being successful and famous. I always find it odd when public figures bitch about fame. Do they not understand that fame equals loss of anonymity?

Oh, well, “Limelight” is a good tune.

Living in a fisheye lens
Caught in the camera eye
I have no heart to lie
I can’t pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend

All the world’s indeed a stage
We are merely players
Performers and portrayers
Each another’s audience outside the gilded cage

You know, I recall watching a pretty good Rush documentary on cable TV a while back. Like all Canadians who are not hockey players, they are nice. I enjoyed the interviews and the back stories. I found one called Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage and I’m guessing that was it.

Here’s an oddity. In the late 80s the band was looking for a female singer to do a song called “Time Stand Still.” They approached Cyndi Lauper and Chrissie Hynde but eventually hired ‘Til Tuesday singer Aimee Mann. She’s not on a lot but she definitely adds something. She’s the pretend camerawoman in the video:

I know enough about Rush to know that if I don’t feature “Tom Sawyer” I will likely have fans camping outside my house to get me to repent. It is unclear to me why the song has that tite. Enlighten me:

For the last tune I was torn between “Spirit of Radio” and “Freewill.” I just think I like this one better ‘coz I like the way he says, “I will choose free will.”

Even before Neil Peart’s death in 2020, the band admitted they were pretty much of a spent force. (Interestingly, original drummer John Rutsey died some years ago). Not sure what Lee and Lifeson are up to these days.

As of 2022, Rush ranks 84th in the U.S. with sales of 26 million albums and industry sources estimate their total worldwide album sales at over 42 million. Rush has been awarded 14 platinum and 3 multi-platinum albums in the US plus 17 platinum albums in Canada.

Rush was nominated for seven Grammy Awards,won several Juno Awards, and won an International Achievement Award at the 2009 SOCAN Awards.The band was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. A shitload of bands from Alice in Chains to Rage Against the Machine to Trent Reznor have cited them as an influence.






18 thoughts on “A Six-Pack of Rush

  1. I’m actually pretty aligned with you on Rush – I have some compilations (Retrospective I, II, and III) and Moving Pictures, and don’t feel the need to dig too much further.

    I like them better when they followed The Police into sophisticated pop/rock in the 1980s. ‘Time Stand Still’ is my favourite Rush song.


    1. They were a band with great musicianship whose songs- at least for me – didn’t always work. Their best songs worked well. I’m fanatical about good singers and the right singer for a band. If Geddy had just played bass and they hired a singer, they would have been better off.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Overall, I think I share your feelings about Rush. They were great musicians, no doubt, but Geddy Lee’s vocals aren’t exactly my cup of tea either, as much as I appreciate him as a bassist. I have similar feelings about Axl Rose, which is why I prefer to enjoy Gun N’ Roses in moderation – two to three tunes in a row are okay, but if it’s more, it becomes hard to endure.


    1. I actually am a big fan of Rush.
      3 incredible musicians that proved to the music industry that they wrote and performed on their terms, and we’re still successful!


  3. That’s a nicely selected six-pack from one of my all-time favorite bands. It’s understandable that you wouldn’t be a big fan, since their sound isn’t for everyone, and Geddy’s voice on the early albums is very screechy. But anyone who’s even a part-time musician will find things to love in their catalog.


    1. One of your all-time favorites! Wow. Yeah, Rush is a band I wanted to like more but couldn’t find my way in. Some of their songs I just don’t get, some are really good. As to singing, Geddy sometimes reminds me of late-period Robert Plant where his voice got more, shall we say, precious. But I think that if I had liked Geddy’s voice more I might have listened more. Sometimes I hear an instrumental part of a song on the radio by some band I don’t recognize and like it. If the singer comes on and doesn’t “match” the sound or I don’t like his voice, I tune out. Think of how Mick matches the Stones or Gregg matches the Allmans. I guess Geddy matches Rush but it just ain’t happening for me. Also, can I assume you’ve seen that documentary? I enjoyed it quite a bit.


      1. Yep, they’re definitely in my top 15 or 20 artists of all time. I discovered them in 1980 when Permanent Waves was released and I was immediately hooked. Being a drummer and hearing Neil Peart was a game-changer. What kind of voice do you think might have worked better with their music? I have seen that documentary, and it’s great.


        1. That’s a hard question to answer off the top of my head. The easy answer is… Geddy. But a more restrained Geddy. He sounds fine on, say, Limelight or New World Man. But on other stuff he just sounds shrill.


  4. Your six pack I find truly interesting, and I enjoyed reading it. As a huge Rush fan I have a few comments on your article.

    First … You comments on Limelight are so wrong!! Neal Peart in multiple interviews and in two different different documentaries, one being Beyond the lighted stage, stated that the song was about him being uncomfortable with fame. While Geddy and Alex could handel the adoration of fans, he could not so he wrote the song about himself.

    Second … I like your interpretation of “New world man”. I have not heard of anything from the band about the meaning of the song. There have been many speculative interpretations but I think yours is probably spot on. My interpretation was similar but I think you completed what I hadn’t thought of.

    Third … Your stats on album sales while good is not probably the best stats to use. To compare Rush to the likes of Michael Jackson or Garth Brooks is not the best comparison. If you compare Rush to other “rock” bands they rank, depending on the statistics you use, in the top 5 in virtually every category. Compared to prog rock bands, which they truly were a prog rock band, it depends on who’s stats you want to believe. For example, there are some publications that consider the Beatles as a prog rock band, which is hardly the case, and Rush is number 3 or 4 depending. Rolling stone magazine, which was so anti-Rush for decades, ranks Rush as the number one prog rock band of all time in a landslide.

    Lastly… I wouldn’t rely on Wikipedia for stats or history of anything. Their information is always being corrected or edited due to errors and they are considered one of the worst for accuracy.

    As to why they named the song “Tom Sawyer”, that’s a very good question!

    Welcome to the Rush world!


    1. Well, firstly thanks for your detailed reply. As to Limelight, it may not have come out sounding like it but yes, I agree with what you said about it.

      I agree wholeheartedly that they were, or evolved into, a prog-rock band. Highly influential as well. For my money though, not quoting stats, I’d go with Yes every time. And yes, anybody who says The Beatles were prog is nuts.

      That’s a shame about Wikipedia. It’s hard to find good, reliable sources of info.


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