Tales of Rock – Rush – This Elegant Band That Is Like No Other

My baby sister Jill, loves Rush. They once played two nights near where she went to college and she went both nights! That’s dedication. She said she stood on her chair the entire show and sang every lyric right back to Geddy Lee. Rush is to her as Aerosmith is to me.

Here’s some cool facts about this legendary band from Canada.

Rush have fans in high places. Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan is an outspoken “fanboy,” and he even interviewed the band for a radio segment. Country star Tim McGraw called himself a “big Rush fan” during an interview with Larry King. On a grander stage, hip-hop/pop/R&B mega-producer Pharrell Williams subtly rocked a ‘Test for Echo’ t-shirt during an episode of ‘The Voice.’

Neil Peart is rightly regarded as one of the greatest rock drummers in history. In addition to his famously massive kit, he also plays a seemingly endless list of auxiliary percussion instruments. On 1977’s ‘A Farewell to Kings’ alone, he is credited with “drums, orchestra bells, wind chimes, bell tree, vibraslap, triangle, tubular bells, and temple blocks”; on the following year’s ‘Hemispheres,’ he added gong, cowbells, wind chimes, crotales, and timpani.

“Alex Lifeson” has a nice ring to it – by design. The guitarist was born Aleksandar Zivojinovic to Serbian immigrant parents, but he used his surname’s English equivalent for the stage, fearing it would be too difficult for others to pronounce. Bassist Geddy Lee, the son of two Polish Holocaust survivors, changed his name from Gary Lee Weinrib. But how did her get the name “Geddy”? His mother had such a thick Yiddish accent, that when she would call his name (Gary) it always came out as “Geddy” so they boys started to refer to him as Geddy. (I love that bit!)

Rush have rarely taken a break since their 1974 self-titled debut. True, the trio have slowed down considerably in recent years, but their early amount of work is staggering, releasing 18 studio and live albums (from ‘Rush’ to 1993’s ‘Counterparts’) in a 20-year span.

Peart isn’t just the band’s primary lyricist. He’s also an author, with six books published since 1996 that have chronicled his travels as a touring musician and motorcyclist. His most recent, ‘Far and Near: On Days Like These,’ was released in October 2014.

Terry Brown co-produced every Rush album from 1975’s ‘Fly By Night’ to 1982’s ‘Signals.’ But that fruitful partnership was ruined largely by one song, the reggae-tinged bass monster ‘Digital Man.’ The trio were aiming to push their music in new – often more commercially accessible – directions, but Brown was reluctant to leave the prog epics behind.

Though Rush is from Toronto, the band’s first true success came when DJ Donna Halper played the band’s hard-hitting ‘Working Man’ on Cleveland’s WMMS. It became a fixture on local radio, propelling Rush to a record deal (and LP re-release) with American label Mercury and high-profile opening slots for Uriah Heep and Kiss.

Rush was christened by an unlikely source: Bill Rutsey, the brother of the band’s original drummer, John Rutsey. “The band was excited, but they had a big problem,” author Bill Banasiewicz explains in his 1988 biography ‘Rush Visions.’ “While they had been dreaming of playing, they had neglected to come up with a name for their group. So a few days before the gig they sat around in John’s basement trying to come up with an appropriate moniker. They weren’t having much luck when John’s older brother Bill piped up, ‘Why don’t you call the band Rush?’, and Rush it was.”

Rush rank alongside Cream and ELP as one of rock’s greatest power trios, but they’ve recruited a number of outside studio collaborators over the years. The first of these guests was Hugh Syme, who played keyboards on several albums beginning with ‘2112.’ Syme is more famous for his visual art: he’s designed all of Rush’s album covers since 1975’s ‘Caress of Steel.’

YYZ,’ Rush’s Grammy-nominated instrumental showcase, was named after the identification code for Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. The song’s drilling intro riff is based on the visual pattern for those three letters, rendered into Morse code. It’s the most lovably nerdy moment from prog’s nerdiest band.

 

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