By Kevin Sellers
Once, there were two. Childhood friends with passions for the hard rock sounds beginning to bubble up from the ooze of blues and rock'n'roll, Geddy Lee (or Gary Lee Weinrib; "Geddy" comes from his mother's pronunciation) and Alex Lifeson (or Alexandar Zivojinovich, "Lifeson" is simply a semi-literal translation of his last name) were prevalent in their local Toronto music scene before ending up as 2/3rds of Rush. At first, the members consisted of Lifeson, bassist/vocalist Jeff Jones and drummer John Rutsey. It didn't take long for Jones to be replaced by Lee. This incarnation of Rush would tour the local high school circuit; the typical underaged bars, birthday parties, and anywhere with a stage and a crowd.
It wasn't too long after their forming that they were able to lay down their first single; a demo/cover of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away". This was in 1973. The B-Side was the band's first recorded original to be released, "You Can't Fight It", which would foreshadow their debut album's sound very well. This single met with barely any fanfare and it was back to the van and two-a-nights. Because of the lack of record company interest in releasing an album for them, Rush would start their own label imprint (Moon Records) and release "Rush" to their strong but mostly local fanbase. The album's taste and tone scream a worship of the hard rock giants of the time, namely Led Zeppelin. The album would do little until it was picked up by a rock station in Cleveland, Ohio, where the song "Working Man" quickly became a most-requested number and resonated with the city of blue-collared individuals.
Not long after "Rush" dropped, so did John Rutsey from the band; citing health reasons (it is believed that Diabetes was a main culprit) and lack of passion for the touring gig. This, despite it seeming a bit unsettling to say so now that John has passed on (R.I.P.), nothing really could have been better for the band as it left a door open that just happened to be closed again by one of rock's greatest drummers; the Professor, Neil Peart. Peart's journey had taken him from his Canadian roots to London where he desperately tried to find a way into the bustling local music scene as he had done back home. It's clear that these formative years would go to lengths to polish both his skills behind the kit and his ability to pen thoughtful and expressive lyrics, a job that he still gives his best to this day. The first album released by the new Rush would be "Fly By Night", and almost instantly fans and critics noticed a huge difference, brought on both by Peart's arrival and Lee and Lifeson's further maturing as musicians. "Caress of Steel" would come next and, despite their growing popularity, it's extremely complex and lengthened compositions would see little in the way of critical acclaim.
This was supposed to be where Rush came in and cleared the joint out; instead, they were accused of stinking it out, and the record company (they'd since switched to Mercury and changed their own imprint name to Anthem) would be having no more of it. After demanding a change of form for the next album, it became apparent that the pressures were just too much and that the creative zeitgeist was being stifled. Instead of cutting the tracks down and making a more radio-ready LP, Rush unleashed unto the unsuspecting masses a suite of the most epic nature, "2112". This album would go on to make Rush a Platinum seller in Canada and would be the first real brick in the foundation of Rush's legacy.
Over the next 30+ years, Rush have remained the same three as they were in 1975. Their sound has evolved from a pioneering stage of progressive rock (A Farewell To Kings, Permanent Waves) to a more synthesizer-heavy hard rock that eased up on the overbearing prog elements but still stayed creative (the masterpiece Moving Pictures, Signals, Hold Your Fire) and on into the 90's. These brought a revival of their original idea of a three-piece being a guitar, a bass, and a drumkit (Presto, Counterparts, Roll The Bones). One of their most underrated albums came from this period, "Test For Echo". It was around the time of it's release when tragedy befell the band and Neil Peart in particular, as he watched his wife and daughter both die with little warning within a year of one another. The band would go on hiatus while Peart found his center again, while Lee and Lifeson released solo projects (Lee's "My Favorite Headache" and Lifeson's "Victor" project amongst others). It wasn't until the turning of the millenium that we'd hear from Rush again...
And that's where the story has led us. After a triumphant return on "Vapor Trails", the three known as Rush would set out on tours so large in size and scope that it would remind them of their old ways, touring 7, 8, 10 months out of the year. At the peak of their fame now more than ever, Rush continue to produce new and exciting music, as evidenced most recently by the solid "Snakes & Arrows". Despite all the years, all the hardships, all the ups and downs and in-betweens, it must be something phenomenal to say you're still alive, still kicking and, most of all, still rocking. The history and legacy of Rush may not be as foreward and imposing as a Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones or Pink Floyd, but their influential sound, unique style, uncompromising attitude and total creative control would act as a blueprint for countless bands to come after. And the coolest thing is that they never left, always remaining an existing and relevant example of how a band should be and nothing like how one shouldn't.