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Rush: 1974 – 2112, The Best or Worst Rock Band Ever

January 7th, 2012 by Michael Tabor

Rush – the rock band actually started playing together in 1968 however, they were not yet really Rush until 1974, when perhaps the most important member of the band (believed to be the case by many fans) Neil Peart,  joined vocalist, keyboardist, and bassist – Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, guitarist in the summer of 1974 to form the world’s greatest musical trio. Rush released one Album, the eponymous ‘Rush’ with drummer John Rutsey, which to be fair was not at all a bad album and certainly one can earnestly say that Rutsey was a fine drummer, but Neil Peart he was not. (Oh and 2112, released in 1976, is a concept album and their first among many to come, truly great albums).
This not a biography on Rush which you can find on Wikipedia but rather a declaration of my favorite band of all time – Rush is easily the greatest rock band, group, performance artists, etc. ever or the worst and most pretentious band to come upon the music scene. I, being a die-hard fan since 1976 (release of 2112) believe the former to be true but I certainly have heard the detractors who absolutely loathe Rush. Knowledgeable and well-respected music journalists have hurled some of the most denunciatory opinions; the invective consisting of pretentious, noise, non-commercial, chaotic (Rush is anything but chaotic), “can’t dance to” and more.
The reason for this dichotomy is because the music from Rush is profoundly unlike any other rock band musically and lyrically. Music is a matter of taste and like art; it’s difficult if not impossible to say who is better or who is the best. However, the facts are facts – whether one hates or loves the band, no one can deny that the trio is freakishly talented. Neil Peart is arguably the best drummer ever to pick up a pair of drum sticks, Geddy Lee on the bass is in the same league with John Entwistle, “Flea”, and all the other greats  (Geddy also plays the keys and sings), and finally, though incredibly underrated, Alex Lifeson is far and away the greatest, most diversified guitarist (neck and neck, pun intended, with Steve Howe) there is. (Rolling Stone Magazine recently had a top 100 guitarists issue and Alex Lifeson ranked 98 – laughable !!! The ranking should have been Alex Lifeson and Steve Howe, one and two respectively and #3 could have been Page or Hendrix but the gap between the aforementioned and the other greats is a long way from Lifeson and Howe).
As for the lyrics of Rush, this is where one will hear and read – “pretentious garbage”. This is simply not true. Neil Peart who writes all the lyrics shrugs off the negative comments and will say something akin to (paraphrasing) “Pretentious ? I am not pretending to be anything, I’m simply writing from my heart and the words that come forth are sincerely the way I feel. “Unlike all other rock lyrics, the syntax is precise and perfect, the vocabulary is rich and varied, and the subject matter about which Peart writes is “deep” and profound. The meaning of life, Ayn Rand, freewill and determinism, metaphysics, science, science fiction, existentialism, death, and so much more can be found in the lyrics of Rush music. It is true that though Neil Peart can nail a piece lyrically, he sometimes misses and some songs are not very good (lyrically not musically) and may be cliché-ridden (in the song ‘Countdown’ from the album signals you will hear the passage “the excitement is so thick you can cut it with a knife”) but not unlike any other writer and poet he can write a masterpiece and at times his writing is mediocre or not good at all. The problem I have with the people (the elitist snobs, Ivy-league college professors, etc.) who say the lyrics are pretentious is the notion that just because you have a Ph.D. in Classical studies doesn’t mean you own Homer (pretentiousness is a topic for another blog).  I don’t think Neil Peart even has a college degree but he’s well-read and intelligent and I’m sorry Mr. snobby Shakespearean scholar, he may very well have something fresh and insightful to say.
So WhaDaYaThink ? What do you Think ? I will be spilling much more ink on Rush in the future. Do you like Rush ? Have you ever heard of Rush – lol…

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26 Responses to “Rush: 1974 – 2112, The Best or Worst Rock Band Ever”

  1. Sal Paradise Says:

    My ‘issue’ with Rush is not having seen them in concert until 2007; what an egregious mistake on my part. They were utterly brilliant and it remains one of the top 5 concerts (of around 60) I’ve attended. Curiously, I lived in upstate New York (outside of Rochester) during the mid-70’s when Rush came on the scene, and given the proximity to Canada they were as popular up there as KISS , Fleetwood Mac and Peter Frampton back in ’76 and ’77. I remember the Jr. High School principal on the school intercom promising detention for anyone caught carving RUSH or 2112 on a desk. A couple years later, when I was in the throes of a punk/new wave obsession, my best friend always tried to extol the virtuosity of group, and I liked and appreciated great songs like “Subdivisions” and “Limelight,” but it wasn’t until I saw them five years ago that I really and finally “got” it.

    In terms of pure musicianship, they may be the best band ever. That said, I can’t think of one album of theirs that is anywhere near ‘essential owning,’ as I can for the Beatles, Stones, Who, Zeppelin, Clash, U2 and a host of others. Despite their numerous hits over the decades, I don’t think Rush has always been so concerned with accessability, which I certainly respect, but such a mindset is going to limit appeal to all but the hard-core fan base (which is substantial). Rush has never received its due, as evidenced by the big deal made of their first ‘Rolling Stone’ cover a few years back, which was a shameful fact. Nonetheless, I can’t rank them above the aforementioned groups in a discussion of “Best Rock Bands.” One hell of a concert band, though!

  2. rick Says:

    Great musicians. Terrible lead singer. Except for Spirit of the radio.

  3. Michael Tabor Says:

    Hi Sal,

    Great input as usual. I remember everyone talking about 2112 in the 70s – at that time they were just starting to leave their mark. Believe it or not, early on in their career Rush warmed up for KISS; they were actually lumped in with heavy metal – 2 funny. The members of Rush are and have always been very conservative – they didn’t drink excessively, do drugs, have orgies, etc. like most HM rock groups. Gene Simmons (btw surprisingly Gene never drank or did drugs but he certainly loved the women) remarked that while we were partying and having indiscriminate sex with the groupies, the trio were in their hotel rooms quietly reading.

    No you are right, Rush has never had that BIG album like Zep, Stones, Who, etc. the closest they have ever had to huge commercial succes is with the album ‘Moving Pictures’. Keep coming back – always love what you have to share !

  4. Michael Tabor Says:

    Hi Rick,

    The singer is the band’s achilles heel. I understand why people may not like his voice – but I personally like it (not love). The soprano sounding, Robert Plant like voice was big in the 70’s as we all know. When I say I like not love Geddy’s voice, I am speaking in general. I actually LOVE Geddy Lee’s voice on 2112 – it’s very high-pitched but unbelievably powerful.

    As a side-bar, if you hated Geddy Lee’s voice in the past you will really hate it now because he’s losing it as he gets older. Hey Rick, I ‘ve always maintained that Rush’s instrumentals like La Villa Stangeato is their best stuff.

  5. Marcelina Says:

    Major follower from this page, a ton of your articles or blog posts have definitely helped me out. Awaiting improvements!

  6. Danno Says:

    I agree that Rush is one of the best, and most underrated bands of the last few decades. The musicianship of the trio is unbelievable. Each one is amongst the world’s best on his respective instrument(s). I get it that some people have a problem with Geddy’s high pitched voice, but I personally think it rocks. They put out some stuff in the mid to late 80s that I wasn’t too happy with (Presto, Hold Your Fire, etc), but in the 90’s and 2000’s they came back to their heavy rock roots and released some great tracks. Even folks I know who aren’t crazy about the band still attest to their awesome musicianship. It’s a travesty that they haven’t yet been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

  7. Michael Tabor Says:

    Thanks for your comment Danno – The new album is coming out 6/1/2012…..I’m sure the lads will be touring again afterwards.

  8. Leddy Gee Says:

    Their new album is a masterpiece.

  9. Michael Tabor Says:

    I agree

  10. Bytor Says:

    YA MAN…RUSH IS SIMPLY THE BEST…BETTER THAN THE WHO, LED ZEPPELIN, METALLICA…ALL OF THEM…NO BAND HAS DONE WHAT RUSH HAS DONE AND FOR SO LONG WITH SO MUCH SUCCESS!! AFTER OVER 30 YEARS, AN ALBUM LIKE SNAKES AND ARROWS HAS HAD EXCELLENT CRITICAL ACCLAIM

  11. Michael Tabor Says:

    Wow! You’re a fan, all of your contact information is related to RUSH !!!! I love them too.

  12. steve Says:

    There are Rock bands and then there is Rush… The same can be said for YES…I have been stuck on both of them for 33+ years…People who say anything negative about Rush or YES are just clueless tone deaf weak minded individuals….The above article mentions harsh comments by music critics.. That’ a laugh, jealousy and envy going on there…The first time i heard La Villa Strangiato in high school blaring from a car stereo in the school parking lot , after 30 second of listening i ran to the store to grab Hemispheres and played it till the groves were gone…But Listening wasn’t enough had to buy a bass and participate in the bliss of playing it as well as listening…but hold on i couldn’t just stop there, had to learn key boards and drums as well…That’s the wonderful thing about Geddy , Alex and Niel, they are inspirational people, both in talent and character…..Over the yaers i have jammed with a number of people and i always get a laugh when i say lets play some Rush, the look of panic and fear is priceless….sure it’s really really hard stuff to play but if you want good chops playing Rush music will get you there… glad i did cause now playing Zepplin, Floyd and all the other commercial rock is way easier to play and to learn…… Never had a lesson , self taught and will give all credit to any skill or chops i have to Geddy , Alex And Niel…..
    I know we are on a Rush topic here but have to inject some stuff about Yes… When the Boys were asked what other band they would like to see they all got really giddy and couldn’t blurt out the answere fast enough… Their answere was YES…… Anybody i know who loves Rush also can’t live without YES..
    …. A playfull fantasy may sound like this…imagine if Niel and Jon were to sit down and colaborate on lyrics.. Jon, Geddy , Alex , Chris, Rick and Steve on the music…. Oh my God what would that sound like…..Probably heaven on earth… Then the never ending debate… Well who’s gonna drum, Niel or Alex?…who’s on bass , Geddy or Chris?.. Sorry Geddy no keyboards for you if Rick still has a heart beat.. There can be no choice made on guitar…Both Alex and Steve have to both play together they are on the same level and the difference in sound would be awesome…. If i had it my way they would all be on stage!!!!!!!!!!!
    …. To explain the people who don’t like Rush or Yes for that matter…. There is an understandable expalnation or one that you can ponder anyway… some people don’t like God either….

  13. Michael Tabor Says:

    Hi Steve – Thank you so much for your input. We’re indeed of the same mind … my wife would think that I was writing this. I am always comparing the 2 greatest rock bands EVER (Rush and Yes), I’m self – taught, I am always working on Yes & Rush tunes (the songs are endlessly interesting, fun, & complex), etc . Please visit us again, it’s a delight to interact with like-minded Rush and Yes fanatics.

  14. Jeff H Says:

    I agree with pretty much everything here. I’ve been listening to RUSH since I was 12, and learned to play a air-driven organ along with the songs. Then acoustic guitar. Upgraded to drumming on boxes and pillows. My first RUSH album was actually an 8-track of Permanent Waves, and immediately gathered up everything prior to that – I can still listen to PW and know EXACTLY when the tracks would change mid-song! Saw them in ’81 or ’82, p/g tour, Montreal Big “O” – incredible that it sounded like studio, always loved that – live and studio were so similar as to barely tell the difference…true musicianship.

    I have always loved and respected the fact that the band wrote & played what they wanted to play, regardless of what was “popular” and of “opinion”, and I believe that this is one of the most important attributes of true artists. Spirit of Radio still gives me goosebumps at that one particular spot…most of you real fans will know which part I refer to.

    I’ve listened to all the other big bands over the years, in various phases, Bowie (still a huge fan), Queen, Zep, Floyd, Kiss, N. Young, and more. But behind it all, always on my playlists, and 3-5 CD’s always in the care, RUSH has remained the top of my charts.

    These guys make me proud to be Canadian. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

  15. Keith Says:

    As the band has gotten older they have gotten progressively worse. Alex Lifeson has never written/performed a guitar solo that was all that great to begin with so the rankin of 98/100 is probably correct. Geddy’s voice isn’t much better than Alex’s playing. They are commercial sell-outs to the 10th degree and have always employed a “finger in the wind” test to see which direction they are going. Never let a drummer write your lyrics or Rush is what you will end up. After the Roll the Bones tour they pretty much “lost it” with the prgressive grunge gimmick and yes Geddy’s voice is only worse. Retirement is always an option.

  16. Michael Tabor Says:

    hahhahahaa – it’s hard to disagree with you Keith on some level especially your remarks about Geddy Lee’s voice. I do however still think they can still play amazing music and in the early 2000’s (their comeback) they were never better; keep in mind, the music is prodigiously difficult and complex and they still play the tunes perfectly, LIVE (ummm but yes, Geddy’s voice is shot).

  17. Keith Says:

    I was never in favor of a “power-trio-esque” late 90’s hard rock reformation and always personally thought that “Power Windows” and “Hold Your Fire” are actually two of their best albums. The Power Windows tour with Blue Oyster Cult was lights out in 1986! By 2000 Alex got fat, pitched a fit about all the keyboards, Neil lost the wife and kid and …Geddy grew a goatee. The problem IMO is that most, but not all, fans today did not live through the early 80’s – late 80’s and really have no connection with the time period. It was a completely different vibe with bands like GTR and Zebra releasing new material as well. Rush found a niche within the genre and it worked out quite well. They are now just “another rock dinosaur” act peddling nostalgia to pay the bills. Sorry but like the great coin-op arcade games of the 80’s Rush sort imploded on themselves. After they “made it” they sold out to the lowest common denominator. What they need is a real “Time Machine” so they can either correct the “sell-out” or ease into retirement.

  18. Michael Tabor Says:

    Hey Keith, what turned me onto Rush was ‘2112’. I was just utterly blown away with that album and it still sounds good today. I actually liked Geddy Lee’s voice back then – falsetto yes, but intense and powerful !!! I think that was the last time Lee’s vocals ever were so hot. Anyway, I agree and disagree with your last comment. 1. Rush, collectively, has sold more albums than the Beatles (20 + studio albums and a plethora of live & anthology collections + they sell out every concert) so $$ is not an issue unlike the other old grandpa rock bands – Rush plays because simply that’s what they do; yes someday they will get too old and have to retire, but aside from Geddy’s voice, they’re still right on.

    My favorite Rush albums are 1. ‘Moving Pictures’ (The masterpiece) 2. Permanent Waves 3. Hemispheres 4. 2112 and 5. Signals (the 80’s experimental, keyboard Rush sound of which I believe you’re most fond.) Anyway Keith, you do know your Rush history (all Rush fans are music historians) and I, personally think every single album the great band has released has something to offer – surely some better than others but I still think they have another few years left.

  19. Keith Says:

    I am not so sure about Rush eclipsing the Beatles. The information I have was sourced through Wikipedia (which can be hit or miss) is as follows: Bear in mind it is several years old.

    Known sales figures for the Rest of the World, combined with their U.S. sales, bring the Beatles overall figure to three hundred and fifty million, with Elvis coming in at just over three hundred million. Unknown sales figures for South East Asia, and other spots, could bring the Beatles up to four hundred million, with Elvis up to around three hundred and thirty. Although total worldwide album sales are not calculated by any single entity, as of 2004 several industry sources estimated Rush’s total worldwide album sales at over 40 million units

    350 vs 40 million is a huge margin for error. Are you certain the data you have is correct?

    Every album you referenced is classic “old school” Rush, written and recorded at a time when they were cutting thier teeth and finding a groove. They ditched that particular writing style a while ago and never really went back. In the 1970’s and 1980’s (conceptually speaking) they were the odd man out competing against KIss and bad hair bands. IMO a LOT of their success after 1990 is due to “last man standing” syndrome. Most bands don’t last that long to begin with (1975 – 1990) — while many established bands fell off the radar they soldiered on. I don’t belive this was necessasarily a good thing. Quality vs Quantity is a big part of their problem; releasing a live album every 4 years made sense until they started suffering from writers block and bad arrangements. So they ditched that approach when mp3 sales killed the industry and now release a live album after every studio album which can’t be misinterpreted as anything other that a money grab via built in audience that will “rush” out to buy anything they release. How many times can they play the same set list? They still have thier chops yes but surviving the dinosaur extinction did little to motivate Rush to return to thier roots. Geddy is a bass player first, a vocalist a distant second, and a keyboardist a VERY distant third. That is not really a combination for long-term success. They should have hired a full time qualified kwyboardist in the early 80s (this was Geddy’s idea) and let Alex go. He’s the weak link in the band. Just my .02

  20. Michael Tabor Says:

    Off on my way to see Rush 2nite Sun. 6/23/2013 …I AM PSYCHED !!! Sorry for delay, Keith, in response to your obviously valid points. However, I’ll elaborate more when I have time (+ a review of 2nite’s show) but I absolutely must point out that you’re dead wrong in terms of Alex Lifeson being the weak link. Alex Lifeson is easily the most underrated, underappreciated guitarist in the business. Yes, his style is different and he won’t wow you w/tasteless Eddie Van Halen solos but trust me, Alex is one of the all – time greats (btw, I’ve been playing guitar 3 decades now).

  21. Magnus Says:

    I totally dig the Getty Lee, both as a singer and a bassist! He’s so amazing!

    Just my opinion.

  22. Michael Tabor Says:

    Hey Magnus – 1st of all, cheers to a fellow Rush fan !!! Nobody could EVER argue with you in terms of Geddy’s musicianship i.e. , just an absolutely 1st -rate bass player. I, personally, have always loved Geddy Lee’s voice (though he is getting older and it’s not quite the same, but…) Anyway, Geddy Lee’s voice is just outright top – notch on 2112 …can’t be beat !!! a littlle something here for all you amazing Fans !!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnATFkU-we8

  23. Francis Says:

    Like many of my friends, I was a big Rush fan back in the early-mid 80s (unfortunately I didn’t hear them before then). I will always admire them as one of the great bands of all-time, but their new music has not done much for me in decades. Geddy’s singing voice was something to hear in the 70s, but as his throat mellowed with age, I think his singing became kind of bland, as did the Rush sound, in general. They still put on a great live show in the 2000s, as I did go out to see them again a couple times despite my disinterest in the new albums. His mellowed voice is the only aspect of the live shows that I didn’t like. But they have done a much better job at making less predictable setlists in more recent tours, certainly compared to the 80s.

  24. Michael Tabor Says:

    Hi Francis,

    When I was just a teenager (the 1970s), I for the most part was really just into heavy metal (not glam rock metal mind you, like the Crue, Whitesnake, Riot, Cinderella [how gay ???], etc., which actually ultimately I believe was what destroyed metal…) what I listened to was Hendrix, led Zep., Black Sabbath. Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, etc. The one band that everyone respected, however – no matter (even though they weren’t the “heaviest” band around) was – RUSH. Rush has obviously stood the test of time, and I believe it’s the phenomenal musicianship which was and is the causative factor for all the respect and loyalty the band has amassed over the past 4 decades.

  25. Bacchus Plateau Says:

    Best or worst rock band ever? Given only these two choices I choose the former. Maybe I’m a bit partial to Rush and their progressive rock contemporaries (Genesis, Yes, ELP, Jethro Tull, etc.) but I think Rush could musically more than hold their own with any of their peers. Easily so. Much is often made or their individual prowess on their given instrument and for obvious reasons. The number of musicians that have been directly influenced by these three Canadian bandmates are legion. Myself proudly and modestly included. Even more influential to me personally is their natural, seemingly effortless, composition skill. Of all the questions I could pick their brain with the very first one would be “Please help me better understand what was going through your mind when you wrote 2112, Hemispheres, Caress Of Steel etc.?” For the uninitiated layman Rush’s vast catalog, especially those albums recorded before 1980, is largely or almost completely unexplored. Many of these majestic songs never, ever being played on the radio with 18 – 20 run times. A word concerning Geddy Lee’s controversial vocals. Certainly an acquired taste. Imagine Rush without his vocals. You can’t. Lee’s vocals is as uniquely iconic as the band itself. And perhaps the most empty of all Rush’s criticisms.

  26. New World Man Says:

    I’m always amazed about how people manages and even dares to say something’s not right with Rush. Alright, being a super die-hard fan of Rush, it becomes pretty difficult to be objective, but, believe it or not, I can do as well, anyway. My first contact with Rush was (as for many) “Moving Pictures”. It was not because of the radio; I was on one of those night teen rides with some friends and we were listening to an equalized cassette full of late rock tunes. Suddenly, something unique started playing. Tom Sawyer was the song and one fairly curious thing happened to me: Just listening to the song’s intro and first chords and I was an instant Rush fan. Just like that. Really. It was so a dramatic tune; fine, precise, hard, straight to the bone sound with synthethized guitar and such an unusual voice involved… And that freakingly complex, basso profundo drumming!!! It was like nothing that I’ve ever heard before, that I simply felt and decided, right there and then, that it was just MY thing. Soon I’ve started a retrospective cavalcade listening to their music (having a seasoned friend who happened to own EVERY single Rush record to date helped a lot) and reading about their history. As a result, Rush rapidly became my favourite band ever, ever since. Oh, and when I realized they were just three guys making that much “noise” I was in disbelief, BTW!!! Whatever, the only thing I could say I didn’t agreed too much with Rush (and still do) came with their “Hold Your Fire” album. Great album indeed, although they became a bit “techno” those days and I wasn’t all that happy with that because it wasn’t the heavy Rush sound I was used to. Don’t get me wrong by any means, it’s not that I consider that a bad delivery in their evolution, it’s just that I like my Rush as heavier as possible. But then, apparently they also liked themselves that way, as witnessed in “Counterparts”… Point is, a rebel and virtuoso, focused and committed trio that had the nerve and ability to recreate themselves with accuracy just as needed, having lots of fun in the process… that’s Rush; and that’s what real musicians are made of. Rush might not be the best band ever for Rolling Stone mag or other pretentious music “experts”, but who gives a damn if they already are and will always be for me?

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