Rush are a band now so intrinsically linked with the idea of creative evolution that to ask any member to pick their favourite songs seems a little frivolous, if not entirely trite. The group were famed for their sprawling rock anthems and have seen a resurgence in recent years, one which has seen such questions posed to the members of the group.
The band’s inclusion in the Jason Segel and Paul Rudd’s film I Love You, Man, a scene which sees the band bind the two characters, has introduced the Canadians to a brand new generation who are all eager to hear more. Following the sad death of Neil Peart, that feeling has intensified and the need to know more has grown stronger ever since.
Back in 2018, and with a new spotlight on Rush’s extensive back catalogue, the band’s bassist and principal vocalist Geddy Lee decided to offer a bit of a crash course in the group’s essential songs. As part of a feature for The Guardian, Lee picked 19 of his favourite Rush songs, it’s a powerful mix of tunes and below we have the playlist.
One pick comes from early in the band’s career, ‘Finding My Way’ which has dual importance for the bassist Lee. As well as representing a time when Rush were a conspicuous curiosity, he said: “You’d pull up in Magnetawan, Ontario, set up your gear and start playing and the crowd would be looking at you to say: ‘What is this? I can’t dance to this!’” and how it represented the band’s first album.
After receiving the first mix of their debut self-titled album Rush were left wholly disappointed. They drafted in Terry Brown to remix the record and he asked for some more tracks. “One of them was ‘Finding My Way’,” remembers Lee. “We played him the song, and he loved it. ‘OK, let’s record that and one other song, and we’ll remix the others,’ he said. And that became the record. ‘Finding My Way’ became a symbol to me of saving our first album.”
Lee also selected some notable Rush classics including ‘2112’, ‘Headlong Flight’ and of course, ‘Tom Sawyer’—the latter was a reluctant inclusion—”How could I not? It changed our lives,” said Lee. The song has again changed their lives after it was included in Segel and Rudd’s I Love You, Man. “When [the director] John Hamburg approached us about it, our instincts were to say no,” remembers Lee.
Luckily, the circumstances seemed to benefit the film, “But we were going through a phase where we decided to take the George Costanza approach to our career. We decided that anything we were going to say no to instinctively, we would now say yes to. It served us very well.” It introduced the band to a whole new generation, it’s part of the increased intrigue in their career.
As part of the feature, Lee also reflected on the last time Rush ever performed live together. Picking ‘Working Man’, the final song the group would ever share on stage, Lee was asked if he knew it was the last time they would play live together: “Not 100%. Neil was pretty adamant it was, and he played it like it was going to be the final show. And that’s why he actually left the drum throne and came out and gave us a hug on stage, which he swore he would never do.
“I guess I was a bit of an optimist. But nope,” reflected Lee. “I think Alex accepted it more as the end. I thought we really killed it that night, but it was hard to tell because it got really emotional in the last 20 minutes. That’s the first time I ever got choked up at a microphone. So I guess a part of me knew.”
It’s a fact that Rush’s legacy will live on and that generation after generation will find out exactly what made Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart such a musical force. Now, we’re just happy with the ultimate first introduction from Lee himself. These are the 20 songs to start your obsession.
You can find the full interview here and the playlist below:
Geddy Lee’s 19 favourite Rush songs:
‘Finding My Way’
‘La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self Indulgence)’