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How Pink Floyd inspired Rush frontman Geddy Lee

Rush frontman and bassist Geddy Lee is one of the most iconic musicians of all time. Whether it be his iconic falsetto, incredible bass licks or perpetually bespectacled appearance, Geddy Lee is a unique phenomenon, one-third of and a vital cog in rock’s favourite trio. 

It is only fitting for a group so idiosyncratic that each of its members should be regarded so. Each of Rush’s members are virtuoso’s in their own right. The late rhythmic mastermind, Neil Peart, was a drummer of unprecedented technical ability, guitarist Alex Lifeson is one of the most dextrous and influential guitarists of all time, and Geddy Lee’s constantly forward-thinking, gritty basslines have also marked him out as one of the most instantly recognisable four-string slayers of the last 50 years.

Together the three members made Rush a prog/hard rock powerhouse. In addition to each member being individually influential, together, they created a band that musicians really can’t get enough of. Some of our favourite acts have listed Rush as having had a transformative effect on them. These include Jane’s Addiction, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Red Hot Chili Peppers and even Foo Fighters, to name but a few. 

It makes you wonder, then, who inspired Rush? It would only make sense that our favourite band’s favourite band would boast a vast array of influences, particularly given that Rush’s career was a long, winding odyssey assuming different styles. 

It is clear from listening to early Rush – and from interviews – that Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Yes and Jethro Tull all made an indelible sonic footprint on the brains of the progressive warlocks. This sentiment is also compounded by the unmistakably esoteric feel that underpins a lot of Rush’s songs. However, in a 2012 interview with The Quietus, Geddy Lee revealed another band that inspired him, and it may come as little or no surprise. 

Lee explained that Meddle, the sixth album from British pioneers Pink Floyd, had a particularly significant impact on his young intellect. In the interview, Lee also showed himself to be a true adherent of the Floyd, noting Meddle‘s importance in the band’s extensive back catalogue:

“That was probably the last Pink Floyd album before they went into their run of classics,” he said, adding: “Before their really big records. But… again… again… it was their show in Toronto that captivated me and fired the imagination. They opened that show with the whole of Meddle and immediately I could sense the possibilities were immense for this band.”

Pink Floyd had an impact on Geddy Lee. (Credit: Roger Tillberg / Alamy)

The Rush frontman continued: “It was really exciting because you could tell that something unique was happening. Where would they go next? Well, it was a great precursor to Dark Side of the Moon. There were genuine ‘echoes’ of that already in place. It remains my favourite because of that timing. That moment when a band really starts to hit its peak. I am aware of Syd Barrett’s Floyd but, in a musical sense, that was a different time, a different band.”

Not only does Geddy Lee transport us back to one of the most exciting and game-changing times in music, but he also offers us an insight into the inner workings of his brain at that historic moment in time. As he discusses witnessing Pink Floyd during that momentous period in their career, the discussion of the immense possibilities that he foresaw for Pink Floyd was nothing short of bang on the money. This is true when we heed just how cerebral and refined they became, a trajectory that continued until the 2014 album The Endless River.

The irony of Lee’s statement is that endless possibilities would soon become palpable for him too. In 1975, Rush would get their first taste of commercial success with their sophomore album, Fly by Night. This would set them off on their own journey through time and space, which gave us classics such as 2112 (1976), Permanent Waves (1980) and Moving Pictures (1981). Just like Pink Floyd, Rush would also delve into the profoundly erudite sphere in the ’80s when their use of electronics would mark an era of conceptual experimentation before they returned to their more traditional modus operandi at the end of the decade.

Listen to ‘Echoes’ by Pink Floyd, below.