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(Credit: Matt Becker)

Music

When Rage Against the Machine's Tim Commerford got "blacklisted" by Neil Peart

@TylerGolsen

Neil Peart was a notoriously icy presence throughout his 40-year career with Rush. Whether it skipping out of the nightly meet-at-greets at the band’s shows or generally declining interviews, Peart garnered a reputation as being, in his own words, “a sourpuss” among those who didn’t know him. He could be genial and quite lively once he was comfortable around individuals, but for strangers, especially a rabid fans, Peart wasn’t comfortable.

It was so emblematic of him as a person that one of the band’s biggest songs, ‘Limelight’, explicitly dealt with the aversion to adulation and obsession that came with his fame and notoriety as a musician. But according to bandmate Geddy Lee, Peart’s unwillingness to put himself out there the way the other members did wasn’t meant to be a sign of disrespect towards the group’s rabid fanbase.

“Neil has a real struggle with fans,” Lee observed in Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, “And it’s not a personal thing. It’s a shyness thing. He’s not able to be as relaxed around strangers as Alex [Lifeson] or I am. He doesn’t meant to hurt anyone’s feelings by it, he’s not trying to be rude, he’s just not comfortable.”

Peart himself detailed his reticence by comparing fans’ reactions to him with his own fandom of The Who. “I was the world’s biggest Who fan as a kid,” Peart remembers. “I never dreamed of trying to find their hotel and knocking on their door, or interfering in their lives in any way. I don’t understand. I love being appreciated, being respected is awfully good, but anything beyond that just creeps me out. Any since of adulation is just so wrong.”

Immediately following that statement in the documentary, Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford shares an anecdote about a rare opportunity he had to meet Peart. “I was brought into a room and I started to tell him ‘Hey, I’m the hugest fan ever.’ And I got sort of the Neil Peart could shoulder and the security guard removed me from the room,” Commerford detailed. “It was a weird, uncomfortable situation”.

Commerford didn’t seem to have any hard feelings towards his idol, however. “I love Neil Peart even though he totally blacklisted me. But if I was Neil Peart, and I walked in the room, I would probably want to remove me too,” Commerford says with a laugh.

Peart summarised his position thusly: “If people have a fantasy, I don’t want to trample on it, but I also don’t want to live it. People can think I’m antisocial, or a sourpuss, or anything. It’s really not. It doesn’t make me mad: it embarrasses me! The other guys are obviously comfortable with it, and they do the meets-and-greets every night, and fine. They can do it.”

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