Nobody is as musically gifted as a collective band as Rush were. Canada’s prog-rock kings have long since held the title of the most talented artists in the world of alternative music. With Geddy Lee on bass and Neil Peart on drums, arguably the two brightest lights in their field, it can be easy to forget just how insanely talented Alex Lifeson is.
The guitarist, who has done his best to noodle his way through some of the most complex and densely written rock music in history, has always managed to convey a sense of quiet mastery of the instrument—but what were the songs that have influenced him as a player? That answer can be found – in part at least – in the below playlist, which features a collection of Alex Lifeson’s favourite songs of all time. Created as part of an interview with Guitar World, Lifeson selects some of rock’s finest guitarists in homage to the songs which have shaped his career and his life; expect to see The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck and of course, Jimi Hendrix.
For Lifeson, a leading guitarist in his own right, Hendrix remains quite possibly the ultimate player. Selecting two tracks from the guitar genius, Lifeson said of his Bob Dylan cover ‘All Along The Watchtower’: “This is one of the most beautiful songs and arrangements ever recorded. Hendrix took a Bob Dylan folk song and turned it into a symphony. The acoustic guitar on this song [played by Dave Mason] has such beautiful compression.”
Adding: “It doesn’t slap you; it caresses you. This song grabs your heart and sails away with it; it sounds unlike anything anyone has ever done. That was the magic of Hendrix: even if you copied what he recorded and tried to play like him, it could never be the same.”
As well as Hendrix, Lifeson picked some notable bands from The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, to Buffalo Springfield. The latter saw Lifeson pick the song ‘For What It’s Worth’, noting its impact on him as a young man: “This was the first rock song that had a big influence on me. I remember hearing it on the radio in my dad’s car when I was a kid. Buffalo Springfield were unlike the other bands of the ‘San Francisco sound’; they were more country sounding. Stephen Stills and Neil Young trade leads on this one.”
There remains one musician, though, who has had the biggest influence on Lifeson’s career – The Who’s Pete Townshend. Picking the band’s iconic youth anthem ‘My Generation’, Lifeson said: “Townshend is one of my greatest influences. More than any other guitarist, he taught me how to play rhythm guitar and demonstrated its importance, particularly in a three-piece band.”
He continued: “His chording and strumming always took up the right amount of space. The first time I heard this song was in the basement of Rush’s original drummer, John Rutsey. John had two older brothers, both of whom were music fiends, and they always had whatever new album had just come out.” It was enough to set Lifeson and Rush on a path toward his own rock and roll glory.
Below, we’ve pulled the list together into a perfect playlist for your listening pleasure.
Rush’s Alex Lifeson’s favourite songs of all time:
- ‘Sink The Bismarck’ – Johnny Horton
- ‘For What It’s Worth’ – Buffalo Springfield
- ‘Shapes of Things’ – Jeff Beck
- ‘My Generation’ – The Who
- ‘Are You Experienced?’ – Jimi Hendrix
- ‘All Along The Watchtower’ – Jimi Hendrix
- ‘How Many More Times’ – Led Zeppelin
- ‘Kashmir’ – Led Zeppelin
- ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ – The Rolling Stones
- ‘Comfortably Numb’ – Pink Floyd
- ‘In The Dead of Night’ – U.K.
- ‘Third Eye’ – Tool
- ‘Ah Via Musicom’ – Eric Johnson