From Buffalo Springfield to The Who: 8 songs that influenced Rush
There has quite possibly never been a greater amalgamation of sheer musical talent than Rush. The trio built a career together that is impossible to compare with any other group. The Canadian prog-rock extraordinaire’s had more talent in each one of guitarist Alex Lifeson, bassist Geddy Lee or their late drummer Neil Peart than most bands have combined.
This musical dominance established Rush as being a band for the purist and their eclectic mix of inspirations offer up a mix of some of the best classic artists. On the surface, Rush doesn’t share many similarities from a musical perspective with the likes of Buffalo Springfield or The Who. However, one thing they all have in common is their collective maverick spirit. For Rush’s 2004 Feedback EP, they paid tribute to eight of the artists that helped shape the band that they would become and pay homage to their heroes. These are the bands that shaped the teenage years of their lives, helped bring Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson together and make them want to form a band. Without these eight tracks who knows whether Rush would have even been born.
Alex Lifeson, who offered an insight into how Rush create music back in 2016 when he spoke to Rolling Stone, explained how drummer Neil Peart became their principal songwriter after he joined the group and why he and Geddy solely focused on the music: “I think that was about two weeks after he joined actually [laughs]. I really wasn’t interested in writing lyrics,” he said. “Around the first record, John Rutsey, our original drummer, was the lyricist, but for some weird reason, he didn’t want to use his lyrics on all these songs that we had his lyrics on when we went into the studio.”
Another band whose singer doesn’t write any of their songs is The Who and Rush recorded a wild cover of their track ‘The Seeker’ on Feedback, which lives up to all expectations. This is a band that means a lot to Geddy Lee especially, in 2020 he told Classic Rockthat The Who’s record Who’s Next is the greatest album of all time, he declared: “That album embodies all the best things about rock’n’roll – great songwriting, great playing. Almost every tune is a classic.”
The compliments for The Who didn’t stop there from Lee, he then went on to label Pete Townshend as being the greatest songwriter. “Pete Townshend. Hands-down the greatest writer of rock songs,” Lee proclaimed. “‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, Tommy… on and on and on. He was equally adept at writing beautiful melodies and hard rock. The full body of The Who, if you examine it against other artists in rock, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody as consistently brilliant as him.”
The only group who warrant two of the eight entries on the EP is Buffalo Springfield, both ‘Mr. Soul’ and ‘For What It’s Worth’ featuring on their list. Alex Lifeson still vividly recalls how hearing the anti-war ‘For What It’s Worth’ would change his life, telling Rolling Stone: “I’m not sure if it was the first time I heard it, but I clearly remember driving with my dad and wearing blue granny glasses, which I thought were so cool.”
“It was a sunny day, and I put the radio on and ‘For What It’s Worth‘ came on,” Lifesong continues. “I still recall feeling so moved by that song. It sounded so cool to me, that combination of the acoustic and electric guitars and the lyrics. Canada was a haven for objectors to the war, so we had a different view on what was happening in Vietnam. I suggested it and it was an important song for all of us,” he says. It’s a song that still sticks with to this day: “Even when I hear that song now, I get goosebumps. I always think of the ride with my dad. It’s one of those really special, magical songs. It may be my favourite song of all time,” the guitarist concluded.
Another band who influenced them at a pivotal stage in their adolescence was The Yardbirds and they covered ‘Heart Full Of Soul’ and ‘Shapes of Things’ on Feedback. Alex Lifeson would get to make his teenage fantasy a reality when, in 2018, he guested on Jim McCarty from The Yardbirds’ 2018 solo album and McCarty would note that the covers that Rush did, helped bring the two of them into contact which led to their collaboration.
This list of eight songs paints a picture of exactly who Rush were as youngsters and the music that helped soundtrack the early days of the friendship of Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson in Toronto. It’s a handpicked selection of some of the finest sounds from the 1960s and Rush’s versions offer a fine tribute to the groups that helped make their shared adolescent dream of being in a successful band a possibility.