The final song Rush would ever perform live in their iconic line-up of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart was their classic number from their self-titled debut, ‘Working Man’. It concluded a fabulous live career that began in rather simpler circumstances, one such situation that we’re revisiting below.
It sees Rush, without their legendary drummer, the late, great Peart, performing a searing rendition of ‘Working Man’ for a Canadian school. It’s proof that Rush was an unstoppable force from the very beginning.
The band formed in 1968 but they were largely dismissed as a poor man’s Led Zeppelin. Six years of hard work and numerous line-up changes and the group decided to forget about getting signed and, instead, decided to form their own label, releasing their self-titled debut album on Moon Records in March of 1974.
It saw the band naturally take themselves on a wide-ranging tour which, as well as including your usual venues, also saw the trio take to stages at school across Canada. Luckily one of the tapes from those shows has survived and sees the band in their embryonic form.
The tape had been left untouched for years until 2010 when documentary makers Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen came across the footage while making Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage. It’s a simply fascinating watch for any Rush fan not just because it sees one of their most favoured songs being given an early run-out but because we get to see John Rutsey’s contribution to the band.
Health reasons would force Rutsey out of the band, to be later replaced by Neil Peart, but it is undeniable his contribution to the beginning of the Rush. Not only was he the percussive power that gave the band lift off but he was also the mouthpiece, even introducing the song to the crowd.
The footage captures the band performing their first big song, the first track to get major radio airplay. Much of that can be attributed to Donna Halper, a DJ st Clevenad’s iconic WMMS after she noted the song would connect with their working-class audience.
It still connects to this day as Rush’s live performances continue to ring out across the airwaves. Watch Rush perform ‘Working Man’ live from a Canadian school in 1974.