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Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson once picked his favourite band of all time

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The collective technical prowess Rush boasted was nothing short of was awe-inspiring. The skill level made the trio adored by their loyal legion of fans, who, in response, treated them like demigods. Fascinatingly, despite the heavy legacy that the group has left on the history of rock music, guitarist Alex Lifeson’s favourite band is a curveball, and not what you’d expect from the professor of prog-rock.

Individually, Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee, and Neil Peart were virtuosos of their instrument of choice, but, together, they somehow became more than a sum of their parts. Interestingly, one band that helped Rush forge their sound is The Who. On the surface, this seems like a rogue influence, however, like Rush, The Who were also packed with masses of flair and, when they came together, the band created a lethal concoction.

Speaking with Sirius XM in 2013, Lifeson opened up about the joy it gave him to see that his heroes were still going strong despite their age, revealing that no other band supersedes the love he has for The Who. He reflected, “You know, couple of those bands were my favourites, but The Who is probably my favourite. The first time I heard ‘My Generation’ was just such a fantastic anthem and Pete Townshend’s playing. There was so many songs like ‘Pictures of Lily’, later on ‘Tommy’ of course, ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, such an identifiable band”.

On another occasion, Lifeson elaborated on how Pete Townshend’s technique appealed to him as a guitarist. He told Long & McQuade Musical Instruments: “If I was to select a handful of the great guitar players that influenced me when I was a kid growing up, he was certainly close to the top of that list. I think I learned so much about playing acoustic guitar from the way he did. Those chords, yes, that was definitely an influence, and I think I’d sort of developed that more because of the way Rush worked”.

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Lifeson then went on to explain that Townshend played a pivotal role in shaping the formula of Rush, and revealed that the guitarist was a more significant influence on him than Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, or Jimmy Page have ever been.

Rush shared a communal love of The Who, and the late Neil Peart described himself as the “world’s biggest Who fan as a kid” while appearing as part of the documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage. The drummer idolised Keith Moon in a similar fashion to how Lifeson worships the work of Townshend. Meanwhile, Geddy Lee also called ‘My Generation’ one of his favourite songs of all time. He wistfully recalled how they’d find themselves subconsciously erupting into The Who during their infancy as a group, which brings back fond memories for the bassist.

“What an amazing guitar sound on this album,” he commented about the Live At Leeds version of the track. “And [Pete] Townshend even plays a few solos, which he usually never does. Was there anybody better at expressing themselves through power chords? I just loved that record, and I know Alex [Lifeson] did, too. Every time we jammed as a young band we would wind up jamming parts of that record.”

For Lifeson, there’s never been any other artist that has done it better than The Who. While the influence they’ve had on his career has been powerful, it’s also acted in a discrete manner. Admittedly, the guitarist didn’t try to imitate Pete Townshend with Rush, however, those priceless days he spent religiously studying his technique provided him with a framework that he’s used throughout his scintillating career.

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