Listen to Neil Peart’s isolated drums on Rush’s ‘YYZ’
We are remembering the much-missed, late, great Rush drummer Neil Peart the only way we know how, by revisiting his mind-blowing drumming. Peart’s incredible technical talents shine through even more so on this stunning isolated drum version of ‘YYZ’.
Peart was treasured for not only being an incredible drummer but also for being the driving creative force behind much of Rush’s glory years, with him taking up the duty for also writing the majority of the band’s lyrics which resonated greatly with their adoring fan base. However, with ‘YYZ’ being an instrumental track, it lets Peart be able to be let off his leash and his insane drumming performance sounds even better isolated.
The track would feature on their 1981 album Moving Pictures and it wouldn’t take long before the track became a real live favourite among the band’s avid fanbase.
The title ‘YYZ’ is actually the IATA airport identification code of Toronto Pearson International Airport, near Rush’s hometown. A VHF omnidirectional range system at the airport broadcasts the YYZ identifier code in Morse code which Alex Lifeson introduced to his bandmates and Peart later said in interviews later that the rhythm stuck with them. The piece’s introduction is played in a time signature of 10 8, repeatedly stating ‘Y-Y-Z’ in Morse Code using different musical arrangements.
In a 2012 interview in which Peart goes through the seminal album track-by-track and said this on the monster ‘YYZ’: “Talk about an organic release, that came when we were flying in one time and hearing from the cockpit this morse code rhythm and I said wouldn’t that be a neat introduction.”
He then continued: “This song is an instrumental but it’s about YYZ airport, it’s about airports so we have these exotic moods shifting around and then the gigantic emotional crescendo of people being reunited and being separated, so it was very consciously a cinematic twist on an airport.” It might seem odd to write a song about airports but that’s exactly the kind of band Rush were.
Peart explained to CBC that although the song was about airports, it was the functional side of things that appealed to them, it was “the bustling part, the very emotional part of it, you know, re-greeting each other, and all the laments. That was a conscious thing, to try to weave in some of the moods of airports into the song”
That’s what the band did, using their musical chops they somehow managed to not only convey the ideas and notions that swirl around somewhere like an airport but capture the emotions of the people inside them. The fact that Peart can almost do this exact same thing with just his drum kit is proof of why he’s one of the greatest.
The instrumental number really is a thing of cinematic beauty that and manages to evoke these intense emotions without having to use any words, in this isolated drum version, these emotions only come closer to the surface.