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Music

The Rush song Geddy Lee called a "romantic ballad"

@TylerGolsen

Rush didn’t exactly do ballads. They could take on softer material, like 1977’s ‘Closer to the Heart’ or the variety of more jazzy and synth-heavy songs recorded during the mid-1980s, but the traditional love song form wasn’t something that Rush often gravitated towards. Part of that had to do with their music leanings as progressive rock often took on sci-fi themes or otherworldly plots, not sweeping gestures of romance. Part of it also had to do with drummer/lyricist Neil Peart, who tended to shy away from love songs.

A change of pace was always welcomed by the band, however, and while Rush were recording 1976’s 2112 a problem began to arise. The band had its central 20-minute-plus track that took up the entirety of side one, with all of its Ayn Rand references and intergalactic battles. But that was only half of an album – the band needed more material to fill out the second side of the record.

Out to prove that they could do more than just produce long and dense epics, Rush wrote side two of 2112 to look both forwards and backwards: forwards to the shorter songs of the future and backwards to the hard rock roots of their sound. ‘A Passage to Bangkok’ was a gleeful rocker about getting high, while ‘Something for Nothing’ and ‘Lessons’ could have been placed perfectly on Fly By Night. ‘Twilight Zone’ was a moody shout out to the eponymous television series, but ‘Tears’ was something else completely.

“‘Tears’ is a romantic ballad to give the album even more variety and depth,” Geddy Lee told MusicRadar in 2016. “Mellotrons are very unique-sounding; they sound sorta electric, but also kinda stringy, they have this real resin-y sound to them, which is very cool and unique to that period.”

With a central acoustic guitar figure giving the song a gentle folk feel, ‘Tears’ also brings band collaborator Hugh Syme to sit in on Mellotron. Syme’s main role was as the band’s artistic director, having created all of the band’s album covers since 1975’s Caress of Steel. But Syme is also a keyboard player, and is the man responsible for the swirl of sounds that open the ‘Overture’ section of ‘2112’. With Syme’s help, ‘Tears’ takes on an otherworldly quality that was far removed from Rush’s hard-hitting signature style.

Check out ‘Tears’ down below.