If you’re looking for the inspirations behind most Rush songs, you’d probably turn to literature first. Most famously, or infamously, the title suite to the band’s breakthrough LP, 2112, was dedicated to “the genius of Ayn Rand” because of the connection between the plots between ‘2112’ and Rand’s Anthem.
But that wasn’t the only literary influence for Rush. Anthem appears again as the inspiration for the song of the same name on Fly By Night. ‘Rivendale’, from the same album, takes its inspiration from the eponymous Elvish setting in The Lord of the Rings. Sticking with J.R.R. Tolkien, ‘The Necromancer’ is based on an alias used by Sauron in The Hobbit. Science fiction played an integral role all across the Rush canon, with material as early as Hemispheres to albums as late as their final LP Clockwork Angels taking influence from Neil Peart’s vast collection of novels.
But Peart wasn’t exclusively a literature man. He and the other members of Rush had a healthy appreciation for The Twilight Zone, Rod Sterling’s ‘60s television programme that paired fantastical scenarios with philosophical themes. “We felt The Twilight Zone was really one of the most creative TV programmes available,” Geddy Lee explained in the Classic Albums episode focused on 2112 and Moving Pictures. “And we were always shocked that it even got on the air.”
“The writing was spectacular, the visual component of every single episode was so unique and so different,” Alex Lifeson adds. But it was Peart who summed up the band’s fandom: “Rod Sterling was truly a great artist, and he would tell these seemingly simple stories, but they would have such a moral twist and an irony based on human nature.”
In order to pay tribute, the band devised a song that referenced two specific episodes of the series, ‘Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up’ and ‘Stopover in a Quiet Town’. The first contains a plot trying to decipher who among the two men is an alien, only for both of them to reveal their extraterrestrial nature. The second features a couple who drive home drunk and wake up in a poor facsimile of their home, only to discover that they are pets in an alien household.
Both stories, with their sci-fi leanings, were perfect for Rush’s established sound. When placed on the second side of 2112, ‘The Twilight Zone’ proved that Rush could be more than just a highly conceptual prog-rock band who made side-long compositions – they were a highly conceptual prog-rock band who could make compact songs as well.