Being a part of a marauding and meandering rock behemoth like Rush were means you are bound to sometimes dip below the line of what is considered a great song. The prog-rock giants were so prolific during their tenure as Canada’s most beloved band that there were always likely to be a few tracks that the group, comprised of Geddy Lee, Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson, hated. Below, Lifeson, the band’s guitarist, opens up about the Rush songs he’d rather forget.
Usually, when asked by an interviewer for a band member’s favourite song from said group, the cogs only whirr so far as to blurt out something akin to: ‘How can I pick a favourite? They’re like my children’. Naturally, as any parent will confess after a few gins, everybody has a favourite child. By proxy, this means that everybody also has a least favourite child, no matter how much they may deny it. Luckily for us, Lifeson was happy to share the children of Rush he’d rather leave alone at the bus stop.
The band have never been a group to needlessly release albums. However, they’ve also never shied away from producing a dense catalogue that can leave historians scratching their heads. As part of the second generation of rock and roll musicians, Rush provided a new alternative for music fans: explicitly complex progressive rock, solid helpings of hard rock and even flashes of heavy metal. Geddy Lee’s high piercing voice and Neil Peart’s beyond-virtuosic style of drumming made them unique, but Alex Lifeson’s brand of live wire guitar playing grounded the band from flying too far into the unknown. But, according to Lifeson, they came up with the odd stinker.
The conversation arose as Lifeson sat down to discuss the very best of the band. While it is easy to continually focus on the positive, Lifeson wasn’t afraid to pick out the songs which he perceived as duds. “Tai Shan’ is one of the worst, easily,” noted the guitarist of the 1987 Hold Your Fire song. A track written about a holy mountain in China may appear to be perfect Rush fodder, however, there’s something integrally flimsy about the track.
Considering Peart wrote the lyrics to the song while sitting atop the holy mountain, casting his eye across ancient lands, it was some neat trick to make the song feel so inconsequential. That’s even considering that the band invented a new instrument for the song; as Peart acknowledged on Roadshow, it was “A self-made recording of a plastic water bottle struck by a toothbrush.”
Similarly, the next song on Lifeson’s loathed list is ‘Panacea’. For Lifeson, the track just did not quite come to fruition, as he explains: “It was an attempt at something that didn’t really work out. It was innocent.” Released as part of the band’s ambitious project Fountains of Lamneth, the song is so sweet it may rot away your teeth within the first few notes. While many Rush fans would argue that the very point of the song was to emanate innocence, it’s clear that, for Lifeson, it never really hit the right notes.
There’s no doubt that witnessing your favourite musicians tear into their band’s work can be a chastising experience. But, in truth, the ability to see fault is part of what makes us human. Considering Rush have transcended into the realm of rock gods, it’s heartening to know that Lifeson is still the same guy after all.