For most bands, picking out a favourite song is almost impossible. Not least of all because all of the songs created had their value at one point in time but because picking a favourite piece of your own work is a little too indulgent, even for rock stars. But that hasn’t stopped countless journalists posing that very question to each and every grand rock band there has ever been, including Rush. The prog-rock trio, formed of Neil Peart, Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee, have had to navigate a similar barrage of questions whenever they conducted an interview.
However, perhaps the more interesting question is, which songs do those rock bands really hate? Which were the songs that made their toes curl, their souls shudder, and their ears recoil in horror? John Lennon was notoriously bitter about some of The Beatles work, but when posed a similar question, Rush’s bassist, Geddy Lee, bristled with equal intensity.
For Lee, however, it wasn’t a ream of songs that he felt some shame over like Lennon; it was just one track that ranked as the band’s worst. For most Rush fans reading this, there will already be a bubbling of knowledge confirming the song in question was ‘Tai-Shan’ from the band’s 1987 record Hold Your Fire. The track is widely cited as one of the group’s poorest, and Lee offered up some reasons why during a Reddit Q&A session.
“It’s just one of those songs that Alex [Lifeson, guitar] and I like to make fun of. At the time I was singing it, I wasn’t standing on a mountain top,” Lee jokes. But the real reason Lee wasn’t a fan of the track was that, unlike many of Neil Peart’s compositions, Lee couldn’t connect with the song: “Because it was such a personal song for Neil [Peart, drums], and it was such a great moment for me, Alex and I had a hard time putting ourselves in it. And guys in bands really need all the ammunition we can get to make fun of each other. It just sort of landed on ‘Tai-Shan.'”
The song has been routinely cited as Rush’s worst and Alex Lifeson confirmed it as one of his least favourite from the group, noting: “Tai-Shan’ is one of the worst, easily.” 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.”
It confirms that the song, as Geddy Lee also described it, was “an error” a song that they “should have known better” than to make. However, this very experimentation was the foundation of Rush’s place in music history. Of course, it’s hard to disagree with two-thirds of the band who consider this Rush’s worst song; however, it is as vital to their sound as ‘2112’ or ‘Tom Sawyer’. Below, listen to Geddy Lee’s least favourite Rush song, ‘Tai-Shan’.