There are a few bands who stick out to those who aren’t entirely wrapped up in their fandom as anomalies. Group or acts that seem to defy the perception of that time period or which stick out like the perennial sore thumb amid a flurry of genre-defining activity. For many, Rush, led by Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and the late, great Neil Peart act as such a band.
When tracking the band’s rise to becoming prog-rock heroes, it is easy to see how they could operate as such a band. Defying the cultural revolutions of punk and synth-wave until properly ascertained and implemented within their own style, for huge swathes of the globe, Rush remained an enigma. However, in 2022, the band are now as loved and acclaimed as they ever have been, operating as custodial keepers of the prog-rock genre. But that doesn’t mean we can’t, on occasion, take ourselves back to when they were “young, foolish and brave”.
The reflection comes in part thanks to legendary drummer Neil Peart’s conversation with CBC, where e picked out ten of his favourite Rush songs. Within the selection is the usual collection, including, ‘2112‘, ‘Spirit of the Radio’, and several other classics. However, the inclusion of ‘Xanadu’ would have likely brought a wry smile to the faces of Rush’s avid fanbase.
This selection from 1977’s A Farewell To Kings is a pleasant memory for the musician who was always looking to expand his weaponry. He recalls in the interview that the band were in an experimental phase and keen to see how far they could push themselves into the unknown world of progressive rock: “Let’s call that our experimental phase,” Peart told CBC. “After ‘2112’, we were guitar, bass and drums and ambitious, so we thought maybe we should add another musician.”
Before you start wondering where the fourth member of Rush had disappeared to, you can rest assured that the band, instead, preferred to perfect their own sound: “But then it was, no, let’s expand our own arsenal, so the guys started getting into acoustic guitar, bass pedals were just coming out, and I started expanding my drums, which would give us a great orchestration ability.” The decision would go on to define Rush.
Of course, prog-rock would continue to find its fans during the late 1970s ad into the modern-day. But, arguably, the decision to keep the band as a three-piece that attempted to sound like a mammoth orchestra would create the group’s primary ethos of creation and artistic evolution: “Those subsequent albums are us learning to use all that, having fun, experimenting, as genuine as can be. When I look back on that it’s an indulgent smile. We would later do better but there was nothing wrong with it. I described it once as young, foolish and brave.”
Listen to Rush’s brave and foolish classic ‘Xanadu’ below.