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"All the world's indeed a stage
—Limelight, from Moving Pictures
Rush is a Canadian Progressive Rock trio formed in 1968, although, listening to some of their songs, you'd never guess there are only three of them. They're probably best known for Geddy Lee's "wait, is that a guy?" vocals and prominent bass and Neil Peart's sometimes Objectivism-inspired lyrics. While the band has always been an album rock (and later classic rock) radio favorite, Rush saw a decent boost to their popularity for their contributions to the video game Rock Band. One of those bands that splits people down the middle - a lot of people don't like Peart's fondness for Ayn Rand, and a lot of people hate Progressive Rock in general. In fairness, it should be noted that Peart does not agree with the whole of Rand's philosophy and removed the "thank you" to her from the credits for 2112 (as of at least the original compact disc issue). When fans ask him about the subject, however, he still acknowledges that he does have areas of agreement with Rand. (However, he characterized himself as a "left-leaning libertarian" in a 2005 interview; one thing Rand certainly was not is left-leaning).
Although most commonly associated with Progressive Rock, their style has varied considerably during their career. Originating with a fairly straightforward Hard Rock/Heavy Metal sound heavily influenced by Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin; they remained such for their first few albums, similarly incorporating fantasy and science-fiction themes into their lyrics, and elaborate arrangements into their instrumentals. They were increasingly influenced by the growing Progressive Rock movement, but maintained a harder-edged sound than most of their contemporaries; and it was at this point that Peart's infatuation with the writings of Ayn Rand became prominent. They soon began to incorporate Jazz, New Wave, Pop, and Reggae influences; and transitioned to a predominantly Synth Rock style. From here, while maintaining some of the Progressive sound; they began moving back into their earlier Hard Rock style, including the release of an album of covers of songs by their earliest Hard Rock influences like The Who, The Yardbirds, and Cream.
The group's lineup has remained constant since Peart joined in 1974 to replace original drummer John Rutsey, making them the third-longest enduring group in modern pop music (only ZZ Top and Golden Earring have been together longer). That lineup consists of:
- Geddy Lee (b. Gary Lee Weinrib): Bass, keyboards, and lead vocals
- Alex Lifeson (b. Aleksandar Živojinović): Guitar
- Neil Peart: Drums and percussion (occasionally referred to as "The Professor" during the band's early years)
Once Peart joined the band, he became the primary lyricist, while Lee and Lifeson concentrated on the music. Before that point, Lee and Lifeson did all the songwriting; Rutsey had written some lyrics for their eponymous 1974 debut album, but threw them out.
Both Lee and Lifeson have split off in favor of solo efforts in the past (My Favorite Headache and Victor respectively). Lifeson reportedly had a sequel album in the works, Victor II, but abandoned the idea in light of Peart's personal tragedies (Peart's daughter was killed in a car wreck, and his common-law wife died of cancer ten months later; Peart recounts "They said it was cancer, but of course it was a broken heart.") Lee recorded My Favorite Headache during the band's hiatus.
Shortly after the release of their debut album, Rutsey, a diabetic since childhood, quit the band due to health problems and was replaced by Peart. Rutsey passed away in summer 2008. Lee replaced original bassist/vocalist Jeff Jones shortly after the band formed in 1968.
Not to be confused, if such were even possible, with another Rush sometimes heard on the radio. (Note: As of March 2012, this Rush has submitted a cease-and-desist order to the other one for unauthorized use of their music. Use of their music by political figures seems to be a Berserk Button of theirs, as they have issued cease-and-desist orders to several other political figures as well).
Discography, with notable songs:
- Rush (1974): "Finding My Way", "What You're Doing", "Working Man"
- Fly By Night (February 1975): "Fly By Night," "Anthem", "By-Tor and the Snow Dog", "Rivendell"
- Caress of Steel (September 1975): "Bastille Day", "Lakeside Park", "The Necromancer", "The Fountain of Lamneth"
- 2112 (April 1976): "2112", "A Passage to Bangkok", "Something for Nothing"
- A Farewell To Kings (September 1977): "Xanadu", "Closer To the Heart", "Cygnus X-1: Book I - The Voyage"
- Hemispheres (October 1978): "Cygnus X-1: Book II - Hemispheres", "The Trees", "La Villa Strangiato"
- Permanent Waves (January 1980): "The Spirit of Radio", "Freewill", "Natural Science"
- Moving Pictures (February 1981): "Tom Sawyer", "Red Barchetta", "YYZ", "Limelight"
- Signals (1982): "Subdivisions", "New World Man" "Countdown"
- Grace Under Pressure (1984): "Distant Early Warning", "Red Sector A", "Between the Wheels"
- Power Windows (1985): "The Big Money", "Manhattan Project", "Mystic Rhythms"
- Hold Your Fire (1987): "Force Ten", "Time Stand Still", "Mission"
- Presto (1989): "Show Don't Tell", "The Pass", "Available Light"
- Roll the Bones (1991): "Dreamline", "Bravado", "Roll the Bones"
- Counterparts (1993): "Animate", "Nobody's Hero", "Leave That Thing Alone"
- Test For Echo (1996): "Test For Echo", "Driven", "Time and Motion"
- Vapor Trails (2002): "One Little Victory", "Earthshine", "Freeze"
- Feedback (2004): "Summertime Blues", "Crossroads"
- Snakes & Arrows (2007): "Far Cry", "Spindrift", "The Main Monkey Business"
- Clockwork Angels (2012, not yet released): "Caravan", "BU2B", "Headlong Flight"
Themes common to Rush's music include:
- Philosophical musings about Objectivism, especially in the period from 2112 to Moving Pictures
- Fantasy and sci-fi themes and settings, often in tandem with the above; 2112, for example, is a loose adaptation of Ayn Rand's Anthem
- Conceptually linked songs spread out across an entire album side, or even multiple albums as in the case of "Cygnus X-1" (two) or the "Fear" series (three, expanded to four once Vapor Trails came out).
- Clockwork Angels is a full-on concept album.
- As with the above, Rock Operas
- Long songs with Epic Instrumental Openers, with the band's live shows featuring increasingly elaborate drum solos as a mid-piece of the concert. Since The Nineties, Peart has used multiple drum kits on a circular platform that rotates around his seat so that he may at various points play traditional drums, xylophones, other exotic types of percussion, electric drums, or synth pads set to play brass band samples.
- Strong basslines to the point where the bass can be considered the lead instrument in some songs.
- A good sense of humor about themselves (as shown by their collaborations with South Park, SCTV, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, some of which are used in their live shows)
- Don't forget Trailer Park Boys.
- Worth noting is that Trey Parker and Matt Stone are HUGE fans of Rush, with Stone appearing in the band's documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage.
- When they played on The Colbert Report, they played on through the credits of the show...and all the way until the opening tag of the next day's show, poking fun at the length of some of their songs and the usual length of their live shows.
- They also make fun of their own nationality.
- In a video shown at the end of their 2010 concert performance, they appear talking about the audience in the backstage. "I saw three on the stands, four on the floor. Seven girls in a Rush concert! It's a new record."
- Unusual time signatures and rhyme schemes (The Larger Bowl, for example, is based on a form of Malaysian poetry called "pantoum")
- There's also "YYZ" which was built around the morse code of the letters "YYZ": the airport code for Rush's hometown, Toronto.
- "Subdivisions" alternate between 7/4, 4/4 and 3/4 signatures. Some parts only last a couple of bars before switching to the next. Very easily messed up if tried on a marching band.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: "...and the magic music makes your morning mood."
- Album Title Drop: Snakes and Arrows in the song Armor and Sword.
- Hold Your Fire takes its title from the opening lyrics of "Mission".
- All Drummers Are Animals: Averted. If you just look at Neil Peart's face while he drums, you'd guess he was doing accounting work or something.
- Most of the odd accoutrements on stage (the clothes dryers, the merch vending machine, Alex's kids' toys all over his amps) originated in attempts to crack Neil up. (At one point in the Rush in Rio concerts, Alex successfully breaks Neil, who just stops drumming and gives him a helpless WTF stare.)
- Audience Participation Song: In concerts, audiences sing along even to "YYZ"... an instrumental.
- ...as well as during the instrumental overture to 2112.
- ...and the obligatory screaming to "...concert halls" in "Spirit of Radio"
- ...and some people air drum along to Neil Peart's drum solo which he changes a little every time.
- A Worldwide Punomenon: The intro video to the second set of the Time Machine tour features an alternate reality Rush filming a music video for "Tom Sawyer," which gets interrupted by a group of barmaids Moving Pitchers.... yeah.
- The cover to this album has a couple more puns; there are people moving pictures. And the people on the right side of the album are tearing up, since these pictures are quite moving.
- And there is a film crew, making a "moving picture" of the whole thing.
- Broken Record: During the Grand Finale (7th and final) movement of 2112 (the song), the lines "attention all planets of the Solar Federation" and "we have assumed control" are repeated three times each.
- Big No: In the final lyrical section of "2112", "Soliloquy", Geddy lets a out disparaged (and surprisingly, not very Narmful) "Ooohh noooo!"
- Beauty, Brains, and Brawn:
- Geddy Lee- Beauty
- Alex Lifeson- Brawn
- Neil Peart- Brains
- Cool Car: "Red Barchetta", itself inspired by Richard S. Foster's short story "A Nice Morning Drive".
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Alex. There are serious depths behind that goofy persona and big derpy grin. Just listen to his solo album, Victor, for proof. Especially "Don't Care" (extremely rough Intercourse with You), "At the End" (an elderly man who misses his wife so desperately that he is Driven to Suicide), and the title track, a poem by WH Auden set to music. Alex provides rather disturbing/chilling vocals on At the End and Victor.
- Darker and Edgier: Caress of Steel
- Word of God is that they made Counterparts with this in mind, as Alex Lifeson was through with his guitar playing second banana to keyboards.
- Also Vapor Trails, which was heavily influenced by Peart's late 90s tragedies and 9/11.
- Grace Under Pressure certainly counts as well.
- Downer Ending: "The Trees". The maples finally get their rights from the oaks, but humans end up cutting down all of the trees anyway.
- "Xanadu". A man finds the secret of immortality, but at the price of never leaving the titular palace. 1000 years later, he's driven to madness, desperately waiting for death.
- A frequent interpretation of "2112". The protagonist kills himself just as the Elder Race from his dream overthrows the Temples of Syrinx.
- Dumb and Drummer: Completely averted: Neil Peart not only writes the band's lyrics, but has written several books.
- Early Installment Weirdness: On their first album, they sound like just another Led Zeppelin clone. This changed when Neil Peart joined, and took over writing most of the lyrics.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Neil has one. It's Ellwood. (He mentions his quote "unfortunate middle name" in his book Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road when he begins cooking for his sick wife after their daughter dies in a car crash, calling himself "Chef Ellwood". He also signs various letters depicted in the book with "NEP" for Neil Ellwood Peart.)
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: Alex is Sanguine, Geddy is Choleric, and Neil is a mix of Melancholic and Phlegmatic.
- All three of them exhibit some tendencies of the optional fifth temperament, Supine.
- Freudian Trio: Alex is the Id, Neil is the Superego, and Geddy is the Ego.
- The Garfunkel: Alex Lifeson, often overshadowed by Geddy's vocals and Neil's lyrics and drumming.
- Grief Song: Several songs off of the aforementioned Vapor Trails could be considered these, coming in light of Peart's tragedies. Particularly "Ghost Rider" and "The Stars Look Down."
- "Afterimage" is a more initially obvious example, wrote about the loss of Robbie Whalen, an engineer and friend of the band who had worked on several of their albums before his passing.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Geddy and Alex have been best friends since junior high. They're still best friends today. The band is really a three-way heterosexual life partnership, but Dirxst, as they are known, stand out the most. (Dirxst is a Portmanteau Couple Name of Dirk (Geddy's nickname) and Lerxst (Alex's nickname).)
- It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Neil's last name. It's pronounced "piert". Not "pert" or "peh-art". (Most people use 'Pert'. One fan's comment on this was "Neil is not a brand of shampoo.")
- Jewish Complaining: Geddy, while setting up for a show in "The Boys in Brazil" documentary. First he whines about his hair and the effect humidity has on it, then he whines about breaking a nail on a case, and finally, he complains about not being able to find his stage shoes. While complaining about the camera following him around by saying "Looking for my shoes really isn't a documentary issue!". He's kind of a master at the fine art of kvetching.
- Large Ham: Geddy was pretty hammy back in the day. He's toned it down a lot since. Alex is now the comedy-relief-providing village idiot ham.
- Lead Bassist: Geddy is a combination of types A and B with a little bit of C and D (Progressive Rock is often bass driven).
- However, he doesn't overshadow Neil Peart, who is universally recognised as one of the best drummers in rock. Lifeson would probably be the standout musician in many other ensembles, but he gets overshadowed in Rush, which goes to show you what kind of musicians you're dealing with here.
- Loudness War: Vapor Trails, so bad that the band is soon releasing a remixed/remastered version to correct it.
- A couple of remastered tracks have already shown up in one of their compilation albums. The difference is plain to hear.
- Messy Hair: Geddy has curly hair that he keeps shoulder-length and a bit ruffled. Of course, he is Jewish, and lots of Jewish people have naturally curly and/or frizzy hair. Geddy comments on his frizzy hair in a documentary, The Boys In Brazil, while he's in, well, Brazil (where it is very humid): "Jews must have a hell of a time with their hair in this climate. We get the frizzies immediately."
- Mundane Made Awesome: "I Think I'm Going Bald", a song about the symbolism of hair loss. It based around Alex's fear of going bald in the future. Guess what happened in the future.
- Money Song: "The Big Money".
- Name and Name: "By-Tor and The Snow Dog" from the Fly by Night album.
- 'Armor and Sword' and 'Time and Motion' also use this trope.
- Necromancer: The titular character of the song The Necromancer, is, surprisingly, a Necromancer .
- New Sound Album: Basically every Rush album is this.
- The band tends to evolve its sound in cycles, with one album drastically changing their sound and the next album or few tweaking and perfecting it until it changes drastically again. Rush and Fly by Night were largely straightforward hard rock (with a few prog elements in the latter), Caress of Steel and 2112 dove off the deep end into exuberantly adolescent fantasy and sci-fi, A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres took a more mature, philosophical approach to the subject, and Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures kept the prog elements of the earlier albums while adding the more abstract and topical lyrics that would define the band's future output. Signals through Hold Your Fire exhibited extreme synthesizeritis, which was brought under control in Presto and Roll the Bones, albums that exhibited a refined, almost pop-like sensibility. Counterparts, largely alternative, heralded Test for Echo and its hard rock style, which the band currently exhibits, barring the occasional '60s-retro and folk elements on Snakes and Arrows.
- Counterparts is also notable for debuting Lee's single fingered, stupid fast Flamenco playing style, which added a much more aggressive dimension to the music.
- Non-Appearing Title: "The Body Electric".
- The Pete Best: John Rutsey
- Rock Band/Guitar Hero: They LOVE the fact that their work is featured prominently in these games and think they are one of the best ways to reach a new audience. All 7 segments of "2112" appear in Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. Each segment has its own corresponding venue, and feature narrations by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson. Harmonix also released all of 2112 as DLC for Rock Band 3, split into three parts: "Overture" and "The Temples of Syrinx" as one (which is similar to the actual single released in 1976), "Discovery" and "Presentation" as the second, and "Oracle: The Dream", "Soliloquy" and "Grand Finale" as the third.
- Piss-Take Rap: "Roll the Bones".
- Rock Opera: 2112 is by far the best known example, but they weren't in the least shy of producing other "mini concept albums" throughout their first 6 albums.
- Rock Trio
- Rogue Drone: The subject of "The Body Electric" is a good example of this.
- Rule of Symbolism: Averted in the case of "The Trees." Despite many people claiming that the song is about some kind of political conflict, it's not. Neil came up with the lyrics because he saw a picture depicting trees arguing with each other. That's it.
- The Smart Guy: Neil Peart. Also The Big Guy, being a drummer, he could probably snap your neck with his bare hands if he wanted to. The main characters from I Love You, Man nearly found this out the hard way.
- Spoken Word in Music Several songs contain examples of this, including The Necromancer, Countdown, and Double Agent.
- Stage Name: Alex was born Aleksandar Živojinović, chose to go by the name Lifeson as it was a sort of translation of his name in Serbian (literally it means Son of Life). Geddy was born Gary Lee Weinrib, going by Geddy because of how the name Gary sounded when spoken by his mother in her thick polish accent. Somewhat averted, as he legally changed his name to Geddy. Neil Peart was born... Neil Peart.
- The Stoic: Neil's expression rarely changes from his usual poker face. When it does, it's either adorable or hilarious.
- Surreal Horror: "Cygnus X-1".
- True Companions: Heterosexual Life Partners Geddy and Alex get special mention, but all three of them are obviously very close and tight-knit.
- The Unpronounceable: Thank God he goes by Lifeson. How, in God's name, do you pronounce the Yugoslavian letter salad of "Živojinović", anyway?
- Up to Eleven: Alex's layered, distorted "wall of guitar" sound on the newer albums.
- Villain Song: "The Anarchist" from Clockwork Angels
- Visual Pun: The covers of Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures.
- Wanderlust Song: Fly By Night, as well as the lesser known Dreamline
- The Analog Kid may count as well. Actually, wanderlust seems to be a recurring theme throughout much of Rush's discography, even when it's not front and center in a song's lyrics.
- translated from Serbian, it means "son of life"
- AKA Sauron