Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Strangers & Long-Awaited Friends

Me and Rush go back a long way. Perhaps like a lot of folk I got into them via the presence of albums like Fly By Night and 2112 in an elder brother's record collection. It also probably helped that just when I was starting to buy records they were at their commercial (and arguably artistic) peak, making albums like Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures. Anyway, I bought a lot of their albums up until the ones in the mid 80s when keyboards started to dominate and I lost interest.

I'm mentioning this because I've just watched Beyond the Lighted Stage, the new documentary about them and it's very good. In many ways it sets a template for a band documentary, with a strong, revelatory opening about their youth and early years followed by a trail through their story that doesn't focus too much on any one period while neglecting others. And it's helped by the subject matter themselves who prove to be surprisingly good company. I never expected them to be prima donnas, but I didn't expect them to be so good-natured and funny. there's a scene at the end of the film where they've having dinner (and getting merrily drunk) at a hunting lodge. Even Neil Peart, who comes across as reserved and a bit prickly, relaxes in the atmosphere, and there's real affection on show. It's all genuinely touching.   

The film ends with their career on an upswing, and if the film can be said to have an agenda, it seems to be that it wants to be the first broadside in a battle to change Rush's image and make them cool (I was going to write "rehabilitate" there, but I realised that they never were really "habilitated" - they've always been deadly uncool). This probably explains the choice of the talking heads (Trent Raznor, Jack Black, Billy Corgan), which seems to make the point that not only science students like Rush, people with good haircuts and tattoos also like them. They're shown making an appearance on The Colbert Report, where the host expresses outrage that they're not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

And yet ... is this what Rush fans want? Rush can't really be short of money. They have a large back catalogue that has presumably ticked over pretty nicely for over 30 years, and they can fill arenas (and stadia in Brazil) whenever they want to tour. Do we really want to see them being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, with Bono giving a video message where he calls Tom Sawyer a "Hymn"? Do we want talent show contestants and models wearing 2112 Tour Shirts? In the film, Geddy Lee calls Rush the "world's biggest cult band". He's probably right. And probably happy about it that way too.


  1. All the Rush fans I know (not that many, admittedly) would just hate it if the rest of us 'got' them. And I can understand that. To a lot of people they must be like Radio 3 - they never listen, but are reassured to know they're still there.

  2. Hello John, I think that's a great analogy. Rush are one of these things whose continuing existence against the odds is somehow reassuring. Like Radio 3. Or The Beano. Or Camp Chicory Essence. Or Corduroy. Or Partick Thistle.

  3. And The Sky at Night. And Butlin's. And Oor Wullie. And Hawkwind. And AM Radio.

    I could do this all day.

  4. A Farewell To Kings was the big revelation to me and ensured that I was quickly in the grip of the rest of their catalogue. Although ever the snob I found it hard to hold onto some of the funky pop rocking of the mid 80s, but my sulk didn't last and I was back under the spell.
    Attention all planets of the Solar Federation: We have assumed control

  5. They're great, as I'm sure you think I know. That film's great too. Especially as they got Neil to talk about his 'personal problems'. He doesn't help himself though: I know of one bloke who travelled from the UK to watch them in Amsterdam on their last tour. He was dining in the same restaurant as Peart, Peart noticed the guy's Rush shirt and immediately held a newspaper up to his face in a rubbish effort not to be recognised and only drew more attention to himself.
    It's amazing how many closet Rush fans there are. And it REALLY gets Rush fans goats they they're not in the RRHOF and The Sex Pistols are. I say, fuck 'em!

  6. Jimmy,
    A Farewell to Kings has aged very well, even if the lyrics venture into black hole territory. The last album I bought in the 80s was Grace Under Pressure; I stopped buying them because I thought they started sounding too much like The Police. And not Message in a Bottle Police. Rubbish Police. I've recently started to fill in the gaps buying Power Windows (better than expected) and Hold your Fire (Hmmm...)

    Peart seems an interesting case. He is pretty thorny and aloof in a lot of the documentary, yet in the dinner at the hunting lodge he is obviously enjoying the company of Lee and Lifeson. I got the impression of someone who is not comfortable in a lot of social contexts, but who was relaxed in the company of his colleagues because of the apparent affection between them. I found that touching.

  7. I think he's just a nice guy who doesn't understand the adulation he creates. But he's the same with Keith Moon, Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa et al. I think most Rush fans understand his stance on fan interaction and leave him to it.

    I read a nice thing he wrote on the internet a couple of years ago where he sought out the guy who wrote a motoring article that was the inspiration for the lyrics of Red Barchetta and asked him to go out with him on a touring holiday. So I don't think he's THAT aloof.
    And I think his wife's had a baby. Whatever that's got to do with it.

  8. Much to my surprise, a visit to see Rush (for the first time in nealry 20 years) a couple of years back in Glesgae, resulted in the realisation that, drums solos and chickens aside, they are a damn good band.

    Although I still hate everything they recorded between about 1983 and 2005.

  9. Funnily enough, I just bought the video of that tour, and I've rarely enjoyed a concert video so much. I think partly because they seem to be enjoying themselves so much. And the versions of songs like Subdivisions and Entre Nous are fantastic.

    Bright Ambassador recommended me Vapor Trails, which is from I think 2002 or so. It's very good and has got me back into them.

  10. I was introduced to Rush via 2112 by my old mate Les. It blew me away and I still love it to this day. I didn't think anything else they ever did could match up to that but a lot of their later stuff turned out to be brilliant too. Even their big "hit" spirit of the radio!!!

  11. PS. I found your blog via "The lost One"(Jimmy!) I too am a fan of rock/metal/prog/death/doom/blaclmetal etc...

  12. Hello there, I was listening to 2112 the other day. It's aged very well, the sound fairly jumps out of the speakers.

    I'd never have guessed from your name that you're a fan of black metal, mind.

  13. I am an original SON OF SATAN! Though I count many a Christian as a good friend, one of my friends is training to become a free church minister!!! I love old Venom and many of the new acts from Norway etc...