Bastille Day – Rush

“Oh, won’t you please welcome home…Rush.”

Rick Ringer

Rush fans will understand the magic of this moment. When the needle dropped on the first song on side one of ‘All the World’s a Stage’. It signified a triumphant return. The scene was Massey Hall in Toronto in June of 1976. 

This homecoming was the culmination of an arduous year. Let’s head back to the summer of 1975 where this chapter of the journey begins.

Rush was on an upward trajectory. Earlier in the year, they released their second album, ‘Fly by Night’, and their burgeoning popularity led to being recognized as the Juno Award winner for Most Promising Group. By June, they had completed a successful tour which saw them headline in Canada. The question became, where do we go from here? This is when a pattern emerged that would describe Rush as a band for over four decades. They did it their way, staying true to themselves focusing on a firm commitment to developing concept songs. These progressive rock inspired pieces blended well with a handful of shorter tracks that harkened back to their hard rock and blues roots. The trio was proud of what they had created over July and August, considering it a step in the right direction. The end result became known as ‘Caress of Steel’.

Released in September of 1975, ‘Caress of Steel’ took Rush from the highest hopes to the depths of disappointment. Record sales were poor. Ticket sales for their shows were weak, and in the United States they persevered through a series of shows as a supporting act for headliners such as KISS, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Thin Lizzy, Frank Zappa and Leslie West.

Due to the poor showing of ‘Caress of Steel’ one critic made this harsh suggestion.

Rush will have a very short shelf-life, one that’s headed straight down the tubes…” 

Caress of Steel Album Review

The beleaguered band took note of the review and began to refer to the ‘Caress of Steel’ tour as the ‘Down the Tubes’ tour. However, the one thing no one could truly assess, outside of the band themselves, was their resolve. Rush was taking in every detail of what it took to be successful from acts like KISS, and as a result the lessons they learned on the road combined with Neil Peart’s love of reading and his propensity for social observation became an inspiration. The band’s primary lyricist was taking notes for what would become the band’s true transformative album.

Looking back, the fact that ‘Caress of Steel’ was so maligned as a Rush album has become a matter of some debate. In fact, many true Rush fans consider it crucial to their development and devote their focus to the album’s many positive attributes. While the progressive experiments, ‘Fountain of Lamneth’ and ‘The Necromancer’ foretold that direction, tracks like ‘Bastille Day’ spoke to their prowess in writing hard driving riff-oriented songs. One thing was for sure, there was no way anyone was going to tell them what to do.

“Rush will not pander to the lowest common denominator, just to score a “hit”, and receive AM radio airplay. Considering the conviction with which they deliver a song about the storming of the Bastille, their unique style suits them just fine, thank you.”

Raymond Michael

‘Bastille Day’ was the opening song on ‘Caress of Steel’. As an early Rush track it resides in the upper echelon. Here is Robert Telleria from his book ‘Merely Players’

The French Revolution imagery was “inspired by Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, with proud and defiant guitar riffs and tempos. Neil’s first real themes of a class struggle and oppression. The opening line was what the Queen of France said: ‘If there’s no bread, let them eat cake’.”

Robert Telleria

Neil Peart’s commanding lyrics tell the story of the beginning of the French Revolution. The message is delivered in an urgent cry from Geddy Lee. On July 14, 1789, angry Parisians stormed the Bastille, freeing the remaining prisoners and taking the weapons and ammunition that were stored inside. This act signified the beginning of the French Revolution. More importantly, this event has come to symbolize civic unrest through the centuries. A disgruntled (feudal) working class were rising against a tyrannical monarchy, expressing their discontent. They aspired to equality and they were advocating for human rights. If this meant anarchy, and action that would tear the system down; so be it.

From that time on, Bastille Day became known as France’s Independence Day. Here is the short lesson in history from Neil Peart and Rush.

There’s no bread, let them eat cake
There’s no end to what they’ll take
Flaunt the fruits of noble birth
Wash the salt into the earth

But they’re marching to Bastille Day
La guillotine will claim her bloody prize
Free the dungeons of the innocent
The king will kneel and let his kingdom rise

Bloodstained velvet, dirty lace
Naked fear on every face
See them bow their heads to die
As we would bow as they rode by

And we’re marching to Bastille Day
La guillotine will claim her bloody prize
Sing, oh choirs of cacophony
The king has kneeled, to let his kingdom rise

Lessons taught but never learned
All around us anger burns
Guide the future by the past
Long ago the mould was cast

For they marched up to Bastille Day
La guillotine claimed her bloody prize
Hear the echoes of the centuries
Power isn’t all that money buys”

Neil Peart


Following the storming of the Bastille the fortress was torn down. By October of 1789, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had essentially become prisoners. The King was sent to the guillotine in January of 1793, and Marie Antoinette followed in October of that year. By the late 1790s France had seen the demise of the monarchy and the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte. The entire political and social landscape had been altered.

By comparison, Rush forged a more streamlined future, but it was not without some hardship. After the completion of their ‘Caress of Steel’ tour the band took a very short break before they began to record what would become ‘2112’. Recording began in February, and the album was complete and ready to be released by April 1. Based on the struggles of ‘Caress of Steel’, the band faced some financial hardship and they navigated a period of strife between manager Ray Danniels and their international label, Mercury Records. Mercury first threatened to drop Rush, but Danniels negotiated one more album. The contingency was for Rush to create something more commercial. True to form, Dirk, Lerxst and Pratt powered forward with their devotion to a progressive rock style. In fact, they went all in with what is now known as the epic ‘2112’ side which featured seven parts, fueled by the spacey ‘Overture’ then ‘Temples of Syrinx’ before hitting a crescendo with the tumultuous ‘Grand Finale’.

The album, which was written in defiance of the music establishment became Rush’s best-selling album to date, peaking at #5 in Canada and remaining on the Billboard Top LPs & Tape chart for 37 weeks. ‘2112’ remains Rush’s second best-selling album after ‘Moving Pictures’.

This brings us all the way back around to where this post began. For Rush, ‘All the World’s a Stage’ was offered as a live presentation of what they considered to be the highlights of their four-album catalogue to date. Here is their address in the liner notes.

This album consists of the show which we brought to you during our North American Tours of 1976. It is an anthology of what we feel to be the high points of our concerts and recordings up to this time. It is not perfect, but it is faithful to us and to you. We have tried to strike a careful balance between perfection and authenticity, and to create a finished work that you may enjoy, and we may be proud of. This album to us, signifies the end of the beginning, a milestone to mark the close of chapter one, in the annals of Rush. To all our friends everywhere, we thank you for your friendship and support, and wish you success in all your aspirations.”

Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart


To think, for all intents and purposes this series of recordings and tours took place over what amounts to about one 12 – month period in 1975-76. Reviews from that period condemned Rush for being cheap Led Zeppelin knock-offs and pretentious prog rock wannabes. At the time nobody knew that Rush would perform as a band well into the 2000s before playing their final show at The Forum in Los Angeles, on August 1, 2015. This was almost exactly 41 years to the day that Neil Peart played his first show with the band. Over that time ‘Bastille Day’ drifted off the set list by the early part of the pre – ‘Moving Pictures’ tour. To the delight of Rush fans, the band brought back a portion of ‘Bastille Day’ as part of the ‘R30 Intro’. One of my favourite concert memories was taking in that show with my two oldest sons who were 11 and 8 at the time. It was their first concert. This instrumental medley has to go down as one of the finest concert introductions, by any band, anywhere.

As we explore the cover versions of ‘Bastille Day’ we are taken to a tribute album that was released in 1999. This is Shallows of the Mundane from the album ‘Red Star – A Tribute to Rush’. The album is promoted as;

12 modern acts who remain true to the Rush aesthetic and principal of uncompromising music.”

Red Star – A Tribute to Rush

A little over five years later in 2005 Alex Skolnick, Jani Lane, Vinnie Moore, Stu Hamm and Mike Mangini produced this cover of ‘Bastille Day’ on ‘Subdivisions: A Tribute to Rush’ which was an 11- song homage to the Canadian rock trio. Here is guitarist, Vinnie Moore, formerly of the band UFO.

My first Rush record was “All the World’s A Stage” which I got about a year after I started playing guitar. I remember learning some of the riffs like the opening to “Bastille Day”. It’s a great, raw rock record. One of the coolest things about it though was, “ladies and gentlemen, the Professor on the drum kit”. I really loved that drum solo. They should have left the dude’s ass off of the front cover, though. They let me open for them on the Roll the Bones tour and that was a big contribution to my career. Thanks guys!! You’re pretty cool for a bunch of hockey fans!!!”

Vinnie Moore


Now, enjoy this interesting cover.

It is not a coincidence that Ted Tocks Covers features the writing of Neil Peart on this day. Rush fans were united in shock when they heard of his death three years ago. This post exists as one in a long line of tributes to Rush and Neil Peart.

Many times, through the years as a huge fan of Rush, I was drawn to the lyrics of Neil Peart. His wisdom frequently helped me make sense of things as a teen and young adult. This world view has shaped much of my thinking to the present. As events have unfolded in the more recent past these words have become increasingly relevant.

Lessons taught but never learned
All around us anger burns
Guide the future by the past
Long ago the mould was cast”

Neil Peart


History does have a tendency to repeat itself. Or, in the words of Winston Churchill,

 Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Winston Churchill

Another way it was expressed by Rush.

Plus ca change
Plus c’est la meme chose
The more that things change
The more they stay the same”

Neil Peart

Based on what I can see a good revolution could come in handy right about now.

Hear the echoes of the centuries
Power isn’t all that money buys”

Neil Peart

If you listen closely, you can hear the echoes.

Submitted By Ted Tocks Covers