John Rutsey memorial
Beyond a shadow of any doubt one of the greatest bands to ever walk our green planet, the origins of Rush trace back to the mid 60’s when Gary Lee Weinrib & Alex Zivojinovich formed a garage band and jammed to the sounds of Hendrix, Cream & Led Zeppelin. They interchanged bands with drummer John Rutsey a number of times over the next few years, often with other members, even being in an early version of a band called Rush at one point. Finally with a set lineup of Lee, Lifeson and Rutsey, they became an underground favourite and soon made enough to cut their first 45 on their own label, Moon Records. The songs featured were an original collaberation entitled “Can’t Fight It” and Bobby & Sue Womack’s “Not Fade Away”, which was the band’s only cover until 2004’s FEEDBACK lp. This 45 is viewed as an extreme collectible, as neither of these tracks have ever appeared on another album.
The band released their self-titled debut lp in 1974 and was like the proverbial night and day from the sound they’ve evolved into today. Lifeson’s searing guitar solos & meticulous rhythm layers along with Geddy Lee’s distinct vocals solidified themselves as one of the most promising local groups of the time. With the heavy progressions in “In The Mood” – their first single, the scorching solos in “Finding My Way,” Working Man,” and straight-forward ‘grab you by the balls’ “Never Before.” This period is the most crucial in the band’s history, as it was during this time that the group was noticed by Phonogram Records in the US and Attic in Canada. The album became the biggest selling Canadian debut album at that time. Around the same time Rutsey’s diabetes was keeping him from 100 per cent participation in the band, often having to cancel shows. Following the tour, he was soon replaced by a former mythology student named Neil Peart.
The reformed trio released FLY BY NIGHT in 1975 and featured “By-Tor & The Snowdog”, the first of what would become trademark epics penned by Peart and his love for ancient mythology and science fiction. Also on the album were the title-track – which gained respectable airplay and “Beneath Between & Behind”. Later that same year saw CARESS OF STEEL, which further made evident the group’s natural blending of the ear-piercing chords of metal anthems like “Bastille Day” and the soothing melodies of “Lakeside Park” and complexities of “The Necromancer”.
Rush released 2112 in 1976, and powered by such classics as “Passage To Bangkok,” “Something For Nothing,” and “Temples of Syrinx,” it’s widely viewed as their breakout album, opening new avenues for the group’s future to an audience that now stretched past North America.
They released “All The World’s A Stage” that same year as a showcase of their live show and the record’s rawedge captured their heavy but harmonious stage-presence, making it one of the premier live records ever cut.
1977 saw them leave Canada for recording for the first time. A FAREWELL TO KINGS featured the classics “Closer To The Heart” and “Cinderella Man”. Recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales, both these tracks on both sides of the Atlantic helped earn Rush the title of bona-fide supergroup. Also on the album were “Cygnus X-1”, “Madrigal” and the title-track. They returned to southern Wales a year later to record HEMISPHERES. The result was the classics “Circumstances” and “The Trees”. The record also saw the title track, the last of ‘The great Rush side one epics’, and “La Villa Strangiato” – regarded as one of their best progressive instrumentals.
Sporting a more mature, radio-friendly attitude, Rush returned to the remote Quebec countryside of Morin Heights to cut PERMANENT WAVES in 1980 – for the most part leaving the multi-part epics at the door. The record featured one of radio’s biggest hits of the year in “Sprit of the Radio”, as well as “Jacob’s Ladder”, “Entre Nous” and “Freewill”. While still following the course their music was naturally evolving into, The group also performed on Max Webster‘s “Battle Scar” on the UNIVERSAL JUVENILES record that same year.
In 1981, Rush turned out their biggest selling record to date, MOVING PICTURES which featured the smash lead single “Tom Sawyer,” co-written by Max Webster‘s lyricist Pye Dubois. Recorded at Ronnie Hawkins’ barn/studio outside Peterborough, it also featured “Red Barchetta,” based on a futuristic novel lent to Peart by Dubois), “Limelight,” “Vital Signs,” and the instrumental “YYZ” (Toronto airport’s code). The album was certified double platinum mere months after its release while the band was in the middle of a world tour.
Lee also found time to make a guest appearance on Bob & Doug McKenzie‘s record that year, proudly showing his hoser roots by singing “Take Off”. All three members also guested on Max Webster’s UNIVERSAL JUVENILES album around the same time on the song “Battle Scar.”
The group released their second live album – EXIT STAGE LEFT later that year then came back with SIGNALS in 1982. The record marked a noticeable change in the group’s sound. With keyboards and synthesized guitars now prominant, SIGNALS went over with the public like the proverbial lead balloon, though it remains a critic’s favourite to this day, backed by “Subdivisions”, “The Weapon”, and “New World Man”.
The slight change of direction also paved the way for 1984’s GRACE UNDER PRESSURE. Falling back on more of a mainly guitar-based sound but still following the course laid out by its predecessor, the record featured “Distant Early Warning”, “Red Sector A” and “Body Electric”. POWER WINDOWS was released the next year but failed to build on the momentum the group was rebuilding, though “Big Money” and “Mystic Rhythms” remain staples of the groups live show today. By this time, Peart’s writing style had alsopretty much changed from just writing the epic fantasies and story-telling to more politically and social-conscious numbers. Not withstanding, Rush still stayed true to their fans and released HOLD YOUR FIRE, featuring “Time Stand Still” with Amee Mann and “Force Ten” in 1987.
Again to show their appreciation of the fans, a third live album A SHOW OF HANDS was released in 1989. Later that same year came “Presto”, featuring “Show Don’t Tell” and “Superconductor”. 1991 saw “Roll the Bones”, which had the title track and “Dreamline”. 1993 saw unquestionably Rush’s biggest album in years. Backed by “Stick It out” and “Nobody’s Hero”, “Counterparts” was the album that brought the group back into the spotlight after losing some of their lustre over recent albums. The group was inducted into the Juno Hall of Fame the next year, in recognition of their truly legendary status in their homeland and the mark they’d humbly but unimistakingly left on the development of Canadian music over the last twenty-some years.
After appearing on I Mother Earth’s “Like A Girl” from the “Scenery and Fish” lp, Lifeson became the first member to put out a solo album when VICTOR hit the shelves in ’96. Partially based on the works of poet W.H. Auden, the record was met with rave reviews and featured a helping hand from Dalbello, Edwin and some people with first AND last names too. This time of seperation also afforded Peart the chance to release an instructional video called “Modern Drummer”. and see his first novel published, the non-fictional “The Masked Rider”, his personal memoirs from his time in South Africa.
1997 was a year of emotional highs & devestating lows for the group. On February 27, the humble threesome was recognized for their exhaustive charity work with the awarding of the Order of Canada, this country’s highest civic honour. However, later that year, after the release of TEST FOR ECHO, which featured “Half The World”, all plans for the group were put on hiatus following the death of Peart’s 19 year-old daughter in a car accident. Tragedy struck the Peart household barely a year later when Neil’s wife Jacqueline lost her battle with cancer.
While the group took some time off out of the spotlight, with tours and recording on hiatus, Anthem released a 2 disc “best of” set called RETROSPECTIVE in 1999 and that same year pumped out the group’s fourth live record entitled DIFFERENT STAGES. Hailed as the definitive live Rush album, it features 2 discs made up from the TEST FOR ECHO world tour, as well as a limited-edition third disc of re-mastered performances from ’77.
Lee put out his first solo album, in 2000, just in time for Christmas. Like Lifeson, the debut effort apart from his bandmates was met with instant critical praise on the back of the first single, the title track. A revitalized Rush returned to the studios in 2001. The result was possibly the band’s heaviest hitting disc in years, 2002’s VAPOR TRAILS. The lead single “One Little Victory” not only shows the band has overcome the adversities the members have faced over the recent years, but that they’re back – to coin a phrase – better than ever. Their fifth live album was released in 2003, RUSH IN RIO, co-inciding with the DVD.
The band returned to their roots in 2004 with FEEDBACK, a collection of tunes that influenced the members in their formative years. Tracks like “Summertime Blues”, “Shapes Of Things”, “For What It’s Worth” and “Heart Full Of Soul” all capture the raw innocence that molded the band into one of Canada’s most successful in history. A year later R30 was released on DVD, which featured the band on the FEEDBACK tour.
In ’07 they returned to the spotlight with SNAKES AND ARROWS, featuring the tracks “Workin’ Them Angels,” the lead off “Far Cry,” “Good News First,” and “Malignant Narcissism.” Another world tour followed, while the album broke the band’s 40 million total albums sold.
On May 11, 2008 original drummer John Rutsey was found dead in his Toronto home. Original investigations ruled he died of a heart attack while in his sleep, possibly as a result of his diabetes.
In honour of the 30th anniversary of the release of MOVING PICTURES, the band played the entire album on its 2011 tour, which was captured on video.