Last updated: 07/06/2012 12:00:00 PM
In true 1969 fashion, Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee named their act The Rush so as to fit into the rock gentry led by The Who, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Their home base was in Sarnia, Ontario with original drummer John Rutsey playing mostly cover tunes by Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly and Cream. Soon they would make their way to the lights of Toronto and set up residence at such bars as The Gasworks, The Running Pump and the old Abbey Road Pub.
A signing to Ray Danniels' fledgling SRO Productions led to their first, self-titled release in 1973 on Moon Records. Rutsey would soon leave the band due to poor health and St. Catherines native Neil Peart was brought in not only as drummer, but as songwriter as well. Danniels' new label, Anthem (named after an Ayn Rand novel that was also a song Peart wrote for 'Fly By Night') re-issued the first album in 1974.
Rush's direction began to change from a straight ahead 4 chord bar band to cerebral progressive rock entity. Their second album, 'Fly By Night' still had short commercially accessible songs and they were able to land a deal with Phonogram in the US due to consistent airplay on Cleveland radio.
1975 saw the more progressive 'Caress Of Steel' drawing curious reviews from critics, but it was 1976's Terry Brown produced '2112' that changed not only their outlook on Rush, but at progressive rock in general. The album is generally considered a Canadian milestone (next to Klaatu's 'Hope' and FM's 'Black Noise') and was based on Ayn Rand's futuristic concepts.
It wasn't until 1977's 'A Farewell To Kings' that Rush began to see the fruits of commercial success with their first charting single, "Closer To The Heart", which was the beginning of a long string of radio hits including "Spirit Of Radio", "Limelight", "Tom Sawyer", "New World Man" and "Subdivisions" which defied the critics who believed progressive rock was dead in the 1980's.
Rush's 25 year commitment to recording and touring has spawned several live albums, including 1998's 'Different Stages' 3-CD set, and their constant input into charitable causes (in the past they would hold annual food drives at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens) has kept the band focused.
They received the Order Of Canada in the 1990's and each of the members has enjoyed outside pursuits so that Rush would not become stale: Geddy Lee produced other bands including Boys Brigade and the SCTV inspired 'Great White North' album featuring Bob & Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas); Neil Peart has toured the world several times on bicycle; and Alex Lifeson has leant his guitar playing to many other acts recordings including the annual Kumbaya Festival and recently branched out as a solo artist with a project called Victor featuring lead vocals by Dalbello and former I, Mother Earth frontman Edwin.
Rush has notched up twenty-three consecutive gold and platinum records, the third longest string behind The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and tied with KISS. The band re-issued its first 15 albums as audiophile remastered CDs in 1996 and 1997.
With notes from Gavin Dalton