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Subject: 11/06/90 - The National Midnight Star #94

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          The National Midnight Star, Number 94

                 Tuesday, 6 November 1990
Today's Topics:
            Success Under Pressure - Part 2 of 4

[ As this book is almost impossible to find, it's reproduced here for your
  viewing pleasure.  Many thanks to "Meg Jahnke" for
  typing this in!                                                           ]

                       RUSH - SUCCESS UNDER PRESSURE
                               by Steve Gett
				  Part II
-- Working Men --

    As the original founding member of Rush, Alex Lifeson is by far the
best authority to consult on the group's formative years. The guitarist
still has vivid memories of those early days and recalls: "Rush initially
started gigging in September, 1968, and the first shows we ever did were in
the basement of a church in Toronto. It was a dropin center and you'd get
between 30 and 40 people on a Friday night, who'd be served tea, coffee and
potato chips, while the band played.

    "At that stage, the line-up consisted of myself, John Rutsey on drums
and a bassist called Jeff Jones, who'd played in a number of Toronto groups
and a couple of fairly successful Canadian bands. But he left after the
second gig because he had too many other commitments. We were all very
young, though, so it was no big deal and only about 60 people had actually
seen us.

    "I'd known Geddy for a couple of years and, at that point, I'd jammed
with him quite a lot. So, after Jeff had gone, I called him up and I think
he expected me to ask if I could borrow his amplifier, which I was always
doing! But I asked him if he could come and do a gig with us and he agreed.
We went down early and ran through about a dozen songs that all three of us
knew. We ended up playing those three times over during the course of the

    "Things worked out, though, and after a couple of shows we were offered
a steady gig there until March, 1969, by which time we were playing to
about 300 people a night. It was steady work and we were getting paid 25 to
30 dollars per gig, which wasn't bad. We'd split that three ways and either
spend it in a restaurant or just do whatever we wanted with our ten bucks.
Everybody was in their mid-teens and, during the day, we were still going
to school.

    "In March, we expanded the group and a piano player joined, who ended
up becoming Geddy's brother-in-law. He was in the bad for five or six
months, but it didn't really work out and in the end he left, followed
shortly by Geddy. Basically, things were falling apart and so we broke up.
But after a few months we decided to get back together as a trio and things
went from there.

    "I think the turning point for us was when the drinking age in Ontario
was lowered to 18; it had previously been 21. All of a sudden, there were
stacks of clubs to play that were never there before. We started working
professionally at that point, which was in 1972. Rather than just playing
one or two high schools at the weekend, and maybe three or four gigs in the
course of a month, we were playing six days a week, with matinees on
Saturdays -- week after week after week! We never stopped. You'd do a
rotation: play one club one week and then a series of others, before ending
up at the first one six weeks later. There was never really a shortage of
work and pretty soon we made enough cash to go into the studios."

    Towards the end of 1973, Rush played their biggest gig so far, opening
up for the New York Dolls at a Toronto concert hall. Having garnered a
strong following on the local club circuit, the group had little difficulty
in blowing the headliners off stage. Yet, despite their ever-increasing
popularity and the fact that they had earned enough money to make an album,
Rush faced one major problem -- a total lack of record company interest.

    "It was extremely hard for us to get a deal," reflects Alex. "Nobody
wanted to sign us because we just weren't considered 'sellable' at the
time. In Canada, if you were the Guess Who, then you had a much better
chance because you had something that was very commercial, which could be
heard on the radio. We always had a strange reputation in the Canadian
music industry. Nobody wanted to know us because we were labeled as being
too heavy, with a singer who had a crazy voice."

    Consequently, Rush were forced to enter the studios without the support
of a record label. The band was aided by longtime manager Ray Danniels and
his partner Vic Wilson. Danniels had initially become involved with the
trio after promoting a South Ontario high school concert several years
earlier. However, allocating recording time was extremely difficult, since
the group had to keep gigging in order to sustain their cash-flow.

    "We had to start work after playing in a club and record through the
night," Alex explains. "We'd tear down the gear and go in at two in the
morning until eight, when we had to get out. You'd do that one week, but
then you couldn't get back in the studios for another three weeks, which
was very frustrating. But we had no other options. Without a proper record
company behind us, we had to make do the best we could.

    "That's how the first Lp was done. I think we only spent three days of
actual recording, and then a couple more re-doing two songs and mixing the
whole thing. It was all done in under a week, but was spread out over
several months."

    The debut _Rush_ album finally emerged on the group's self-financed
Moon Records label in early '74. While later works were to see them
establishing their own identity, on the first Lp they seemed content to
mimic the styles of others, particularly Led Zeppelin. Alex Lifeson's
guitar work owed a good deal to Jimmy Page and Geddy Lee was once described
as sounding like "Robert Plant on acid!" Mind you one could hardly compare
John Rutsey's pedestrian drumming with the mighty John Bonham.

    "Finding My Way" opened the album in a raunchy, aggressive manner and
its hard-rocking pace was maintained on the ensuing cuts "Need Some Love"
and "Take A Friend". The first side was brought to a close by the more
subtle "Here Again", on which the strains of an acoustic guitar provided a
little variety to proceedings.

    Side two kicked off with "What You're Doing", a number very reminiscent
of Zeppelin's classic "Heartbreaker". Next up was "In The Mood", the lone
survivor in the current live show. This tune, always popular with the fans,
was penned by Geddy, but the rest of the tracks on _Rush_ are credited as
joint Lee/Lifeson compositions. "In The Mood" was followed by "Before And
After" and finally the album ended with "Working Man", the Lp's winner,
which featured a marathon lead break from Alex. On the whole, _Rush_ was a
very basic heavy metal record, one that was hardly indicative of what was
to come in the future.

    Although there was now vinyl product to promote, Rush's troubles were
far from over. "Our reputation still wasn't good," scoffs Alex. "But we
eventually got a break when a powerful FM radio station in Cleveland got
hold of the record and started playing it a lot."

    The station in question was Cleveland's WMMS and the DJ who picked up
on the group was a lady named Donna Halper. Her consistent turntable spins
resulted in strong import sales, which subsequently caught the attention of
the noted ATI booking agency in New York, who then expressed an interest in
lining up some Stateside dates for the band. A tour was finally arranged
when Rush signed a worldwide deal with Mercury Records.

    July, 1974, saw the release of the _Rush_ album in the US and, at long
last, the trio was set to cross the border. However, not before drummer
John Rutsey quit the line-up.

    Asked to explain the reason for Rutsey's departure, Alex assesses: "It
was weird. I'd actually been friends with John for a long, long time --
since we were about eight or nine years old. John was not the easiest
person to get along with; he was quite moody at times and I think he
expected a lot from his friends. When we got to the point that the decision
had to be made, we'd already thought about getting a new drummer for the
past year. John was aware of it -- he was very sick at the time -- but
after we tried another drummer, we said to him 'It's not working out. Do
you think you can get it together?'

    "We managed to work for another year, but in the end there was no point
because we weren't really getting along very well. Musically, Geddy and I
wanted to do a lot of different things and he wasn't really into the idea.
He wanted to go into more of a straight ahead rock thing, like Bad Company,
I guess. When we sat down and talked about it, he decided he was going to

    "We played another six weeks of gigs and, strangely enough, we had the
best time we'd ever had playing together. I kept in touch with him for a
few years afterwards, but I haven't seen him in three or four years. I hear
he's into body-building now and that he did a bit of TV work but, other
than that, I don't really know."

    John Rutsey's exodus from the line-up actually turned out to be
something of a blessing in disguise, since it precipitated the arrival of
the multi-talented Neil Peart. During Rush's early days, Neil had played in
several bands around the Niagara Peninsula area, before going off to live
in England for a year and a half. Eventually, somewhat disillusioned by the
British music scene, he returned to Canada, where he hooked up with Rush.

    Neil joined the band on June 29, 1974 -- Geddy's 21st birthday -- and
settled in very quickly. According to the bassist: "When Neil joined, we
were playing material from the first Lp and from our club days. So,
basically, he fitted in to what was already there and it soon became as
close to him as it was to us. To tell the truth, after about six weeks, it
never seemed to me that we'd had anyone else in the band."

    Rush's debut appearance on American soil was on August 14, in front of
11,462 people at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena. Uriah Heep topped the bill,
which also featured Manfred Mann's Earth Band, and the concert marked the
start of what was to be a protracted period of road life for the Canadian
trio. During the fall, Rush played dates with Blue Oyster Cult and Rory
Gallagher, and, by the end of the year, they had sold 75,000 copies of the
first album. What's more, the group had gained invaluable touring
experience from that inaugural Stateside outing.

    In January, 1975, Rush entered Toronto's Sound studios to start work on
the second Lp. It must have been quite a relief for Alex and Geddy not to
have to record spasmodically, as they had done last time. When _Fly By
Night_ came out the following month, it was clear that they had benefitted
from having the time to achieve the sounds they wanted. Many regard this as
the first proper Rush album and the music had certainly progressed way
beyond the limitations of basic hard rock.

    _Fly By Night_ evidenced the injection of a strong fantasy element,
courtesy of Neil Peart's imaginative lyrics, and "By-Tor And The Snow Dog"
was the first of many _epic_ works. The characters in the sketch had been
inspired by road manager Howard "Herns" Ungerleider and the drummer's story
dealt with the battle between Prince By-Tor (Geddy Lee -- "Knight of
darkness, centurion of evil, devil's prince") and the _good_ Snow Dog (Alex
Lifeson). Snow Dog eventually emerged victorious and the whole number was
to become an integral part of the Rush live show.

    The group had clearly realized that variety was the spice of life and
consequently the Lp contained a diverse selection of material -- another
Zeppelin influence? While the opening cut "Anthem" (the title stemmed from
the book by Russian authoress Ayn Rand) proved that the trio still
possessed the ability to rock hard, the delicate "Rivendell" (a village in
J.R. Tolkein's _Lord Of The Rings_) acted in total contrast. Other good
songs included "Beneath, Between and Behind", "In The End" and the title
track itself. Quite simply, _Fly By Night_ proved that Rush had far more to
offer than your average run-of-the-mill heavy metal band.

    The overall response to the record was most encouraging. It went gold
in Canada, sold respectably in the United States and also earned the trio a
Canadian Juno Award as "Best New Band." Coinciding with the Lp's release,
Rush embarked on a four-month American tour, opening for the likes of Kiss
and Aerosmith. Subsequently they headlined their first major Canadian dates
and attracted a 4,000-strong sell-out crowd at Toronto's Massey Hall.

    The summer of '75 saw the release of Rush's third album, _Caress Of
Steel_. Unfortunately, though, it turned out to be a miserable flop. Why?
Well, there are several theories. Firstly, the group had recorded the Lp
only a few months after completing _Fly By Night_ and the fact that they
returned tot he studios so quickly may well have had adverse effect.
Secondly, they continued to indulge in mammoth storylines, this time
devoting an entire side to "The Fountain Of Lamneth". It was widely felt
that they had stepped out of their depth and become self-indulgent.

    Whatever the reasons for its commercial failure, many fans have since
found _Caress Of Steel_ to be a highly entertaining package. The first side
featured three relatively short numbers -- "Bastille Day", "I Think I'm
Going Bald" and "Lakeside Park" -- together with the 12 1/2 minute tale of
"The Necromancer", in which Prince By-Tor was to make a brief cameo
appearance. "The Fountain Of Lamneth" was a classic opus and was divided
into six different parts: "In The Valley", "Didacts And Narpets", "No One
At The Bridge", "Panacea", "Baccus Plateau" and finally "The Fountain"
itself. There were some marvelous mood changes and the overall
instrumentation was quite superb.

    Be that as it may, _Caress Of Steel_ was hardly destined to do Rush any
favors and their ensuing US dates soon became tagged as the "Down the tubes
tour." Things certainly weren't looking good for the band and, as they
played a series of small town clubs, their momentum appeared to have been

    Not to be deterred, Rush returned to Toronto's Sound studios at the end
of the year, where they spent the cold winter months recording a new album.
In the spring of 1976, they re-emerged with _2112_, which heralded the
turning point in their career. The group was extremely positive about the
record and as Neil Peart later remarked: "We felt at the time that we had
achieved something that was really our own sound, and hopefully established
ourselves as a definite entity."

    Although critics had previously slammed Rush for indulging in marathon
pieces, the band adhered to its principles on _2112_. The whole of side one
was consumed by the ambitious title track! Once again, Neil had been guided
by the late Ayn Rand's literary skills and the "2112" story was centered
around the struggle of freedom against oppression in a futuristic society.
Under the stern dictatorship of the "Priests Of The Temples Of Syrinx", the
main character finds a guitar and makes music, something unheard of in his
culture-less world. He takes his discovery to the priests, but it is
immediately rejected and destroyed. Rush fanatics reveled in the tale and
it was to become a major highlight of the group's concert performances.

    The second side of the record comprised a further five winning cuts: "A
Passage To Bangkok", "The Twilight Zone", "Lessons", "Tears" and "Something
For Nothing". All in all, it was a very good album.

    By June '76, Rush had sold 160,000 copies of _2112_ in the United
States alone and had also received gold awards for the _Rush_ and _Caress
Of Steel_ albums back home in Canada. The group's obvious penchant for
science fiction/fantasy works brought them to the attention of Marvel
Comics' writer David Kraft. In fact, the March '76 issue of _The Defenders_
was dedicated to the trio and the comic's villain, Red Rajah, actually
quoted from the song "The Twilight Zone".

    More importantly, though, _2112_ helped Rush to build heavily on a
strong underground following that was growing rapidly in Britain. Despite
the fact that the album wasn't actually released there until 1977, import
copies began to filter through and created considerable interest among UK
rock fans.

    In the fall of 1976, Rush issued the live _All The World's A Stage_ Lp,
which had been recorded over three nights -- June 11, 12 and 13 -- at
Toronto's Massey Hall. The double record set opened with "Bastille Day" and
the rest of the first side contained "Anthem", "Fly By Night", and "In The
Mood". Part two continued with "Lakeside Park" and an edited version of
"2112". Side three took us back to _Fly By Night_ days and featured "By-Tor
And The Snow Dog" and "In The End". Both renditions were infinitely better
than their studio counterparts and during "By-Tor" there was a lively
guitar/bass battle between Alex and Geddy. The final section of "Working
Man", "Finding My Way" and "What You're Doing" brought the package to an
exciting climax.

    Due to the lack of overdubs, _All The World's A Stage_ had a few rough
edges, but nevertheless served as an excellent live representation of
Rush's music from 1974 to 1976. Indeed, as the group's sleeve notes on the
back cover read: "This albums to us, signifies the end of the beginning, a
milestone to mark the close of chapter one in the annals of Rush."

    Following the emergence of the live album, the band set off on another
session of Canadian and American dates, which saw them moving into
considerably larger venues. Rush finally celebrated the end of a hugely
successful year with a show at Toronto's massive Concert Bowl. Such was the
demand for tickets that they were forced to add an additional performance
at the venue a few days later. At these two gigs, the trio played to in
excess of 15,000 fans.

    It had taken eight years, but there could be no doubt that Rush had
finally arrived.

-- End of Part II of "Success Under Pressure" --


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