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Subject: 11/07/90 - The National Midnight Star #96

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          The National Midnight Star, Number 96

                Wednesday, 7 November 1990
Today's Topics:
            Success Under Pressure - Part 3 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 III
-- In The Limelight --

    Eager to capitalize on the triumphs of _2112_ and _All The World's A
Stage_, Rush launched into 1977 with another fullscale American tour. Yet,
although they were now able to pack out midsize venues across the nation,
the band still found it impossible to gain radio airplay. Consequently,
staff at Mercury Records put together a promotional album, featuring a
selection of material from _2112_, _Fly By Night_ and _Caress Of Steel_,
which they sent out to radio stations. It was amusingly titled _Everything
Your Listeners Ever Wanted to Hear by Rush...But You Were Afraid to Play_.

    Meanwhile, due to mounting interest on the other side of the Atlantic,
it was soon announced that Rush would be embarking on a series of European
dates in June. The British leg would take in seven cities and, as soon as
tickets were made available, box offices reported lighting sales.

    On June 4, 1977, Rush made their debut appearance at London's hallowed
Hammersmith Odeon and the sell-out crowd witnessed a truly memorable
performance. The set basically followed the running order of _All The
World's A Stage_, with the addition of "The Necromancer" and a new number
entitled "Xanadu". The audience consisted of diehard Rush addicts and few
left the hall disappointed at the end of the show. Sitting in the
auditorium, it was amazing to see at first had the phenomenal cult
following that Rush had created in the UK and even the band was surprised.

    "We thought we might have a bit of a following in Britain, having
received some fan mail," states Alex. "But basically we just expected small
to average crowds. When we realized how strong the fan level was, we were
totally blown away."

    Upon completion of the British trek, Rush played selected dates in
Sweden, Germany and Holland. Soon, however, the group was back in Britain
to start working on a new album at Rockfield studios in Monmouth, Wales. It
marked the first time that they had recorded outside their native Canada
and the different environment brought about a definite change in their
musical approach.

    _A Farewell To Kings_ hit the streets in September '77 and saw the
band's material becoming more complex. Geddy had started playing
synthesizers and one could sense that the trio was keen to expand its
overall sound. Side one commenced with the title track, a fairly concise
number, and was followed by the more adventurous "Xanadu", which clocked in
at well over 11 minutes on record. The second half of _A Farewell To Kings_
boasted three shorted tunes in "Closer To The Heart", "Cinderella Man" and
"Madrigal", but was dominated by the epic "Cygnus X-1". At the end of the
track, the hero of the story was left plunging into a black hole on his
space ship Rocinante; the group promised to conclude the tale at a future

    After recording in the peaceful Welsh countryside, Rush had mixed the
Lp at London's Advision studios and upon its release they returned to North
American concert halls. By November, _2112_, _All The World's A Stage_ and
_A Farewell To Kings_ had all been certified gold in the United States.

    Breaking their hectic US touring schedule, Rush played 14 British dates
in February '78, after which they set off on a brief European jaunt. It was
during this period that Mercury decided to re-issue the first three studio
albums as a triple set titled _Archives_. In June, the band garnered the
second Juno Award, this time as "Best Group Of The Year"; they had now
accrued six gold and three platinum discs in Canada.

    When the _Farewell To Kings_ tour finally came to an end, Rush
immediately returned to Rockfield studios, where they spent most of the
summer recording their next Lp. _Hemispheres_ was by far the trio's most
daring effort to date and took a lot longer to complete than had originally
been anticipated. "It was the longest time we'd ever spent on an album,"
proclaims Alex. "By the time we got to Trident studios in London for the
mixing, we'd been in Britain for two and a half months, one month longer
than we'd expected. But the thing is that _Hemispheres_ was a different
album altogether and it headed off in various directions."

    True to their word, Rush completed the "Cygnus X-1" story in the form
of the marathon title track, which spanned the whole of the first side. In
fact, there were only three other numbers on the rest of the Lp -- "The
Trees", "Circumstances" and "La Villa Strangiato". The latter, a lengthy
instrumental, basically served as a showcase for Alex Lifeson's finger-
picking skills and was apparently inspired by one of his nightmares!

    Neil Peart came up with the lyrics for the "Hemispheres" piece after
reading the book _Powers Of Mind_. He wrote about the division of the brain
into hemispheres, with the characters Dionysis and Apollo controlling the
left and right sides, respectively. Cygnus arrived on the scene as the
bringer of balance.

    To be blunt, the whole concept got a little out of hand and it seemed
that the direction of the music had become of secondary importance. When
reviewing the Lp for the British weekly music journal _Melody Maker_, I can
recall pointing out that Rush might find themselves getting into a rut if
they continued producing extended works, that were definitely becoming
self-indulgent. They had more than proved their capabilities as techno-rock
masters, but now it was time to come back to earth again. Judging by the
nature of their ensuing outputs, Rush obviously felt the same way.

    Following the album's October release, Rush began a 113-date "Tour of
the Hemispheres", which kept them on the road for the next eight months. By
December, 1978, _Hemispheres_ had shipped gold in the US and, in the same
month, the group enjoyed three sell-out shows at Toronto's Maple Leaf
Gardens, smashing all previous box office records at the venue.

    As usual, concerts had commenced in North America and it wasn't until
April '79 that Rush traveled to Britian. The UK gigs opened with a two
night stand at Newcastle City Hall and continued through to mid-May, with
old Canadian friends Max Webster supporting. The next step was to Europe
and finally the tour came to a close on June 4, with an appearance at the
Pink Top festival in Holland. Alex Lifeson was forced to struggle through
that particular show with a broken finger.

    Having spent the past two summers at Rockfield studios, the band
members were glad to get back home to Canada for their 1979 vacation. Up
until now, they had maintained a non-stop schedule of touring and recording
and, at last, they were able to take a well-earned rest before entering the
studios. Rush enjoyed a six-week holiday and then re-assembled at Lakewoods
Farm to start work on _Permanent Waves_. They wrote and rehearsed in an old
farmhouse and, after a few days, rough versions of "The Spirit Of Radio",
"Freewill" and "Jacob's Ladder" had been put down on cassette.

    Eventually , they moved on to Sound Kitchen studios in North Toronto,
to lay down proper demo tapes, and then it was back to the road. Thus, they
were able to 'work in' the new tunes, before commencing the actual
recording of the album. This approach was to become standard practice in
the future.

    "You can't really get in shape for the studio by sitting in a rehearsal
studio, like you can from playing a two-hour set, with soundchecks and
everything," states Alex. "Ever since _Permanent Waves_, we've made a point
of going out for at least a couple of weeks after writing and rehearsing."

    Consequently, Rush headed off to England in September '79 and played
two concerts at Stafford's Bingley Hall, where they attracted over 20,000
fans, turning away thousands more. Shortly afterwards, it was back to the
studios. Whenever they had previously recorded in Canada, it had been at
Toronto Sound, but this time Rush chose to work at Le Studio, which is
located some 20 miles north of Montreal. They were swift to take advantage
of the surrounding countryside, which encompasses some 250 acres of land and
a private lake, by setting up microphones out in the open to capture the
sounds of nature.

    The basic tracks for five numbers were laid down very quickly, and the
final song was originally supposed to be a medieval epic, entitled "Sir
Gawain And The Green Knight". However, after a good deal of deliberation,
the band considered the topic to be somewhat out of context with the rest
of the material and finally settled on "Natural Science".

    _Permanent Waves_ was mixed at London's Trident studios and hit record
stores in January, 1980. Gone were the "Cecil B. DeMille proportioned"
epics that had dominated the past few albums and in came shorter, more
direct songs. Neil Peart's lyrical approach had also taken a different turn
and, instead of basing his ideas on science fiction and fantasy works, he
appeared to be dealing with more down-to-earth matters. The drummer has
since claimed that he considers _Permanent Waves_ to be "our first album
that was in touch with reality. It was about people dealing with
technology, instead of people dealing with some futuristic world or

    The first side of the Lp featured "The Spirit of Radio", "Freewill" and
the slickly constructed "Jacob's Ladder". There was a strong feeling of
modernization about the music and, at times,  Rush came across in quite a
sophisticated manner. However, they managed to retain their hard edge and
had definitely rolled in the 80's with a winner. Side two comprised three
tracks: "Entre Nous", "Different Strings" and the masterful "Natural
Science". _Permanent Waves_ was an extremely colorful album and it was
hardly surprising that it hit the #4 position on the Billboard charts.

    From January to mid-May, Rush toured America, playing multiple nights
in large venues in St. Louis (3), New York (4), Milwaukee (2), Chicago (4),
Seattle (2), San Francisco (2), the Los Angeles area (4), Detroit (2) and
Dallas (4). It's significant to note that they actually registered a profit
on the road for the first time.

    Rush had definitely established themselves as a major force in the rock
world and, when they went to Britain in June, 1980, they were able to sell
out five nights at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. They made tapes of all
the UK gigs and originally inteded to follow up _Permanent Waves_ with
their second in-concert album. However, as more fresh material emerged
during their soundchecks, the band decided to go for another studio Lp.

    In July, the trio went to Toronto's Phase One studios and recorded the
song "Battlescar" with Max Webster, which later surfaced on the Websters'
_Universal Juveniles_ album. From there, Rush retreated to a place called
Stony Lake and began pre-production of their own record. By the end of
August, it was back to Phase One for demo sessions. October saw a brief
American tour, during which new songs like "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight"
were previewed. Rush then returned to Le Studio, where they spent the next
ten weeks recording _Moving Pictures_.

    Released in February, 1981, the group's eighth studio output was a
rather more dark, haunting package than its predecessor, both from a
musical and lyrical point of view, and required a good deal of intense
listening to fully appreciate. The first track, "Tom Sawyer", was
co-written with Max Webster's Pye DuBois. Then came "Red Barchetta" and the
instrumental "YYZ", the title of which stemmed from the code lettering on
Toronto Airport luggage tags. Side two contained four songs: "Limelight",
"The Camera Eye", "Witch Hunt" and "Vital Signs". The latter echoed strong
hints of reggae, which no doubt surprised many Rush fans.

    The "Moving Pictures" tour of the United States enabled Rush to become
one of the nation's top grossing live acts. Furthermore, they were the only
band to score three US platinum discs (for _2112_, _All The World's A
Stage_ and _Moving Pictures_) in 1981. The trio also earned a Grammy
nomination for "YYZ" in the "Best Rock Instrumental" category.

    The American dates stretched through until mid-summer, at which point
Rush headed back to the Laurentian hideaway of Le Studio to mix tapes for an
upcoming live album. _Exit...Stage Left_ finally emerged in the fall of
'81, coinciding with a series of European concerts, and at the time Neil
Peart stated: "Such as it is, we're all very proud of this one. Everything
has improved so much since our last, somewhat uneven live effort -- that
was by a different group. Once again, it's a kind of anthology album; a
summation of the live highlights of our previous four studio albums and a
couple of older reincarnations."

    Unlike _All The World's A Stage_, it didn't run in the style of a
complete concert performance and, rather than selecting one venue to
record, Rush had assembled tapes (about 50 rolls!) from a variety of places
on both sides of the Atlantic. While the first live album may hold greater
atmosphere, one couldn't fault the execution of material on _Exit_. It
kicked off with "The Spirit Of Radio", afterwhich came "Red Barchetta" and
"YYZ". The second side featured "A Passage To Bangkok", "Closer To The
Heart", "Beneath, Between And Behind" and "Jacob's Ladder". "Broon's Bane",
a 90-second previously unreleased acoustic passage, introduced "The Trees",
but the majority of side three was consumed by a lengthy rendition of
"Xanadu". Finally, affairs were brought to a close with "Freewill", "Tom
Sawyer" and "La Villa Strangiato". Wisely, Rush had avoided attempting to
reproduce the complete "Cygnus" saga!

    Asked why the band decided to make another live Lp, Geddy explains: "I
guess there were a whole lot of reasons. One was that we felt our live
sound had changed so much that we figured we needed to up-date it on
record. I mean, _All The World's A Stage_ was a whole lot different. But
doing a live record is also a great device to get a sort of hiatus between
albums and we really wanted that. We wanted to have a longer gap before
going back in the studio so that we could do some writing on our own."

    Mind you, Geddy isn't particularly fond of in-concert recordings and
openly admits that he finds them a tedious exercise. "They're sort of
historical and very painful to do because there's nothing really creative
about them," he reasons. "You play the gigs and invariably whenever you're
recording you stiffen up and it's not the same. I hate doing them and in
some ways I'm almost sorry we did _Exit_.

    Alex Lifeson seems to share the bass player's views and, when talking
to American rock writer, John Stix, he declared: "Live albums are always a
difficult thing. It's hard to get excited about them. In terms of a live
recording, _Exit_ is very good and I'm happy with it in that respect. As an
example of our show, it's not as good as it could have been or possible
should have been. Live albums give us some breathing space to cleanse
ourselves and start on something fresh and new. When we were in the studio
doing _Exit_, Geddy and I were in another studio working on "Digital Man"
and "Subdivisions" from _Signals_. We were already geared up for another
record. I think that had something to do with the fact that we don't go
crazy over live records. I don't know if you'll ever hear another live
album from Rush. We enjoy the studio recordings much more than we do the
live ones."

    And so, _Exit...Stage Left_ closed another chapter in the Rush history.
Since the release of _All The World's A Stage_, the band's popularity had
grown by leaps and bounds. Happily, they had been able to maintain success
without compromise and as the liner notes of _Exit_ stated: "For reasons
beyond our comprehension, we have become increasingly more popular, and
hence stretched ever more thinly among even more people. If sometimes we
can't give the time they deserve, to our friends and loved ones, we hope
they will understand and forgive us. After all, _we_ didn't change,
everybody else did!"

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


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