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Subject: 11/06/90 - The National Midnight Star #93 ** Special Edition **

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          The National Midnight Star, Number 93

                 Tuesday, 6 November 1990
Today's Topics:
            Success Under Pressure - Part 1 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

-- An Introduction To Success --

    In August, 1968, top British session guitarist Jimmy Page was in
something of a dilemma. For the past two years, he had been playing with
the legendary Yardbirds, whose previous line-ups had boasted such worthy
talents as Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. However, after Beck quit to pursue a
solo career at the end of 1968, Page had been left to carry the group
through the next 18 months, until it finally crumbled under his feet.

    While Jimmy was eager to start a new band, the Yardbirds were already
booked on a 10-date Scandanavian tour the following month. Consequently, he
began a desperate search for accompanying musicians, soon hooking up with
John Paul Jones, John Bonham and Robert Plant. Over the ensuing months the
group was to change its name to Led Zeppelin and go on to become Britain's
most celebrated rock act.

    Meanwhile, as Jimmy Page unveiled his New Yardbirds in Europe, on the
other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in the suburbs of Toronto, a young
Canadian guitar player, named Alex Lifeson, was busy forming Rush. Although
Page was fortunate in enjoying immediate acceptance with his outfit, it
necessitated years of hard graft and extreme patience before Lifeson and
his band made their mark.

    After battling fiercely to break out of Canada, Rush were forced to
embark on endless US road outings before garnering major recognition and
acclaim. For many years, radio stations ignored their music, and, in the
pre-video age, touring was the only means of gaining exposure. Despite the
long wait, Rush were to end up selling more records and playing to more
people than Zeppelin ever did.

    Attempting to parallel the histories of Rush and Led Zeppelin would
prove an impossible, and extremely futile, exercise. Yet, it's interesting
to observe that each band basically encountered success under its own
terms. For both, the major forte was an essential high quality of
musicianship, combined with a diverse range of musical styles. Never was
there any compromise in their overall approach on the road to fame and

    Led Zeppelin are, of course, sadly no more. However, Rush are still
going strong and continue to warrant recognition as Canada's finest hard
rock export. Throughout their illustrious history, the group has released a
succession of highly innovative albums and delighted concert audiences
around the world. Their work has been admired for its breadth of reach,
technical elegance, and for the confidence with which it has combined great
boldness with artistic poise.

    While many top bands are adverse to change, fearing that their
popularity might wane, Rush have never been afraid to take chances in order
to broaden their musical horizons. "We've always been a fairly experimental
group," maintains vocalist-bassist-keysman Geddy Lee. "And one of the
reasons we'll continue to be that way is because of the fear of becoming
_boring_old_farts_! When you reach the stage of being a successful band,
there's more and more pressure to stay the same and that is very dangerous.
It leads to complacency and pretty soon you end up churning out the same
bullshit album after album.

    "Complacency is still the biggest fear we have. Making albums or
touring with a 'Who gives a damn?' attitude -- that's when it's time to
stop. You can get used to being liked and that's kind of dangerous too.
There is a little fear that when you do something different, everyone's
going to put the 'thumbs down' on it. But, at the same time, if what you're
doing is experimental, but good, then people will still like you."

    According to drummer Neil Peart: "The initial focus of our music has to
always change to keep us interested."

    1984 saw rush celebrating their 10th anniversary as a recording band.
Following the release of their raw, Zeppelin-inspired debut offering back
in 1974, they subsequently produced a series of more techno-rock oriented
albums. By the start of the 80's, they had begun to veer away from the
marathon musical pieces that dominated Lp's like _2112_, _A Farewell to
Kings_, and _Hemispheres_, and have since aimed for a more direct, modern
sound. With the intergration of keyboards and reggae-influenced rhythmic
patterns on recent works like _Signals_ and _Grace Under Pressure_, the
Canadian trio has gone way beyond the standard hard rock boundaries.

    Yet, although Rush have garnered a reputation for playing "thinking
man's heavy metal", their audiences still comprise a strong contingent from
the hardcore denim and leather brigade. "I guess that's because we've grown
up in the school of a power trio," recons Geddy Lee. "Even though we do
things that are different and experimental, there's still an essence of
that in our music. Our songs may have changed, but there's still a lot of
power to them."

    Away from the scene, the three band members tend to maintain extremely
low profiles and little is known of their private lives. "We've all gotten
very protective," Geddy admits. "We value our privacy a lot and I think
we've learned to put up a wall between ourselves and other people at times.
There's a way to withdraw yourself from certain situations.

    "As you can imagine, the bigger you get, the less contact you have with
the fans. There's the occasion, and I appreciate it when it happens, that
you do get to talk to some. Playing in big halls, people are obviously kept
back by security. You come in by bus and go straight out to the bus. So
there's not much contact at a gig than the faces you see in the front row.
But hardcore fans do find you and get a chance to talk. So I don't think
we're totally detached; we still have some street contact."

    Rush's reluctance to live the stereotype rock 'n' rock lifestyle has
led many to assume that they are rather conceited individuals. Quite
simply, though, they just take their music and personal lives very
seriously. Contrary to certain beliefs, the definitely aren't egotists and
have neve allowed success to go to their heads.

    "I think we got over that really early on in our career," Geddy
concludes. "On the first couple of tours that we did, there was a danger of
us getting like that. But we realized that making it wasn't going to be
easy and that brought us down to earth. We didn't have a big smash hit
really quickly. It was a slow build-up and we've had to work real hard to
get where we are today."

    This book pays tribute to three musicians -- Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson
and Neil Peart -- who have not only achieved, but have also maintained,
success under pressure.

-- Geddy Lee --

    Geddy Lee once declared that if he had a nickel for every insult about
his voice, he would probably be a millionaire! His high-pitched vocal
chords have certainly come under a good deal of fire over the years, but
when one considers Rush's popularity there must be an awful lot of folks
who favor his unique style of singing. Yet, it's not just with his voice
that Geddy has made a name for himself. His tremendous all-round
capabilities, both as a musician and a songwriter, have led him to be held
in high esteem throughout the rock world.

    Originally hailing from the Toronto suburb of Willowdale, Geddy began
his musical career as a rhythm guitarist and was forced to switch to four
strings when the bassist in one of his early bands quit. After joining Rush
in the fall of 1968, he subsequently developed into an extremely versatile
bass player. Shortly beforer the trio recorded _A Farewell To Kings_ in
1977, Geddy took up keyboards in order to boost the group's stage and
studio sounds.

    "When I first started playing keyboards, I just wanted to use the
occasional string line," he explains. "But then I felt they were giving us
somewhere interesting to go to; helping us to mold our sound into something
different than it was before. It's proved to be a real bonus. It's been one
hell of a challenge for me and, to tell you the truth, I do get very
excited about using keyboards."

    Initially limiting himself to a Mini-Moog and one set of Mood Taurus
pedals, Geddy has gradually built up a more extensive collection of
equipment that now includes an Oberheim OBXA with a DSX Digital Sequencer,
two Moog Taurus pedals, a Roland JP 8 Synth and Roland 808 Compu-Rhythm,
and a Mini-Moog with a Yamaha E1010 Delay.

    However, he finds it hard to consider himself a proficient player and
maintains: "I'm still very much in the dabbling stage. Put me beside any
real keyboard player and it's a joking matter. And I don't really pretend
that I can play. I can write solo lines and melodies, and play basic chord
patterns, which is really all I need. But I certainly don't have any
illusions about being a Keith Emerson or anything like that."

    While Geddy continues to play bass (generally a Steinberger L2 on stage
and either a Fender Jazz or a Rickenbacker in the studio), he finds that he
tends to handle most of his songwriting on keyboards -- a fact evidenced by
the nature of the band's recent works. "Even before I played keyboards, I
still wrote more on guitar than bass," he claims, "simply because, even
though the bass is a good instrument to write riffs on, it's very hard when
you're trying to get melodies across. So I'd say that keyboards kind of
took the place of my writing on the guitar. I feel more comfortable with
them and it gives me a different point of view, because looking at 88 keys
and the way the notes are laid out in front of you is a lot different to
picking up a guitar. Being able to play a little bit of keyboards, bass and
guitar gives me a whole range to choose from."

    Rush obviously consumes a good deal of Geddy's time, but in recent
years he has also managed to work on a couple of outside projects. At the
beginning of 1982, he made a guest vocal appearance on the comedy single
"Take Off", from the Mercury album _The Great White North_ by Bob and Doug
McKenzie (alias "Second City TV"'s Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis.) The
record actually made the US Top 10, a fact which took a lot of people,
including Geddy himself, quite by surprise.

    "I went to school with Rick Moranis," he reveals, "and basically grew
up with him. When they were doing the album, they called me up and asked me
if I'd sing on one of the tracks. So I went down and it took me all of half
an hour to do. It was fun; strictly a fun thing to do with some pals.
Nobody had any idea it would get as big as it did."

    In 1983, Geddy helped out the young Canadian band Boys Brigade by
producing their debut album and he did a commendable job. One wonders,
though, whether he has the desire to make an Lp of his own.

    "Well, I wrote a whole bunch of solo stuff, but that eventually became
a part of _Signals_," he laughs. "I would like to work with other people at
some point. I have some good friends who are excellent musicians and I'd
definitely like to work on a project with them one day. But I don't really
view the idea of a solo album as being a showcase for my 'great talents'
that are held back in Rush. If I ever do my own record, it would be along
the lines of what I just mentioned -- working with close friends. I can see
it coming, but my time gets eaten away so quickly that I can't say when
it'll be."

    At this juncture, Geddy clearly still views Rush as the best vehicle
for his musical output, but, naturally, there will be a time when the group
decides to call it a day. Asked why he feels Rush has stayed together for
so long, Geddy reasons: "We like each other and still enjoy playing
together. Every time we start working on a new album, it's always real
creative and exciting. We don't fight a lot; sure we fight, but that's only
in real tense situations, whether it be in the studio or because of being
out on the road too long -- or if you beat someone at tennis real bad!"

    Tennis and other sports, particularly baseball, are among Geddy's main
non-musical interests. In fact, he has even expressed interest in running a
minor league baseball team. He has been married for a number of years and,
when the band isn't on tour or in the studios, he lives outside Toronto.

-- Alex Lifeson --

    Born in the mountain fishing port of Fernie, British Columbia, Alex
Lifeson started playing guitar when he was 12, having previously made an
unsuccessful attempt to learn the viola. His first six-string was a Kent
classical acoustic, which his father bought him as a Christmas present, and
a year later he acquired a $59 Japanese electric model.

    Citing his rearly influences as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix
and Jimmy Page, he was basically self-taught as a guitarist. The only
formal training he underwent was during Rush's early days on the Toronto
club circuit.

    "A friend I went to school with taught classical guitar," Alex recalls.
"He was a very good teacher and I studied with him for about a year and a
half. That started around 1971, but then one day he was in a motorcycle
accident and had to go to hospital, so the lessons kind of fell off. Also,
we'd started to play in clubs a lot more, so I wouldn't really have had the
time to keep them up anyway."

    The 1974 debut _Rush_ album marked Alex's first appearance on vinyl and
it displayed his strong affection for Jimmy Page's playing. At that point,
and indeed up until a few years ago, Lifeson generally favored Gibson
guitars. Nowadays though, he tends to prefer using a Fender stratocaster,
both on stage and in the studio. The latter has certainly helped his to
establish a sharp, distince guitar sound and one wonders what actually
precipitated his switch from Gibson.

    "When I got my first Fender, it was just a replacement for my original
Gibson 335, which I'd had since 1968," he explains. "We were doing a show
with Blue Oyster Cult and the rigger who set up the baskets for the PA
system didn't tie down the horns sitting on top of the bass cabinets. What
then happened was that they vibrated themselves off the cabinets and fell
down on top of my double-neck guitar, shearing the pick-ups off and gouging
the body. Then, the speaker fell on my 335.

    "I couldn't care less about the double-neck -- that was easily replaced
-- but the 335 was very special to me. So I took it off the road and got a
Fender to replace it. But I couldn't play with it. The neck, the body and
the balance were totally alien to me.

    "Over the last few years I've started to use it a lot more. I put
humbucking pick-ups in the back position and managed to get a sound that
was closer to the body of a Gibson, but yet still had the bright character
and clarity that Fenders are renowned for. I'd also kept the two front
pick-ups as they were, in order to retain that special Fender sound.
Gradually, I got used to it. I put on a couple of different necks and now
find it very comfortable to play.

    "The ironic thing is, though, that I now find the Gibson's feel a
little strange at times. They seem a little stiffer, although I still enjoy
playing them very much. I was brought up on them and I think my change to
Fenders was basically a technical progression."

    During recent road outings, Alex has only employed a Gibson during a
medley of older material at the end of the show. The rest of his stage gear
comprises: four Marshall combos and a wide range of effects, including two
Yamaha E1010 Analog Delays, a Delta Lab DL5 Harmoniser, a Roland Boss
Chorus, an MXR Distortion Plus, a Cry Baby Wah-Wah... the list goes on.

    As far as his studio equipment is concerned, he maintains: "My set-up
is almost identical. The only difference is that I might not use the pedal
board and go directly into the amp. Or I might set amps up in different
positions in the studio to try for different sounds."

    Those who have witnessed a Rush concert in recent years will probably
have observed that Alex is a lot less mobile on stage than he was in the
past and that he rarely indulges in bouts of 'guitar hero' posing. While
admitting that this may be true, he assesses: "You don't have to be jumping
around the stage like a maniac to put on a good show. If it sounds good and
you play everything well, then that's enough."

    Like the rest of the band, the guitarist's appearance has also changed
dramatically over the past few years. During the 70's, he tended to be seen
in satin kimonos and strides, with a long mane of blond hair hanging down
his back. These days, he sports a very short-cropped hairstyle and often
favors a jacket, shirt and tie as his stage attire.

    "I like having my hair shorter a lot more," he declares, "and you can
only wear satin pants and boots for so long. Nowadays, I just dress
depending on the mood I'm in."

    Alex is adamant that spontaneity is the key factor behind his guitar
playing and, during his career, he has come up with some excellent lead
breaks. He pinpoints the ones on "Limelight" and "Chemistry" as being
amongst his most memorable. The solos on "The Body Electric", "Kid Gloves"
and "Between The Wheels", from the _Grace Under Pressure_ Lp are also
particularly outstanding.

    Other contemporary guitarists whom Alex admires include Paco De Lucia,
Allan Holdsworth, Edward Van Halen, Andy Summers and Rory Gallagher.

    When he's not busy working with Rush, he likes to spend as much time as
possible at home with his wife and sons, and also in planes! Seriously,
Lifeson has quite a penchant for flying and he is, in fact, a licensed
pilot. He has also garnered a strong reputation within the group as a
gourmet cook.

-- Neil Peart --

    Neil Peart took up drumming when he was 13 years old, after his parents
had grown weary of him beating up the furniture with a pair of chopsticks
and gave him a course of professional drum lessons for his birthday. He was
instantly hooked and it wasn't long before he got his first kit, which he
affectionately remembers as a "lovely little three-piece in red sparkle."
Curiously enough, he is still playing a red drum kit, although it is
considerably larger than the one he had as a teenager.

    Surrounded by a huge set of custom prototype Tama drums, a glittering
array of Zildjian cymbals and a mass of other percussive instruments, Neil
has everything he needs to create his highly praised _big sound_, which
serves as the driving force behind Rush's music.

    Originally inspired by the aggressive drumming of the late Keith Moon,
the young Peart later found himself picking up influences from the more
technically oriented rhythmic patterns employed by the likes of Carl Palmer
and Bill Bruford. However, he has long since prefected his own adventurous
style, which evidences a marked flair for the dramatic. The extended solo
spot on the _Exit...Stage Left_ version of "YYZ" is a classic example of
his overall dexterity.

    Growing up near Toronto, Neil played in a series of high school bands
before he decided to move to London during the early 70's, in order to try
and further his musical career. Finding that the streets weren't exactly
paved with gold, he ended up working as a salesman at a shop called The
Great Frog in the tourist epicentre of Carnaby Street. Eventually, somewhat
disillusioned by the British music scene, he returned to Canada, where he
soon hooked up with Geddy and Alex.

    Since becoming a member of Rush in June, 1974, Neil has not only
established himself as one of rock's most skilled drummers, but also as an
extremely prolific lyricist. Much of his inspiration for the latter stems
from his keen interest in literature. He actually picked up his first book
at the age of six and has since devoted much of his spare time to reading.

    After ploughing through countless children's adventure stories, he went
on to develop a passion for fantasy and science fiction works, which
provided him with an element of escapism from the grim reality of everyday
life in suburbia. In fact, this was a theme he later touched upon with the
song "Subdivisions", from the _Signals_ Lp, which he describes as "an
exploration of the background from which all of us (and probably most of
our audience) have sprung."

    Neil's lyrical style has altered a good deal over the years and he
believes that his selection of reading matter has tended to dictate his own
writing approach. On the road, he can often be seen with his head buried in
the pages of books and he has listed his literary _heroes_ as Hemmingway,
Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, Barth and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

    Peart has expressed interest in writing a novel and, a few years ago,
he predicted that he would end up writing by profession and drumming as a
hobby. Whether that will happen remains to be seen. In the meantime, Neil
has been able to display his writing prowess by providing the text for the
band's press releases and tour books.

    Rush fans would doubtless revel in further accounts of the group's
activities and one can only hope that, as some point, Neil may decide to
publish more. Apparently, he actually wrote a complete day-by-day diary on
the _Moving Pictures_ tour, which would definitely be most interesting to

    At the same time, though, the drummer guards his private life
vehemently, something I once discovered on a lightning road trip with Rush.
Since my time with them was strictly limited, due to the fact that they tend
to drive on to the next city immediately after playing a show, I (somewhat
naively) asked if they would mind filling out a 'factsfile' questionnaire,
figuring that it might make for interesting reading. Neil was particularly
loathe to involve himself in such an exercise and actually sent me back a
written note, which read: "Steve, I don't want to be rude or arrogant about
your questionnaire, but these are things I'm not really interested in. I
like to talk about what I _do_, and about what I _think_, but I'm not vain
enough to think my past or my favorite things are of general importance.

    "My musical history with and before Rush is well documented elsewhere
(many times) and doesn't really bear repeating.

    "The point is that I don't really like 'human interest' stories about
music or musicians (especially me). As my privacy is increasingly reduced
and violated, I defend it more determinedly. People know me as a musician,
but like to think they know me as a person. This is an _illusion_, and one
that I have no wish to foster by providing details of my private life. I
hope you can understand this. I have no wish to be unpleasant. And, yes, I
know I could have answered your questions in the time it took me to write

    "Yours truly, Neil Peart."

    Realizing my mistake, I could only admire the man for his honesty.
Indeed, of the three Rush members, Neil appears to be the most reserved
character and one suspects that he does not suffer fools gladly. However,
this hardly detracts from the tremendous respect he deserves as a creative

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


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