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Subject: 12/10/90 - The National Midnight Star #125  ** Special Edition **

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          The National Midnight Star, Number 125

                 Monday, 10 December 1990
Today's Topics:
                SOUNDS Article 1982 (long)
----------------------------------------------------------

Date: Mon, 19 Nov 90 16:52:25 +0100
From: tools!fl@relay.EU.net (Frank Lancaster)
Subject: SOUNDS Article 1982 (long)

Taken without permission from SOUNDS, December 18, 1982.

                          ADRENALIN RUSH

         Pete Makowski finally delivers the goods on RUSH

"'Signals' is definitely the direction that we've wanted to go in
for a long time. It's something that comes from maturity and having
been through the whole techno side of things. We've played in all
those weird times and made all those big points that we've wanted to
make. Now it seems that there's a bigger concern for communication
and that's what this album is all about." --- Geddy Lee

"'Signals' is a little more accessible and everything's a little
more straightforward and a little more concise. It's been done in
terms that everyone can relate to, you don't have to sit down and
go through everything.
  "We never really were that serious, you do a couple of things that
may seem that way and you're labelled no matter what you do. You're
always labelled as something like, 'Here's Rush, a 'heavy metal
heady' type band!'. I don't know, most of the time you couldn't
give a f***, you have a good time and that's it!" --- Alex Lifeson

"I guess that 'Signals' has more to do with writing about people
and less about ideals. 'Permanent Waves' was probably our first
album that was in touch with reality --- it was about people dealing
with technology instead of people dealing with some futuristic
fantasy world or using symbols for people. Now I'm trying to make
those symbols into real people and real conflicts in real people's
lives. I still want to write about ideals, I'm not interested in
writing about the sewer of life." --- Neil Peart

As you may already have gathered from the verbiage above, the latest
Rush album marks quite a radical change in direction for the group.
  Essentially it's one helluva step away from the conceptual niche
they carved for themselves when they played the bombastic chord
progression that kicked off '2122'. In fact the initial move away
from the Disney/fantasy world, as chief lyricist Neil Peart pointed
out, came with 'Permanent Waves'.

Prior to hearing 'Spirit Of The Radio', this humble scribe must
admit to being one of the media snobs who avoided the group like a
plague; having long ago written them off as some deviant be-robed
pomp alternative to the Ramones. There was no way, no how that I
could even begin to stomach those quirky/epileptical time changes
and those nauseating pseudo sci-fi/knitting pattern fantasy lyrics.
As I saw it, Rush were insulated in some bizarre self-created world,
more often than not literally festooned with smartass anagrams for
monickers and planets with extermely silly names.

In fact as far as I was concerned Rush were doing no more than
filling in a vast cavity left by the sudden demise of bands like
Yes and ELP. They seemed to be catering for people who were hungry
for music to act as a soundtrack to their Tolkien and Moorcock
influenced sensibilities.

It wasn't until recently that I could credit the band with any
originality or, in turn, credability as artists. From the release
of the aforementioned 'Waves' onwards, the group themselves
demonstrated a personal need for change. A new direction, an
injection of soul and feel, a return to the simpler forms of music,
generally a more basic approach.

As guitarist Alex Lifeson pointed out, this proved to be a hard
task, equal to if not more arduous than any of their other normally
more highbrow and complex musical exercises:

"You can take five different key signatures and go through them all
in one song --- big deal! So we had to spend a lot of time working
it out and doing it. We tried putting something together in 4/4 time
for four minutes that had all the elements of something we once
would have done in ten minutes. It's a little different... it's a
little tougher."

Rush seem very eager to take risks and the interviews and shows
witnessed in the US, on a tour still in its formative/teething
period, left moi with no doubts that here is a triumvirate of true
musicians in the innovative sense of the word.

In no way are they the dull/tedious technocrats I had them marked
down as, they are in fact one of the few of a dying breed of artists
whose efforts actually point to a brighter/hopeful future. Yes,
they _are_ creative.

And what's more they still appreciate their audience as much as
_they_ are appreciated. Neil Peart accurately summed up the
situation: "The only way you can be objective about yourself is to
try and put yourself into a fan's perspective, which for us is easy
because our whole appeal grew up as being fans of other people."

But enough of this! Let's get on with our regularly scheduled
feature and visit Denver, Colorado, where Rush are experiencing a
certain amount of difficulty...

As with many of the horrendous events that occur in one's life,
Denver was one of those situations that should have been immediately
erased from the memory banks. But unfortunately it happened and
therefore has to be documented. Although it was obvious from the
moment the plane touched down that this was definitely the place
_not_ to be in.

Only minutes before Rush were due to kick off proceedings in Denver
disaster struck when the synthesisers packed up completely. Anyone
familiar with Rush's set knows that this spells disaster, especially
as they have recently added what seems like a truckload of Moogs
to help them recreate 'Signals'.

The band had a very serious problem on their hands. As the roadcrew
scurried around the stage like amphetamined worker ants doing
overtime, everyone knew deep down that there was only one person
who was really capable of rectifying the damage done to the hyper-
delicate mechanisms --- the inventor, a boffin who unfortunately
lived a few hundred miles away.

The show was already running an hour late and the natives were
beginning to get restless. American audiences are pretty damn rowdy
at the best of times, and this unruly mob was no exception.

You may think because Rush happen to play music which requires the
onlookers' patience, alertness and virtually constant attention
that this would reflect on their followers, but no, like almost
any Yankee crowd all this lot wanted to was 'PARTEEEE!!!'

It's a ritual that requires a vast quantity of drugs and/or alcohol
to send them into a stupor. Some people misjudge their consumption
and are easily distinguished as they look like horizontal heaps of
flesh that seem to be blissfully wallowing in pools of vomit.
Thankfully any oncoming feelings of foreboding doom were quickly
cut short by the announcement informing us that the group were
about to go onstage.

"Thanks for putting up with all this bullshit," shouted a genuinely
concerned Geddy Lee as the band wasted no more time and got right
down to business, kicking off with 'Spirit Of The Radio'.

The audience response was nothing short of ecstatic and almost
drowned out the music. But it would be pointless reviewing this
show as it didn't represent the band's full performance. As the
group admitted themselves, they bluffed their way through it.
But I must add that, considering the unnerving circumstances and the
sheer hell the group must have been going through, the whole thing
came off remarkably well.

Geddy and the rest of the band were visibly stunned by the punters'
response and they let the proceedings run into overtime, meaning
they would have to pay vast sums of money to the local union. But
this marked their show of respect for the fans.

It was hardly surprising that the atomsphere afterwards was, uh,
hardly congenial. The dressing room felt more like a hospital
waiting room, the inhabitants resembling friends and relatives
of a patient, who had just sprung his mortal coil. Geddy Lee
apologised, but at the same time made it clear that he was in no
mood for an interview. So although it was originally intended for
us to see only the one show, there was no hesitation from either
party when the opportunity arose allowing us to stick around until
the next big date.

Maybe we should included a subheading here: 'How Ross Halfin
Survived In A Dry (that's alcohol free to you, squire) State' or
'The Revenge Of The Osmonds'.

Yes folks! Our next port of call turned out to be none other than
Salt Lake City, which is (in)famous for being the home turf of the
most obnoxious molars this side of Jaws --- the Osmonds.

As you might expect, Salt Lake city is also one big, flat and
illuminated contradiction: hypocrisy in action. Although the liquor
laws are tight and make prohibition look like a proverbial piss up,
these out of date restrictions are responsible for a high alcohol
rate in the city. This den of inquity also happens to harbour some
of the most sexually repressed women stalking the US, who go wild in
demonic proportions when a band arrives in town.

Rush have sold out Salt Lake. Ticket sales so far have indicated
that the group could have played two, possibly three nights in the
town. It's no big secret that the band's massive growth in
popularity has put them in the rare old status of being stadium
fillers, although Rush themselves adamantly refuse to play any
venue with such a vast capacity. They also have a policy of
'No Festivals'.

As Alex Lifeson says: "We've been offered a ridiculous amount of
money to play festivals, but to be quite honest I'd rather stay at
home in summer and go swimming with my kids, then sacrifice two
months in the winter and play smaller places. The whole band feels
that way."

In lot of respects, Rush are the product of an era long gone...

Groups nowadays are generally victims of the corporate way of life.
A so-called recession (I emphasise 'so-called' because I firmly
believe that, like pollution, this ridiculous state of affairs
could be avoided to quite a healthy degree if only people would
bother to sit down and reassess the situation) prevails and demands
instant results, which in turn prevents any worthwhile talent
getting the time to develop.

There's no space for long term investments. To stay afloat nowadays
most groups have to compromise themselves to a ridiculous extent in
order to get fast sales, immediate response and the necessary
success that allows them to stay in the game.

Rush hail from a time when a group's importance lay in their
album-selling potential and bands were given quite a few chances
before any harsh judgements were passed regarding their future.

A productive and rewarding period, fortunately for them, because as
Geddy so astutely points out: "If Rush just appeared now, we
wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting a deal. And you
know what's worst about the situation nowadays? There are some
albums that have been recorded that will never see the light of day
because, after all the effort, the company decides that the product
has no commercial potential. That really scares me."

Although Rush go out of their way to maintain a very democratic
front, there is no doubt that Geddy Lee is the unofficial
frontperson.

His head is one third hair, a third nose, a third dominated by a set
of double glazing-type bins that would make Ted Moult cringe with
envy.

A self-confessed baseball addict (whose main regret in life at the
moment is that he spurned sport in favour of rock and roll during
school days), Geddy has a Sahara dry wit that occasionally reminds
me of a more laidback version of Robin Williams.

Like the rest of the group, Geddy is extremely proud of 'Signals'
and is aware of its significance as a musical transition for the
group. I must admit though that he wasn't particulary impressed when
I told him that the American radio people had been describing the
album as the one 'featuring Geddy Lee without the helium!'.

"If I had a nickel for every insult about my voice, I'd probably be
a millionare... I've had some amazing comparisons, some of the most
stupid comments."

Although Geddy is lead vocalist, Neil Peart has almost always been
solely responsible for the lyrics. I asked Geddy how he felt about
singing somebody else's words.

"Well, it's not as strange as you may think. I mean, I wouldn't sing
anything I didn't have any empathy with. A lot of what goes down in
the writing process with us has a lot of discussion with it. There
isn't anything, whether it's musical or lyrical, that any of us
would play unless we thought it was good and had some empathy with
what the point was.

"There's a lot of crossovers in the word chores, that's something
a lot of people don't realise. Like, with 'Signals', we've _all_
really worked hard on this record and we've tried something real
different. Y'know, it's one thing when you sit down and make a
record and another thing when you say 'OK, let's not do the same
thing again and again, let's try and do something different. We're
sort of wading in water a little bit, because we're in a new area."

'Signals' represents quite a change of pace for the band...

Geddy: "I think one of the things that contributed to the way
'Signals' turned out was the fact that we took of about two
months in the winter time, stayed in our little rooms, and did
our own work. There was a lot of writing, a general gathering of
ideas, and when we finally got together we had so much stuff it was
ridiculous."

Some of the material was written while you were getting the live
album together, wasn't it?

Geddy: "Yeah, we did 'Subdivisions' and 'Digital Man'. Doing a live
album is a real boring experience. Live albums are sort of
historical, they're painful to do because there's nothing really
creative about them. You play the gigs, you record the gigs, and
invariably wherever you're recording you stiffen up and it's not the
same.

"I really don't think that live albums, at least for us, have ever
represented our concerts accurately --- there's something loose when
there's no pressure of recording and you're just playing for the
people..."

Recently you've introduced your brand of reggae which initially
appeared on 'Spirit Of The Radio' and now crops up more boldly on
'New World Man'.

Geddy: "Well I know that we are the white man and can't play reggae,
it's just something that comes naturally to black people, especially
people that are brought up with that kind of music, maybe that's
why it's such a fascination for us.

"Reggae is pure feel, it's nothing real technical. You don't have
to play well to be able to play it. I think our whole direction
has moved towards feel, I notice that was something that was missing
on our earlier records. A lot of our earlier records sounded forced.
We put all our energies into developing feel and I guess reggae is
one way that it's coming out. It's a real kind of uplifting feeling
with our frame of mind right now, it just seems to be a good
avenue."

How do you mean 'frame of mind'?

Geddy: "I guess it's our desire to bring some fresh air into the
band. It's very easy to fall into the trap of producing yourself to
death and planning every minute of your life."

You had an opportunity to cash in on your past successes, just by
producing/regurgitating deviations of the same theme...

Geddy: "That's what we were in great danger of doing. It would have
been the easiest thing in the world to go into the studio and do
'Moving Pictures' all over again, it's too easy to do that. You
have to do different things. On this album we wanted to have a lot
of variety and I think we've achieved that because just about every
song is different."

What do you credit as being a key factor in the success of Rush?

Geddy: "I think it's a combination of things, hard work is the first
thing. The desire is to retain a certain quality, not to try and
cheat anybody --- I think that sort of attitude comes through in
our music.

"It's very hard for me to analyse, because there was no real
masterplan, I like to think that we try to maintain a realistic,
well-balanced outlook in this business. We've avoided burning out
so far, because there's been too many bad, sad examples around us
--- people who've become junkies, lost contact with reality.

"There are bands like Kiss, Aerosmith and all, bands who were
getting real big and leading a rock and roll lifestyle. Some of
them go up, some of them go down. Some of them lose their minds
and turn into junkies. It's scary watching that. I think the three
of us have a desire to keep it alive and keep it working and we try
and avoid these things where we all become complacent.

"I think, complacency is the biggest fear we all have --- making
albums we didn't care about or playing a show with a 'who gives a
f***' attitude, that's when you've got to say it's time to stop."

And stopping is something that Rush needn't even give a passing
thought to, with such a fresh attitude.

At the moment I get the feeling that the band are on the verge of
producing an album that will be totally different to anything
they've done before and will probably totally oppose the highly
predetermined approach of '2112'. If this happens it will be
interesting to note the fans' reaction: will they evolve or escape?
Only time can answer that one.

A final comment from Geddy: "At the moment we're touring at a pace
that keeps it fun. We have a lot of fun touring and we want to work
out a balance. That's why England is such a big question mark at
the moment as far as when we're gonna play there next. We've just
started talking about it. It's just that we constantly seem to be
running out of time."

As you can see, the prospect of a Rush British tour hangs very much
very much in the balance as far as the near future is concerned.
In the meantime you can whet your appetite with some --- ahem ---
graphic descriptions of the Salt Lake show, gleaned from my little
red notebook.

With the synthesisers back in full working order (they flew in the
creator from LA --- problem solved) the band were eager to make up
for the shambolic affair that still haunted them from the Denver
show. And they did so with a vengenance, as Salt Lake shuddered
and shook to a stunning show.

The gig featured every song from 'Signals' with the exception of the
haunting, almost balladesque 'Losing It' which the band refuse to
play until it features the same cast as on the album, which would
mean the addition of Ben Mink, violinist with Canadian outfit FM.

The show opens with rousing rendition of 'Spirit Of The Radio' and
already it's apparent that this is going to be a multi-visual treat.
Stunning lights blaze from an awesome rig magnificently operated for
maximum effect by creator/designer/operator, the multi-talented
Howard Ungerleider, with some dazzling effects to highlight segments
involving audience participation.

Next there's 'Tom Sawyer' and now our visual/aural senses go into
overload with the introduction of an animated backdrop depicting
the 'Moving Pictures' cover.

By the time we get to 'Free Will' it becomes apparent that the
entire audience knows the lyrics down pat, displaying an almost
photographic memory during the introductory singalong. It's obvious
that over the years Rush have learnt the art of producing the
perfectly balanced set.

Now for some new songs as we make way for 'Subdivisions', driven
by that addictive/pulsating drumbeat and highlighted by another
entertaining piece of back projection.

The crowd keeps going through bouts of ecstatic adulation as my
head peers over and past a sound desk which bristles with modern
electronic technology, reminiscient of the gear that surrounds a
pilot in a Jumbo.

While Geddy expounds on some Peart-like theorising, Lifeson dances
around looking like some kind of demented schoolboy who should have
had the lead role in the final act of The Omen --- it's that college
boy haircut and those cherubic but equally brattish looks.

'YYZ' is what you find emblazoned on your aircraft ticket tag when
entering Toronto. It's also the title of what Geddy Lee fondly
describes as a 'highly patriotic Canadian tune'. It can be revealed
that the percussive intro is in fact an accurate lift of the
sequence of signals heard by a pilot as air traffic control gives
him permission to land in Toronto.

At this point my note book tells me that there are a lot of the
previously-talked-about ethnic rivvums creeping into the sound.

Next up is 'Closer To The Heart', to these ears a fairly anonymous
tune although I can see its commercial appeal. Mind you, it's still
Light Years away in class from obvious sell outs like Asia, and I
must agree with Ged's conclusion of their sound and approach which
he summed up perfectly as being: "too contrived --- every hair is in
place and the audience take to it like candy for a baby".

'Chemistry', 'Analog Kid' and 'The Trees' follow, and then the venue
suddenly erupts into a sea of joy as the '2112' Starman appears on
the backdrop.

A medley from the epic follows, showing that the band haven't
completely abandoned the style of their 'Barton era'.

The excitement that surges throught the place like a bolt of
electricity says bullshit to the recession, these people are as
excited and eager to hear some rock and roll as any Woodstock
generation and they have a few more braincells to utilise.

Time to get the fans involved as Geddy turns the vastly intricate
'Weapon' into a clapalong accompanied by a crazed rap that makes him
the Jerry Lee/Little Richard of the synthesisers while Lifeson is
walking on the moon.

"You have nothing to fear but fear itself" --- the trim tight asses
in front of me go up and down in agreement, like a methedrine yo-yo.

Mind you, it was nice to hear a little humour injected into the
proceedings as the 'Temples Of Syrinx' line became "We are the
plumbers who've come to fix your sink".

The show ends with some traditional baseball chant blaring out of
the speakers. It was a sterling performance, demonstrating Rush's
new, feel/rhythm orientated direction.

A parting quote from Geddy: "We've been in Rush for almost the
whole of our lives now... where do we go from here? I don't know...
I suppose you wouldn't go touring and you wouldn't spend all this
time playing for other people if you really didn't care about making
some point or just generally communicating. That's what music is...
it's a language."

Postscript: And finally, at last, the story of Ross Halfin, the
plate and the message 'Barton You Lose'. Remember the October 16
Sounds front cover? Well, the outrageously belated story behind it
it as follows...

As you may know, Rush have a total phobia of cameras and do not
allow pictures of themselves to be taken anywhere but _onstage_.
Ross Halfin, however, was determined to hustle an _offstage_
session, and this is how he did it...

Halfin being the persistent (and highly ingenious) bastard that he
is, decided to accomplish this feat by telling Geddy the following
pack of lies:

Halfin claimed that Sounds Editor Geoff Barton had bet him the
princely sum of 50 pounds that he would be unable to snap any
offstage pictures of Rush. Consequently Geddy, anxious to see
Barton out of pocket, relaxed the 'no pix' rule for a moment and
posed for around half a dozen photos, holding a plate emblazoned
with the words 'Barton You Lose' (the _bet_, geddit?).

All this for a wager that never really existed. Halfin got his way,
and no money ever exchanged hands. Didn't I say he was an ingenious
bastard?

----------------------------------------------------------

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