The Brain Drain

Barry Cain finds Rush acts faster than Anadin

By Barry Cain, Record Mirror, May 5, 1979, transcribed by pwrwindows


The Fanaticism Of A Long Distance HM (Every Concert Carries A Government Health Warning) Freakoid.

Sat down in my seat at a London concert last week. Not Rush but getting there. The guy in the next seat (the obligatory attire. Denim. Blue) turned to me.

"Seen this band before?" he queried, nicely.

"Yes."

"Yeah, great ain't they. Seen Judas Priest, Styx, Ted Nugent, Sabbath etc?"

"Some."

"Yeah, great ain't they. Seen Blue Oyster Cult?"

"Yes."

"Ere," turning to his mate. " 'e's seen Blue Oyster Cult!" He turned back. "I'm going over to see them in New York next March. I've already started saving. It's gonna cost me 400 - but I just know it's gonna be worth it."

His warp factor five face beamed up into my mind as I arrived at the Newcastle Hotel where Rush were hanging out before their second night concert at the City Hall.

Outside there were a dozen fans (the obligatory attire. Denim. Blue) scrutinising everything on wheels for a glimpse of the Canadian coiffure. They had obviously been on tenterhooks for most of the day. School's out. THIS is dole queue rock sonny.

THIS is the punter's paradise. THIS is what mitigates their unconditional surrender to the inevitable grey. THIS is the early pay cheque, the visit to the pictures, the undignified grope.

Rush and their ilk tamper with their dreams. Epic allusions, day excursions to Parnassus (where the nuts come from), huge but diaphanous characters battling for Good, pretty pictures, pretty landscapes, pretty dextrous.

And all couched in an extravagant, electronic enema. Complex and facile. Gross with the occasional delectable nuance.

And when the show is dead, the satiated audience comb their sweat matted hair and head for home. . .

One critic recently condemned the whole operation (and it is nothing less) as being fascist. Crap. By its very nature the HM process is merely a gratification of free sensibilities. There is no attempt to indoctrinate. "Just lean on the sound a little and you'll start to bounce" is the slogan.

Rush are one of the few true purveyors of epicanza heavy metal. Three piece suites are their forte, some may be a little chewy and difficult to digest but in the main their music is a glorious overkill (and if a band playing HM ain't into overkill there maybe still a few vacancies in the James Last Orchestra, Hurry).

It's a two hour maim. Alex Lifeson ("Hey, isn't that Schencker?" asked the air steward peering over my shoulder as I read a Rush review on the 1.40 British Airways Flight from Heathrow to Newcastle) with the glittering Gibson and quartz lined solos, Geddy Lee of the stoned choirboy voice and multifarious moogs (even plays bass too) and Neil Peart.

Trifles

Neil has just ordered a steak, with sherry trifle to follow. "It's really difficult to get trifles on the other side of the Atlantic."

He's Rush's drummer and lyricist and was instrumental in changing the band's direction from bottom of the midden HM a-go-go band to top flight spectacle when he joined over four years ago.

Neil, with an Edwardian moustache and Georgian barnet, came to London from Canada in the early seventies to seek fame and fortune as a musician. After bumming around a few bands he eventually ended up selling souvenirs in Carnaby Street (where the ruts come from).

His rock star ambitions thwarted he returned to Canada and started work with his father, a farm equipment dealer. He was promoted to parts manager selling the odd tractor track or combine cog and looked assured of a fairly affluent life in the agricultural world.

It was around this time Neil was approached by Alex and Geddy on the lookout for a drummer after the departure of original percussionist John Rutsey.

There then followed a series of albums which showcased Peart's predilection for the - uh - unusual, the myth, the fantasy, the sci-fi scenario, the magic. Tracks like 'By-Tor And The Snow Dog', 'Necromancer', 'Fountain Of Lamneth', '2112', 'A Farewell To Kings' firmly established the band as Canadian rivals to initially Zeppelin and later Yes.

They toured Britain early last year to a tumultuous reception. Their last two albums - 'A Farewell To Kings' and 'Hemispheres' have now gone silver over here, and now the current tour which was sold out weeks in advance.

"We started the 'Hemispheres' tour last October," said Neil in between bites of the sirloin. "By the time we finish in June at a Dutch festival we will have played 113 dates in Canada, the States and Europe.

"I estimate we've attracted three times as many people as on the last tour. At last we're headlining across the board. It's an ideal situation. Rush is big enough to have the money for the show we want. We have the time to spend as long as we want recording an album. We sell records. Ideal situation."

Their music, and lyrics, have been dismissed as "immature" and "pretentious".

"That's ridiculous. I have matured a great deal during my association with Rush and managed to maintain my integrity. I've come to understand a whole new aspect of life which I've never been able to articulate before."

Hence the "message" accusations of the 'Hemispheres' album?

"Okay, maybe they are messages. I just write about anything that seems important to me. If I have a 'pure' idea to express I'll put it over in grand style to blend in with the structure of the whole thing and to illustrate clearly my point.

"The songs are specifically aimed at people my own age (he's 26) and younger."

And the nebulous assaults on the band's political stance? The word capitalist springs to mind.

"To make it clear once and for all, I believe in personal freedom. As long as I have the choice I don't care. I went through the stage when I was interested in social organisations, as on '2112', now I'm interested in other things.

"Our integrity is not for sale, our art is. It costs us a lot - both financially and personally - to produce and we deserve a just reward.

"Nobody in our whole lives has had the right to tell us what to do. We have to maintain total control in what we do as a band. We make all the decisions. That way, if something goes wrong it's us that gets the blame . . . nobody else."

So, they take the rap when they occasionally overstep themselves. Y'know, dallying with excess as some bands are prone to do.

Challenge

"We have overshot ourselves from time to time. But usually we are equal to the challenge. Everyone has their own area of expectation. It seems to work in a retro-active way. I can look back on the previous albums in a much better light than 'Hemispheres' which is too close to home to be regarded objectively.

"Our standards are very high. Second best just isn't good enough."

He started on the trifle as I started on Rush live. Their light show is about the most impressive I've come across. Often reminded me of that scene in the movie 'South Pacific' when the fat mama sings 'Bali-hai' as the background is washed by rich, transient colours. And then there's the bombs and the . . .

"Projection system."

Projection system? I don't remember any projection system.

"No, unfortunately we couldn't bring that over, But we're working on a modified version that we will be able to ship across next time. See, everything we make on the road goes back into the show.

"We try and come up with things to keep the atmosphere going during the less musically active aspects of the show. Things like projection don't harm the music, or us. They simply add another dimension to the whole thing.

"We are, first and foremost, a hard rock band - and the corner stone of all hard rock is excitement."

It further transpired that Neil would like to write a novel if he ever got the time, although he knew the task was daunting. He reads voraciously, anything from Agatha Christie to Plato, liked the new UK album and lavished praise on a Canadian band called FM, reckoned The Who were the first band he ever really got into, had a girl and a child back home whom he visited every fourth week during their tour, never drank before a gig, smiled when he discussed anything he considered important, was an interesting interviewee.

Then I got this headache.

It thumped through the journey to the hall, squeezed my brains during the first band, Max Webster (strange, worth checking out again, I thought through the pain haze), devoured every constructive criticism I managed to muster during Rush's two hour set, and totally blinded me in the apres gig Rush dressing room.

I can vaguely remember trying to convince Geddy Lee as I crunched a clutch of Anadin that it wasn't their music that strained my brain.

Rush left. They decided to drive through the night to Glasgow. A farewell to kings?

I staggered back to the hotel. Drainbrain. No dreams for me that night. No Apollo. No Dionysus. No Xanadu. No mighty oaks or wimp maples. Just pain.