If rock 'n' roll success is measured by media hype, flashy imagery and Grammy-night gossip, chalk Rush up as a big loser. But if 19 gold and platinum albums, a worldwide legion of passionate fans and most importantly, an unwavering commitment of integrity and musicianship count for anything, this Canadian trio should own the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.
With to decades of rigorous, incessant touring and recording under their belts, the members of Rush (drummer-lyricist Neil Peart, bassist-vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson) certainly have paid their dues. They have earned the respect and devotion of millions of hard-rock disciples while overlooking the neglect or scorn of many critics.
A crush is expected at Prime Seats locations today when tickets for the band's April 18 show at Memorial Auditorium go on sale.
Unlike longtime peers Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones, Rush has managed to thrive without the benefit of a constant media spotlight. In other words, despite the No. 2 debut of the band's 19th album, "Counterparts" on Billboards's Top 200 in October, don't look for it on the cover of Rolling Stone any time soon. It's a paradox that may bewilder fans, but brings little distress to the band itself.
"There's some kind of leap that the trendy side of the media has trouble making with us, and I don't know what it is," Peart said during a recent phone interview. "It makes me kind of snicker, because it's silly.
"I don't understand why we don't fit in that category. Here we are, serious musicians with high musical values, working for 20 years, and we are certainly at the peak of our form right now...They need to have the next big thing, and they need Nirvana on the cover three times a year, and that's fine."
David Fricke, Rolling Stone's music editor and a self-described Rush fan, was asked to explain this situation. He shared his view that most media coverage is based not on what an artist deserves, but on what plays on the page.
"The thing is, Rush has never really gone out of their way (for coverage) and they're not flashy guys. They're not from the Axl Rose school of getting attention. And to be quite honest, that's what newspaper editors and writers are attracted to.
"I think that it's very difficult for editors and other writers to be excited about it when Eddie Vedder's out there. That's about journalism and readers, and, frankly, selling magazines. I don't mean to sound cold about it, but that's just a fact of life."
Peart, considered rock's finest drummer by many (including the voters in Rolling Stones's annual reader' poll), takes it all in stride. "I'd much rather be on the cover of Modern Drummer magazine than on the cover of Rolling Stone, if you know what I mean," he said, laughing.
"We've made certain conscious stylistic choices. With keyboards, for instance...we changed the focus so that all the keyboards on the record are pretty well piano and organ," he said. "The keyboards take on a rawer and more earthy nature, just because a Hammond organ and a piano are that way - they're natural, organic, noisy instruments. They just change the texture of things in a pretty profound way."
Peart said today's hot grunge bands deserve credit in part for demonstrating that the "disgusting, artificial" music of the lat '80s did not indeed spell the death of rock. The emergence of the Seattle sound reassured Rush that "yes, the torch is still alive, and these values are still important and valid.
"It's been an important time for us, the early '90s and right up to now, that suddenly we are part of a rock scene, and not some kind of lonely outpost," he said.
Thematically, the album explores the most recent of Peart's intellectual excursions, reflecting several years' interest in the finer points of duality and relationships - hence the title.
"The idea of 'Counterparts' is a metaphor for the three of us, and it's a metaphor for any kind of relationship. The beautiful thing about the world is that it means things are the same, but different," he said. "That's so often true between genders, or among races and cultures, in that they are the same in so many ways, but there little, special differences that ought to be explored and celebrated. We are not all the same!"