60 Minutes
Alex Lifeson of Rush

By Joe Lalaina, Guitar World, July 2006

The Rush guitarist expounds on the music that made the most impact on his life.

"Sink The Bismark" - Johnny Horton, Greatest Hits, 1990

"I fell in love with music because of this song. It was the first single I bought. I was around 11 years old, which was about a year before I started playing guitar. It's a song about the Bismarck, a German battleship that sunk during World War II. It's a very rousing song. I think I mowed two lawns or something to make enough money to buy it."

"For What It's Worth" - Buffalo Springfield, Buffalo Springfield, 1996

"This was the first rock song that had a big influence on me. I remember hearing it on the radio in my dad's car when I was a kid. Buffalo Springfield were unlike the other bands of the 'San Francisco sound'; they were more country sounding. Stephen Stills and Neil Young trade leads on this one. I like Young's very fast vibrato and edgy, truncated playing style, particularly on his soloing, whereas Stills' sound is sweeter and smoother. This is still one of my all-time favorite songs. In fact. Rush did a version of it on our covers tribute EP, Feedback."

"Shapes Of Things" - Jeff Beck, Truth, Epic, 1968

"This is another song we covered on Feedback. Jeff Beck has a tone like no one else, maybe because he doesn't play with a pick very much. He also has a very strong left hand and can move the strings almost effortlessly. He's still cranking it out today, but he doesn't put out albums as often as I'd like; he works only when he feels like it. Before Truth, Beck was an integral part of the Yardbirds, and their recording of this song is great. But this version, with Rod Stewart's voice on top, adds a whole new element to the song. It sounds tougher, bigger and beefier."

"My Generation" - The Who, The Who Sings My Generation, 1965

"Pete Townshend is one of my greatest influences. More than any other guitarist, he taught me how to play rhythm guitar and demonstrated its importance, particularly in a three-piece band. His chording and strumming always took up the right amount of space. The first time I heard this song was in the basement of Rush's original drummer, John Rutsey. John had two older brothers, both of whom were music fiends, and they always had whatever new album had just come out."

"Are You Experienced?" - Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced, 1967

"This was another record I heard for the first time at Rutsey's place. What attracts me to this song is all the backward stuff. It sounds so alien but so right and perfect. Hendrix was a natural genius who played many beautiful styles. Talent as great as his doesn't come through life very frequently. Hendrix was one in a billion."

"All Along The Watchtower" - Jimi Hendrix, Electric Ladyland, 1968

"This is one of the most beautiful songs and arrangements ever recorded. Hendrix took a Bob Dylan folk song and turned it into a symphony. The acoustic guitar on this song [played by Dave Mason] has such beautiful compression. It doesn't slap you; it caresses you. This song grabs your heart and sails away with it; it sounds unlike anything anyone has ever done. That was the magic of Hendrix: even if you copied what he recorded and tried to play like him, it could never be the same."

"How Many More Times" - Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin, 1969

"Of any guitarist, Jimmy Page was my biggest influence. I wanted to look, think and play like him. Zeppelin had a heavy influence on Rush during our early days. Page's loose style of playing showed an immense confidence. And there are no rules to his playing. I met Page at a Page/Plant concert in Toronto, in 1998. I was acting like a kid, all googly eyed. I was freaking out and my hands were shaking. I was so thrilled to meet him because his work meant so much to me."

"Kashmir" - Led Zeppelin, Physical Grafftti, 1975

"This is an absolutely brilliant song, an all-time classic. "Kashmir" has such a wonderful, exotic Middle Eastern feel to it?it's like no other song of its era?and Physical Graffiti is a mind-blowing album. In a roundabout way, 'Kashmir' influenced 'A Passage to Bangkok' [2112], which has a similar sort of odd-tempo arrangement to the verses."

"I Can't Get No (Satisfaction)" - The Rolling Stones, Hot Rocks, 1964-1971, 1972

"This was the second single I bought. One summer when I was 12, I went to Yugoslavia to visit my relatives. I took one record with me?this one. I played it for my relatives because I wanted my cousins to hear it. The Stones had that bluesy, dirty, bad-boy image, which I much preferred to cleaner-sounding bands like the Beatles or the Searchers. The Stones were more dangerous than other bands of the Sixties. It looked like they had more fun than the Beatles?like they stayed up later."

"Comfortably Numb" - Pink Floyd, The Wall, 1979

"David Gilmour is so well respected, and while he's often overlooked among guitarists. I think people who appreciate rock guitarists regard him as one of the best. He's a brilliant player and has such passion and feel. You can sense he's a smart man: you can hear how he puts it all together and how it fits, which is a real testament to his songwriting. He's such a bluesy player, to boot. My eyes water whenever I hear this song. Pink Floyd have such incredible arrangements; their songs are rich and complex but not particularly complicated. They can take as long as they want to tell you a story, but it's always interesting."

"In The Dead Of Night" - U.K., U.K., 1978

"Allan Holdsworth has an amazing, out-of-this-world liquidity. What a genius! His fingers are constantly moving. Pulls make up the bulk of his playing; I don't think he does much picking. I was listening to Holdsworth around the time of Moving Pictures [1981], and you can indirectly hear his influence on my playing on 'YYZ.'"

"Third Eye" - Tool, Ænema , 1996

"Adam Jones is a fabulous guitarist and songwriter, and Tool is such a powerful band. You know it's Tool when you hear them. because they're intensely dynamic, yet heavy, even when they're playing is light. I listened to this album over and over; I don't do that very often. Tool have an interesting, intelligent approach to song construction and lyrics. It's just too bad we don't hear from them more often."

"Ah Via Musicom" - Eric Johnson, Ah Via Musicom, 1990

"I've never heard anybody with a better tone than Eric Johnson! He played with us on a couple of tours and I'd watch his performance most every night. There's a smoothness to his playing that is so elastic. Eric is very accurate and articulate but soulful at the same time. If anybody could come close to playing like Hendrix, he could."