Rush Say Canadian Songwriters' Hall Induction Means More Than Rock Hall Snub

By Nick Patch, Canadian Press, March 25, 2010

TORONTO - Another year, another honour for Rush.

The Toronto trio is being inducted into the Canadian songwriters' hall of fame on Sunday, just the latest accolade for the acclaimed prog veterans.

But many fans still linger on the one honour that's eluded the band: an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.

Drummer Neil Peart says the band really doesn't care about the perceived snub.

"No ... you know who it matters to, is the fans," Peart told The Canadian Press over the line from his California home.

"It would matter a lot to our fans for us to have that validation. It doesn't matter to me. I've got the success and respect that we've had, and the opportunity to do exactly what we wanted for 35 years, do we need them to make us feel better? No, not at all.

"Being in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, that's 10 times - 100 times - more (important) than being in some critics' list."

Rush and Montreal multi-hyphenate Robert Charlebois will be the modern-era inductees at this Sunday's gala. They're being honoured for songs written 25-plus years ago, not their most recent output.

Other songs being inducted include Alfred Bryan and Fred Fisher's "Come Josephine in My Flying Machine," Ovila Legare's "Des mitaines pas de pouces," Elizabeth Clarke's "(There's a) Bluebird on Your Windowsill," Germaine Dugas's "Deux enfants du meme age," Michel Pagliaro's "J'entends frapper" and Dolores Claman's "The Hockey Theme."

Charlebois's induction specifically centres on five tunes that he wrote or co-penned: "Fu Man Chu," "Les ailes d'un ange," "Ordinaire," "Demain l'hiver," and "Lindberg."

Charlebois and Rush are joining a select group that also includes Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen.

Notice a trend?

Those artists are known for their unrivalled songwriting skills -they're storytellers whose songs have been covered and re-interpreted thousands of times over.

Rush, meanwhile, has always been known for their virtuosity, for being able to master a sprawling range of styles and for speaking a musical language all their own.

Which makes this award a pretty special honour.

"The distinction of it is the songwriters (part), to be focused on for that, because we have been appreciated as musicians and performers, but not for the craft of the thing," Peart said.

"When you look at the heritage of people who've come before us on that list, of the calibre of Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, just as pure songwriters, the best there are, that praise from our peers ... means a great deal and is a very specific kind of thing."

The band's induction is linked with five specific songs: "Limelight," "Tom Sawyer," "The Spirit of Radio," "Subdivisions" and "Closer to the Heart."

Peart can recall with crystal clarity the circumstances around penning each tune.

"Closer to the Heart" - from 1977's "A Farewell to Kings" - marked the first time Rush strayed outside of Toronto to record, instead venturing to the "wilds of Wales."

"The Spirit of Radio" came soon afterward, on 1980's "Permanent Waves." Peart said the band had internalized some of their favourite punk/new wave artists - Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, the Police - and aimed to be more succinct (by Rush standards, anyway).

"For us, it was very concise - it was barely five minutes," Peart said with a laugh.

"Tom Sawyer," too, he says reflects that period in that it was "relatively direct." That song and "Limelight" were culled from 1981's "Moving Pictures," a massive hit that's been certified four times platinum in Canada and the United States.

Their next album, "Signals," was considerably less successful. For that reason, the inclusion of its leadoff track, "Subdivisions," in the band's hall induction was a particular pleasure for Peart.

During the gala, that song will be performed by Jacob Moon (check YouTube for the singer/songwriter's rooftop take on the tune). Alexisonfire will play "Tom Sawyer" while Les Claypool will take on "The Spirit of Radio."

"I can tell you it's a bitch to play," Claypool said in a telephone interview from Amsterdam.

"Playing it's not nearly as difficult as singing it. I don't think I'll be going into the dolphin spectrum that Geddy (Lee) goes into. I might be bringing it down an octave."

Claypool says he's been a Rush fan since he was 13 or 14 years old. It was then that he went to see the band perform live, his first-ever concert.

"I drank three beers and threw up in the parking lot," he recalled.

"I had a great time."

While their induction has to do with songs that Rush wrote more than a quarter-century ago, Peart is excited about their current output, too.

In fact, he says the band plans to do pre-production on two new songs in the coming weeks, with a tour possibly following.

"We're going to put those (songs) together and if they turn out well, we'll maybe even release them (on their own)," he said. "We're saying, what if we do a little songwriting and then a little touring to play those songs, and then get back to the songwriting again? It would be an interesting way to shake up our usual way.

"There's nothing I can confirm yet ... these things are immensely complicated and so much involved, all I can say is that we're considering that."

And perhaps the band's continued output will finally warrant the notice of the aforementioned rock hall in Cleveland.

Alexisonfire drummer Jordan Hastings says he figures it's inevitable.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it happened within the next couple of years," he said. "I mean, Joan Jett's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I don't know why the hell she's there. I would say Rush definitely deserves to be there more than she does.

"One of these days, I'm sure they'll come around and realize they're not in there and put them in."

Claypool's not so sure.

A longtime fan who got to know the band personally in the early '90s, when his Primus toured with Rush and the bands made a habit of jamming together, he says he's not surprised Rush hasn't been included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"It's such a commercial thing and Rush was never really a huge commercial band," he said. "I never saw Rush, ever, in Rolling Stone magazine until they were in it last year, and I couldn't believe it. And the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is part of that Rolling Stone entity.

"So it doesn't surprise me any. It's a popularity contest. The smartest, most beautiful girl doesn't necessarily win the homecoming contest, either."