Last week Rush drummer Neil Peart passed away from his years-long battle with brain cancer, effectively ending the group as we know it. Many tributes have been written about Neil’s drum prowess, his lyrical imagery, and the effect that he and the band’s catalog had on their youth of the 70s & 80s. This will not be one of them, and I mean that in no disrespect to Neil, Geddy or Alex, nor their family and friends. Not only will others do it better, I realized that his passing did not have the same impact on me as other musicians who have recently died because of one reason: Rush fans.
For my entire life, my experience with Rush was dealing with their obsessive intolerable fans. They kept me outside the party, unable to pass by the garden gate unless I admitted to them this simple statement – Rush is the best band, ever! Any of the (mostly) boys at my school (Who am I kidding? It was all boys.) who were disciples of this Canadian trio would endlessly ramble on about the guitar whiz Alex Lifeson or Geddy Lee, the guy who could play bass and synths at the same time while singing as if it were gospel. And of course, there was only one drummer – no argument, don’t question it – in the entire world living or dead forever and ever amen – Neil Peart.
These dudes were insufferable. There was no room for debate. They held up this credo for life – It’s Rush. Everything else sucks. Disco sucks. Punk sucks. Rap sucks. New Wave sucks. They put up this barrier like they were in charge of guarding their legacy. And for you to join them, you had to disregard all other music. Because, in their eyes, if you were a true fan, no other music existed. That was my experience with Rish fans through school, but didn’t change much in adulthood.
And that’s not how I enjoy music. My favorites change from day to day. So I grew up with an unfair dislike for a group that probably was as nice and congenial as any Canadian you’d ever meet, exactly the opposite of every Rush fanatic I came across. They had a great sense of humor as well, as evidenced by Alex’s RARHOF acceptance speech in 2013. And I got older I gave albums such as Hemispheres and Subdivisions fair listens. But I just could not escape that Rush fan stigma, and it taints my enjoyment of their music. But although that was my experience, it’s my own problem to get over.
I’ve watched live Rush concerts and have witnessed Neil’s drumming with astonishment, how he could sit in the pocket, then quickly change time hitting everything in his kit during one measure, all with a beauty that sounds natural, perfectly in synch with his band. Although his influences on rock and current prog are immeasurable, I doubt we’ll ever see someone do it like Neil did.
As I digress, there was one song during their tenure that always stood out to me. It received considerable MTV airplay as well as on rock radio but did not make the Top 40, even as it possessed a catchy chrous and Neil’s story of a nuclear meltdown during a time of heightened political paranoia (Chernobyl was less than two years away.) Consider this the time I peaked into the party through a side window before I was chased away.