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The Pressure Principle
Issue #67 - May 3rd-16th, 1984
By Geoff Barton
Photographs by Fin Costello
Transcribed by Eric Hansen
Click Any of the Following Images to Enlarge
Rush Guitarist Alex Lifeson Has The Good Grace to Talk to Geoff Barton
I HAVE this new push-button phone on my desk in the scruffy Kerrang! office. It's dark brown, it's got flashing lights, it's sleek and very modern-looking. However, for reasons best known to British Telecom, it doesn't ring like your traditional communication appliance. It doesn't ring; it honks. Yeah, whenever Janice patches a call through to me, the darn thing honks. Loudly.
I've had this phone for a couple of months now, and I'm still not used to it. Every time it honks I find myself automatically turning to look out on to the street to see just why that pesky vehicle below is beeping away so noisily. Every blasted time - I just can't help it. It's nerves. I guess.
I'd have my window bricked up, but I'm not sure it'd do any good. I'd almost certainly start imagining that the horrendous honking was coming from some other source. From stray geese trapped in a filing cabinet, perhaps. Or maybe from a disorientated Tour de France cycle rider parping out his indignation at Jeanie in reception. Or possibly from a video collection or old Roadrunner cartoons...only Kerrang! hasn't got a video recorder, of course.
For the sake of sanity, I suppose things're probably best left as they are.
Only the other day I was caught searching for that mystery automobile by a concerned Rush fan.
"Is it true that the band are in London?" she asked, her voice crackly and faint as if she were phoning from far, far away.
"Uh...I think so."
"What're they doing over here?"
"Are they filming some videos?"
"It's a possibility."
"Will you be interviewing them?"
I suppose it must have been frustrating for the Kerrang! kaller, to dial the number of the world's most knowledgeable rock mag and receive nothing for her efforts other than total vagueness. But I couldn't help it, I genuinely didn't know what Rush were up to...and anyway, I was too busy scanning the roa below, searching for that crazy car and its horn-happy driver...
"I KEEP GETTING Telexes from all over the world that read: 'With reference to Rush's promotional visit to London...'" says Bernadette, Phonogram PR, shaking her head in mock dismay. "I'm growing tired of sending back the same old reply; 'WHAT promotional visit?' There simply isn't one."
Nevertheless, the fact remains that, yes, the Canadian trio have taken up temporary residence in the Capital, and it is indeed for the purpose of shooting several videos to accompany songs from their latest album, 'Grace Under Pressure'.
As is their wont, however, Rush haven't exactly shouted out their arrival from the rooftops. Fans by the thousand weren't brought in to greet 'em cavorting through customs at Heathrow. The band haven't been seen lager-handed at the Marquee, checkin' out the Heavy Metal action. They haven't been photographed downing cocktails at the Embassy.
As one colleague put it: "They're so low-key. They're weird."
Low-key. yes. Weird, no. It's just that Messrs Lifeson, Lee and Peart enjoy their privacy and like to preserve an air of quiet anonymity around themselves. They're not lovably extrovert Twisted Sister types who call up to cry "HI! HOW YA DOIN'?!" every time they set foot in Britain, that's for sure.
Although there's no hard and fast rule that says rock 'n' rollers should be outgoing loudmouths, its nonetheless expected. And all that, I guess, is what irks people so much about Rush...that, as well as their penchant for arranging interviews on soddin' Sundays!
It's ll.30am on the so-called Day Of Rest and, nursing a Saturday night hangover, I emerge Morlock-like from the depths of Marble Arch tube station, blinking and cringing and cowering into the Spring sunshine.
When my Rush interview was finally organised, the firm insistence was that around this time on the week-end was the only possibly convenient slot.
"You'll be talking to Alex," came the message, "although Geddy might pop his head around the door at some stage and join in" (he didn't).
I wasn't particularly Concerned; alter all it's not as if I'm usually asleep on Sunday mornings or anything...
Alex Lifeson opens his hotel door and is so sincere and apologetic you can't help but forgive him. I'm really sorry," he says, "but this is the only time we had, we're so busy, y'know..."
Dressed in a tatty washed-out blue sweatshirt, grey tracksuit bottoms and wearing white toweling sox with no shoes, Alex invites me in and immediately (and considerately) orders a gallon of coffee on room service when I comment on the state of my poor ol' pounding head.
More burly, he seems to have put on a little weight since I last saw him, although the loose-fitting clothes could be deceiving. His lace, however, is definitely chubbier; that short, smart college boy haircut swept back to reveal an altogether fuller fizzog than of yore.
We sit on a leather sofa in the centre of the sparsely-furnished room and the tape begins to roll...
SO YOU'VE come over here to shoot some videos?
"Yeah, for four songs off the latest album; 'Distant Early Warning', 'Afterimage', 'The Body Electric' and 'The Enemy Within'. The last two are being put together by Cucumber, the others by David Mallet and Tim Pope. We're kind of spreading our options, here!"
This sounds like a concerted effort to stamp the Rush identity on to the booming video market...
"We've always done them, I think the first was for 'Xanadu', off 'A Farewell To Kings'. We've maybe done one or two videos for each LP since then...but, no, nothing like this, nothing like getting in several directors to give each video its own individual feel - and appeal.
"Videos have, of course, become increasingly important in the last year or so - especially in America. And in some ways it's a good thing, there're lots of new acts that can't gain experience like they used to on the road with live shows. because it's not like it used to be, ticket prices are so much higher, it's tough for a new band to prove themselves in concert...it makes more sense for a record company to invest in a good video presentation of their latest signing than to slick them out on the road, where anything can - and does - happen."
It seems a shame that your UK fans, deprived of the joys of MTV and suchlike, will probably never have the opportunity to see any of these videos you're filming...
"Well, I remember 'Xanadu' being screened on the Old Grey Whistle Test one time, that sparked a lot of interest..."
Yeah, but if my memory serves me correctly it was only (begrudgingly) shown while the end credits were rolling! British TV really hasn't got a decent rock video outlet.
"That is too bad, that is unfortunate. Perhaps in the near future it'll change: what's happening in America at the moment is unbelievable. Currently, there's serious talk going on about setting up a Canadian MTV network, so perhaps it'll spread over here as well."
Will these videos you're currently shooting be fairly straight forward...or highly ambitious?
"Tending more towards the former, I would say. At most they'll be 50 per cent non-live footage; we don't want people to lose track of the idea that Rush is still primarily a live band...
"I think that's the sort of thing the kids would prefer to see, rather than something like the latest Queen effort for 'I Want To Break Free', you know, the one where they're all dressed in drag. That's bizarre!"
It is indeed. And bearing in mind recent revelations from the Mercury camp ('camp' being the operative word!), it's got a horribly sordid, sleazy edge to it...
"Yeah, I was thinking about that and, Jeez, when you do something of that type you're really getting away from what the whole point of being in the business is about - that you're a member of a band and you're a musician and, really, those are the aspects of your career you should try to project. Once in a while you see something funny or clever and you get a laugh out of it, but to watch a band you like making fools of themselves acting out some stupid scene...I don't know, it goes against the grain somehow."
Do you approve of or do you have misgivings about the current video overdose?
"In some senses I would encourage it because, like I said earlier, it really does provide good opportunities for new bands. Times change, we can see that, Rush is almost into its tenth year of touring and the situation that existed when we started out isn't really around any more. When we were first trying to make a name for ourselves, then the thing to do was to set out on tour as the opening act on a three band showcase and build it up from there.
"But, in America at least. that scenario doesn't really exist any more. It's hard enough for the real name bands to do well on the road; that bottom-of-the-bill breeding ground has, with one or two exceptions, been more or less cut out of the whole picture. And, I don't know, I think secretly the record companies prefer it that way -with frequent rotation on MTV there's direct, immediate response to their product. It's no longer a long-term thing..."
In Britain, strong support tours are still very powerful strategies.
"In America, it's tough. People are being very selective when they choose the band they go to see play live. Knock on wood, Rush seems to have escaped the Worst of this - but I suppose that's became we've always been a touring band, we've always worked hard on the road, and I think people enjoy seeing us play live."
SO TELL me about Yousuf Karsh, the guy who took the portait picture of you lot on the book of the cover of Grace Under Pressure'.
"Well, we were all sitting around in Horseshoe Valley, a place north of Toronto where we were writing new material, and we were discussing what to do about the LP sleeve. I said to Neil, 'Why don't we go for a real nice black and white portrait on the back, we've never really done anything like that before'. Geddy immediately latched on to the idea and said, 'Yeah, why don't we get Karsh?!' Everyone's reaction was positive, but we didn't think we had a chance. We thought, well, we can try, but he didn't strike us as being the kind of photographer likely to do this sort of thing. But he did!"
Is he very expensive to hire?
As expensive as Ross Halfin?
"I doubt it (laughs). I don't know if you've seen any of Karsh's books, but basically he's a photographer of Hollywood actors and Royalty...and just about everyone in between! (Alex pauses to pass me a 'Grace Under Pressure' LP cover he just happens to have close at hand.) Looking at it, you can see that Karsh's pictures are very honest, they're not flattering in any way. Everybody in the band looks...a little older, a little rougher (laughs). But I think that's good. It's definitely not a rock 'n' roll picture, but it's a very true, realistic picture of the three of us."
So you're pleased with the end result? (I must admit, I think it's extremely disappointing.)
"Yes. I think mostly for the honesty that's in there. Plus the inherent power that you get with a black and white photograph. It's quite emotional."
Is commissioning Karsh and acquiring the likes of Mallet and Pope to direct your videos indicative of a new Rush visual attitude?
"No, it's not calculated, it's an unconscious thing, it's just the way things have fallen into place. Like I said, We've done widens since 'A Farewell To Kings'...I knew Neil never particularly really enjoyed doing them, but since we started speaking to the people working on them our creative juices began to flow and we really look forward to doing them now. These new ones will be interesting to look at and they have been interesting to do. But, as usual, they've been made more to please ourselves than anyone else!"
TO CHANGE tack slightly, why has Supertramp knob twiddler Peter Henderson (and, significantly, not Terry Brown) produced the new LP?
"We just felt the need for a change. We'd made, I don't know, something like eleven records with Terry..."
He was almost a fourth member of me band. (In fact, he gets a touching tribute on the inner sleeve to 'GUP': 'Et toujours notre born veille ami - Broon', the words read, somewhat cryptically.)
"Yeah, and being 'almost a fourth member', that was what me problem was. We just thought we were at a point in our relationship where we felt we knew each other too well, there was nothing new happening. It was kind of a difficult thing, to break the news to Terry, but it had to be done.
"So we started hunting around...we started listening to a lot of records, produced by people we liked and admired. We ended up with a long list of potential contenders and started to contact them. After a long, involved series of interviews and discussions, we decided to go with Steve (Simple Minds, U2, Big Country) Lillywhite. He was interested and he committed himself at a certain point to producing us. Everything seemed to be going along just fine...then, at the eleventh hour, just as we'd started to write the new material, his office called and said that he'd changed his mind, that he didn't feel he was right for the project." (At this point Alex lapses into a lengthy silence, as if to infer that, in the final analysis, Lillywhite didn't feel it'd do his New Wave 'credibility' any good to become involved with a bunch of 'hippies' like Rush.)
"So - panic. What'll we do? We decided to go ahead and continue writing and in the meantime contact a few other producers, to see if they were interested. It was tough, but eventually Peter Henderson took up the gauntlet. We met up and, I don't know, he just said all the right things...we talked and felt real comfortable with him. We just clicked."
You're certainly more prominent in a guitar sense on this album...
"Yeah. I think the guitar on 'Signals' took a bit of a back seat. The keyboards were really upfront...though in a sense that's what we were trying to achieve, we wanted to go for a different perspective on the whole sound. But, possibly, we lost direction at times on 'Signals'."
Did you ever feel frustrated, playing this lesser role?
When I first heard 'Grace Under Pressure' my immediate reaction was, this can't be the new Rush album, you can hear the guitar!
"Yeah. I know, I know. The Sound on this LP, I think, is denser and more aggressive than our last couple of records. That's what we needed. The balance of power has shifted once again. Neil's writing some excellent, astonishingly straight-forward lyrics now. I think we've got the essence back togethcr for this new record."
Would you agree wish a comment I made in Sounds a while back - that currently Rush so far outstrip their rivals that, in effect, they have no rivals? That they're 'leaders in a field of one'?
"I must admit, I do find it hard to find a convenient label to harg around our necks. We kind of fit into lots of different categories...because of the different elements within the group and our different sources of stimulation."
But don't you think there's still a lot of work to be done? I'll bet the vast majority of the record buying public still think of you as that noisy trio from Canada with that guy with the stupid squeaky voice...
"I think so, yeah. Since 'Moving Pictures' we've brought in a lot of new fans...but that works both ways. 'Signals' in particular got a mixed reaction from our fans, we had a lot of mail from kids saying, 'It's too bad Rush aren't what they used to be, it's no longer '2112" or "Hemispheres" or whatever, you gays have really changed'.
"But the three of us in the band, we don't really see it that way. Where you work as long on a project as we did on 'Grace Under Pressure'...it's like giving birth. We started on the album in August last year and worked through until the middle of March '84, with very few serious breaks. That took a great deal out of us, both emotionally and physically. It was a very difficult project, the difficulty compounded by the confusion and uncertainty over producers...but, by the same token, at the end of the day, it was enormously enjoyable and satisfying.
"So - 'Grace Under Pressure' was the most important thing in our live for a long period of time. In their haste to condemn us, I'm not sure if people always understand that..."
Hence the album title?
"'Grace Under Pressure'? Yeah, it is pretty apt, isn't it!"
POSTSCRIPT: Alex says it's unfortunate, but the way things are going he doesn't think it's likely that Rush'll be able to gig in the UK again until Spring next year at the earliest.
"That'll be two years since we've played here." he says apologetically, "but I don't think it can be avoided. We haven't toured America for a year, so we're going to go out there from May to July and from September until Christmas, plus we're going to try to fit in our first visit to the Far East somewhere along the way. It's a shame, but that's the way things seem to be shaping up."
Spring 1985? Ah well, maybe it's not quite as far away as you think...
A personal history of RUSH by Dave Dickson
IT WOULD be mind-numbingly single to offer you here at brief history of Rush, one of the world's most successful rock acts; charting their career from the earliest days scratching $10 a night around the Toronto clubs to the mega-platinum status their records enjoy today alongside the sold-out-arena world tours. But I won't. Instead I'll offer you a slice of personal history and throw in some commentary on Rush's dozen album-length saga...
LIKE MOST people on this globe, outside of the privileged few in North America, I'd never heard of Rush prior to 1977 (or was it 1976? I forget. Anyway, back to the story...). So there was me, peaceably minding my own business, contemplating life, my navel and the latest exploits of Conan The Barbarian, when an extremely agitated and excitable Steve Gett jerked me out of my reverie.
"You've got to come and listen to this." he said in the sort of low, ominously fraught tone that you know masks some barely restrained ferment.
Any normal person would have told him to "aff off!", but being yer general all-round sucker for aural punishment I allowed myself to be dragged bodily into a room and pinioned before a pair of speakers.
At the end of '2l12', some 20 minutes later, I collected my scrambled thoughts and enquired, "what is this?"
"Rush," he said, like a proud father whose son has just recited his 27 times table backwards.
"Never 'eard of 'em."
AT THAT tentative and impressionable age I was heavily into Science Fiction (Moorcock's 'Elric' sagas, Lafferty shorts, anything by Delany - the greatest SF writer ever! - and 'Savage Sword Of Conan' comics amongst a hundred or so other Marvel and DC titles) so my next encounter with Rush was something of a watershed.
Open my Sounds my one day, there was a full-page-and-a-bit on that band again: Rush! Penned by no less a person than G. Barton Esq (THE voice of HM in my formative years!), it proclaimed Rush as something like 'Masters of Sword & Sorcery Rock!' Without further dithering I decided that this was finally IT; here was a band writing the kind of music I wanted to hear about the kind of subjects I was most fascinated by. Such chance meetings are not to be sniffed at.
I raided my Post Office savings, collected all my Pennies, nicked a couple of quid off me mum and hot footed it down to my local vinyl emporium where, if memory serves me correctly, someone had even mustered the foresight to put a 'Rush' section amongst the 'R's.
But oh, the pain, the Heartache, the misery: NO '2112'!!! Bastards! The most interesting looking alternative was a lavish Barry Windsor-Smith (all Conan fans take note!)-style gate-fold sleeve in bottle-qreen and gold. . .'Caress Of Steel'.
I took it home, gave it a spin or hundred, and lo - I was a Rush fan, as simple as that!
'Caress Of Steel' began with the raucous 'Bastille Day' which vied with 'Anthem' from 'Fly By Night' (the second Rush album as the band's concert opener for some time. This was followed by the tongue-in-cheek 'I Think I'm Going Bald' and the romantic 'Lakeside Park', each hung on Alex Lifeson's quite exquisite guitar playing and punctuated by Neil Peart's awesome drum work.
The rest of the album was taken up by two 'Sword 'n' Sorcery epics, 'The Necrmancer' (featuring the return of Prince By-Tor) and 'The Fountain Of Lamneth', which engulfed the entire second side and paved the way for '2112'.
With the benefit of hindsight and the depth of Rush's later work these appear horrendously self-gratifying and steeped in their own self-indulgence but, of course, at the time they were intellectual claret to a perched imagination. Rush were the new heroes of the age.
Then they came and toured...
OH MY GOD, the agony and the ecstacy. The long, long wait for June 4, 1977, Rush's first ever London date, and then the glory that was the band in concert.
I think I was supposed to be studying at the time but, of course, that all went out the window. Rush came first.
Stray were the support band and the Hammersmith Odeon was a very different place in those days. People merrily smoked dope in the aisles and no-one minded if you rushed the front of the stage... aah, those were the days.
They were staggering. needless to say, in their silk kimonos and stuff and Geddy Lee with a single mini-Moog playing a 'new song' entitled 'Xanadu' and all of '2112' being Performed, and 'By-Tor And The Snow Dog', and a nine-and-a-half-minute drum solo by 'The Professor'. However, I do recall thinking that the programme, scripted by acknowledged Rush expert extra extraordinaire Geoff Barton, was a piece of pretentious twaddle. Still...
After the gig, I commandeered Steve Gett's copy of '2112' and kept it for about six months. Again, looking back, the title track seems overly indulgent but it contained the spark of real magic, and when Geddy Lee sang 'Discovery' over Lifeson's lilting, initially hesitant, acoustic work it sent an electric thrill of hope and exhilaration through me which lasted until the side climaxed with a doom-drenched voice booming: 'Attention all planets of the Solar Federation... We have assumed control... We have assumed control!' This was more than mere mortals could handle!!!
The story was based on an Ayn Rand novel called 'Anthem" and led to Rush being labeled Fascists by the NME (a paper they now refuse to talk to!). The band naturally, vehemently, denied the charge but the fact remains that Ms Rand herself is politically somewhere slightly to the right of Attila The Hun and the last I heard of her she was lecturing to North American economic seminars proclaiming Reaganomics to be the key to prosperity!! The three have never exactly been espousers of socialist ideals and adopted as their symbol the solitary man oppressed by a Red Star - deep, eh? But, like all storms in that career, Rush weathered this political expose and went on to write their finest album to date, 'A Farewell To Kings'.
I remember dashing out to buy 'AFTK' on the day it was released and tearing home at breakneck speed to play it. . .what at masterpiece it turned out to be!
They recorded at Rockfield Studios in the heart of Wales at the end of their first UK tour, relishing the opportunity to work out of doors (listen for the birds twitterirtg on Side One) with Neil Peart employing a devastating array of percussion to wonderful effect, particularly on the opening 'Xanadu'.
Each number here is an absolute gem, but the track perhaps most worthy of note (and, indeed, an indication of greater things to come) is 'Cygnus X- l', a song Peart later claimed to hate!
PARALLEL WITH his extraordinary percussive skills, Neil Peart brought to Rush a whole new breadth of meaning with his Tolkien/SF inspired lyrics. His is/was a flowery, classically romantic form of lyricism that wasn't particularly clever but sounded very nice: it was a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Peart managed to convince everyone he had an Olympian intellect by the use of some elaborate, pretty words and somebody else's imagery. But, dammit all, it worked!
On 'Cygnus X- l' he tried something quite different and quite alien - economy! Gone was the previous flamboyant verbiage and in its place came a steel-taut delineation. Its effect was electrifying and stunning.
Around this time, convinced that Rush were about to take over the world, I went off in search of everything I'd missed so far. I got hold of copies of their first two albums, 'Rush' and 'Fly By Night', and their first double-live LP, 'All The World's A Stage'.
'Rush' is a pedestrian outing, Workman-like but uninspired. Lifeson shows the occasional Spark of magnificence but the album is largely avoidable (except, of course, to those who have to have everything Rush ever did!), its three best tracks all appearing on the live LP. 'Rush' was recorded independently in 1974 with money raised from the band's constant club gigging and originally released on their own label, Moon Records, in Canadan. John Rutsey, at largely forgettable figure in Rush's long history, drummed, but then who cares?
'Fly By Night', with its imposing cover and Peart doodles, doodles, spoke volumes for the new Rush. They had power. aggression, strength and subtlety. Geddy Lee kind of accepted the fact that he was Geddy Lee and not Robert Plant and Alex Lifeson began doing all manner of strange and exotic things with his guitar. JRR Tolkien supplied much of what was left. . . except for the drums and the aforementioned doodles, which were Peart's.
'All the World's A Stage' only proved a disappointment because I'd seen and experienced Rush live and this album didn't seem to capture the essence of that experience at all.
Rush paid a return visit to the UK in February 1978 to plug 'A Farewell To Kings'. The Tyla Gang (remember them?) played support and the only thing noticeably different was that Neil Peart's drum-kit was even bigger than before!
'CYGNUS X-1' had left off with the Rocinante plummeting headlong into the titular black hole in space and a promise that all would be revealed next time round.
'Next time round' came in the form of 'Hemispheres', the title track being Subtitled 'Cygnus X-1 Book II'. 'Hemispheres', the title track, consumed the entire first side of the album and is by far the biggest load of pretentious and unmitigated s**t the band have ever produced. Neil Peart actually pulled off the greatest coup of his career by out-doing himself in this gaudy and inexcusable exhibition of verbosity. To term the thing 'piffle' would be to praise it too highly.
This practically killed Rush for me. While 'Cygnus' Part I is taut and gripping, 'Cygnus' Part II is flatulent and just plain old mutton dressed up as lamb. It was garbage - and, what's more, I suspect the band knew it too. The epic tales never reappeared (unless you count the now concluded 'Fear tetralogy) and Peart has contented himself with comparatively mundane affairs ever since.
Two things saved 'Hemispheres' (well, actually, they didn't save it cos I sold my copy!). 1) 'La Villa Strangiato', wherein Lifeson got to exercise his fretboard megawonderfulness as never before, and 2) The packaging. Rush have since 'Fly By Night' consistently produced graphically superb artwork to grace their covers and 'Hemispheres' still represents one of their very best.
So appalled was I at the grossness of 'Hemispheres' that I didn't even bother buying 'Permanent Waves', nor did I make any attempt to see them on the accompanying tour. Which was a mistake, because 'Permanent Waves' marked a distinct shift in emphasis for the Band, both musically and lyrically. A NEW new Rush was born.
They wrote a hit single, 'The Spirit of Radoo', and in general the tunes were shorter, snappier and more accessible. For every one old-style fan they lost with this conspicuous directional shift, they gained another five from increased radio play. Lyrically, though, Peart seemed to be struggling to shake off the 'epic' shackles that bound him, Prometheus-like, to the rock of 'other-worldly grandeur'. In that respect 'Permanent Waves is something of a disappointment but, like 'Fly By Night', it represents a vitally important transitional stage.
'Moving Pictures', once again intriguingly packaged, pretty much continued the pattern set by 'Permanent Waves', but I was still being a stubborn bastard and returning to buy product from a band who had so shamefully betrayed me. Ditto tickets to the which had new assumed arena-circuit proportions!
And then - gasp! shock! horror! Rush were on Top Of The Pops! WHAT??!! Jesus wept, what WAS GOING ON?? The song was "Tom Sawyer and, much as I tried to hate it, the thing possessed that glorious little synthesiser hook-line and I could barely restrain myself from taking the bait.
They'd started dabbling with Peart's beloved reggae, too. Very subtlety mind, not so you'd notice immediately, but there it was in 'Vital Signs', which paved the way for the totally brilliant 'New World Man'. Indeed, if 'Permanent Waves' was a pause for thought, then 'Moving Pictures' was a striking out for new ground.
'Exit. . .Stage Left' is the live album culled from the 'Moving Pictures' tour. It contains the previously unreleased 'Broon's Bane' (long-time Rush producer Terry Brown's nickname is Broon!), but otherwise read as for 'All The Worlds A Stage' above.
WHAT BROUGHT me thumping back into the Rush fold was the pure and simple fact that I was GIVEN 'Signals' to review. Such was the all-inspiring, unharnessed excellence of this album that I was sent scurrying off to snap the previous two to discover exactly what they'd been up to while I'd been away.
Of 'Signals', I said enough when I rave reviewed the LP back in Kerrang! 25 and I still think 'Losing It' is one of the finest songs they've ever written.
Rush claim they came down to earth with 'Permanent Waves', that that was their first album 'in touch with reality'. Of course, by that time they were BIG, BIG stars and probably knew as much about reality as you or I know about the lifestyle of a rock superstar; ie not very much at all. (And if you don't believe me go and re-read the Neil Peart interview I conducted back in Kerrang! 44/45!)
But, what the hell, at least they were trying. And with 'Signals' they pretty much succeeded in dipping their toes into the cold pool of the 'real world'.
And now we have 'Grace Under Pressure' (or at least I have Malcolm Doom's copy of it!), which Barton gushed over so shamelessly a few issues ago. And why not? It is, without doubt, Rush's finest and most comprehensive work to date even if Lee occasionally seems to stumble over some of the lyrics.
They even went to the great trouble and enormous expense of employing Hollywood's most famous portrait photographer, Karsh, to take the back cover shot and make them look a set of prize pillocks! But that's what's so great about fame and fortune - you can do that and not have to worry about it!!
Rush have come a long way and I feel the greater enriched for having travelled with them on parts of the journey. I hope you'll forgive this exercise in self-indulgence because, beneath this caustic exterior, I'm still the same excited fan I was back on that fateful day in June 1977. You see, plus ca change plus c'est la meme chose...
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