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The National Midnight Star #1102
Subject: 06/21/95 - The National Midnight Star #1102 *** Special Edition ***
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The National Midnight Star, Number 1102
Wednesday, 21 Jun 1995
Rush, by Brian Harrigan [2/3]
From: Ghost in the Machine <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, 7 Apr 1995 11:47:10 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Rush, by Brian Harrigan [2/3]
He duly turned up to the playback at Phonogram On August 4 at 6.30
pm and we all settled down to listen. Disaster was just round the
corner. One side of the playback equipment broke down and it was a
good 15 minutes before anyone realised that we were hearing a muted,
sort of strangled version of 'A Farewell.' I got verbally murdered by
my boss but Makowski was more than generous and held nothing against
The album was finally released worldwide in September 1977. This was
first time that a Rush album had been released in its own right in the
UK at the same time as in the States. When it came out Rush were
starting yet another American tour - but in Britain Phonogram were
doing their utmost to "break" the album, blitzing the media in every
way they could think of.
Through a combination of the brilliance of the album and the
promotional push 'Farewell' began to sell in hitherto unknown
In the States in November three albums were certified gold on the
same day - '2ll2' 'All The World's A Stage' and 'A Farewell To Kings'.
The speed with which the latter sold is some indication of just how
much Rush had grown in America.
At the end of 1977 it was announced that Rush would be playing a
16-date tour of Britain. The stampede to the box offices was colossal
and every ticket was sold out two months ahead of the first date on
the tour - Birmingham Odeon on February 12,1978.
The British dates were, in fact, along with the American tour which
began in September 1977, part of Rush's "A Farewell to Kings" world
tour. It ended in June 1978 by which time the band had attracted well
over one million concert- goers to their shows.
As I said before, that British tour was one of the most startling,
the most revelatory I'd ever seen. The band's playing was consistently
immaculate, the sound crystal clear and the light show was quite
unlike anything I'd seen before.
The lights were operated by Rush's highly experienced tour manager,
Howard Ungerleider who had been with them before Neil Peart joined.
I first met him a few days before the Rush tour of '78. Ungerleider,
product manager Alan Phillips and myself had dinner at a restaurant
near Marble Arch, mulling over various problems or events which were
likely to arise on the tour. I was there probably just to make up the
numbers since it was Phillips and Ungerleider who had the real
Ungerleider, a heavyweight in size but a true gentleman in character
told us story after story about his tour managing career. One that I
recall is when he was looking after (I believe) Savoy Brown and they
were taking a domestic flight in the States. Ungerleider glanced out
of the window and noticed a pair of trousers flashing by, followed
closely by shirts and other miscellaneous objects. Someone had
forgotten to batten down the cargo door and half the band's gear took
a solo flight.
On all the occasions I met Ungerleider I'd never seen him flustered
no mean achievement considering the amount of gear the band carted
round and the heavy responsibility which rested on Ungerleider's
But then Ungerleider made sure that he had good people around him
too - particularly the magnificently named Lurch who was about seven
feet tall, pretty well-built but the original gentle giant. Lurch's
cross in life was the fact that every time the band toured outside of
the States he knew he'd have to resign himself to beds which were
around a foot too short for him. One of the great pluses about Lurch
was that he had only to walk into a room and any trouble makers around
would do a double take and instantly quieten down.
Throughout that tour it was evident that the band and the road crew
were essentially a happy family - corny and cliched I know, but true.
Unlike many other bands that could be mentioned, Peart, Lee and
Lifeson never seemed to "pull rank" on any members of their crew.
During that tour I came to learn that Rush were unfailingly polite.
Occasionally interviewers from the local press would fail to show up
which usually meant a long wait in a cold room somewhere in the bowels
of a theatre. But I don't recall the band ever complaining.
The nearest any of them came to it was when I set up a couple of
interviews before a show. Neil did both of them then suggested
afterwards in a quiet and reasonable tone of voice that he would
prefer interviews to take place after shows - he needed the time
beforehand to psyche himself up.
They also seemed willing to talk about any subject. In Newcastle I
took Robin Smith from Record Mirror to see the show and do an
interview afterwards. There in the Holiday Inn - which is situated
miles out of town in a place suitably called Wideopen - Robin settled
down to talk to the band. He noticed there were several radio
controlled model cars lying around the room and started asking about
As I left him with the band Neil was merrily nattering on about how
one of Rush's favourite occupations was to race these little cars
around venues during soundchecks.
Rush were due to play two nights at Hammersmith Odeon on this tour
on Sunday and Monday, February 19 and 20. One of the stunts that
Phonogram had planned was to fly an enormous hot air ballon over
Hammersmith with Rush emblazoned all over it. Sadly, the balloon,
piloted by a really nice guy by the name of Mike Glue, wouldn't get
off the ground from its launching site in Battersea Park on the
However, to borrow a phrase, the balloon really did go up the
following day - thanks to NME writer Miles. The band had agreed to do
a series of interviews at their hotel, the Holiday Inn, Marble Arch on
Monday. One of the journalists to turn up was Miles - a highly rated
and highly respected writer by anyone's standards.
I introduced him to Neil Peart and left the two of them in spirited
discussion. One of the topics they strayed on to was Rush's political
philosophy and their fascination with the anti- collectivism of Ayn
A week later the interview appeared in NME. I glanced at it, noting
that it was quite long and then put the magazine down to read at my
leisure. A few minutes later product manager Alan Phillips came into
my office holding the NME and asking in a choked voice "Have you seen
this?" I picked up my copy of the paper and read it through rapidly.
Miles had taken Rush to be little more than a bunch of crypto-fascists
and he was issuing stern warnings against the desirability of such a
band playing in public.
I was aghast. And later when Peart and the rest of the band read it
they joined me in that emotion. Of course, there's no doubt that Miles
wrote it as he saw it and there was no question of a deliberate axe
job but all the same the results looked pretty damning in print.
Eventually the fuss died down. And, while Peart still remembers the
piece and the interview vividly, he tends not to talk about it any
more. In a curious way I think Miles' article helped to establish the
I suppose it's just another case of there being no such thing as bad
publicity - however corny that may sound.
Aside from that piece the papers tended to be very enthusiastic
about Rush and their show. All in all it was fair to say that Rush had
broken through in Britain.
To help establish them even further Phonogram released a low price
three record set consisting of the band's first three albums and
called 'Archives'. It achieved extremely healthy sales.
At the end of their world tour Rush found themselves back home in
Canada where they were honoured with a second Juno Award, this time
for "best group of the year."
After a short break the band came back to Britain and they
hightailed it down to Rockfield studios again to work on their new
album. It was finished off in London at Advision and Trident Studios.
The new album was called 'Hemispheres' and, in hindsight, it seems
reasonable to suppose that Rush felt pressure upon themselves to bring
out both an outstanding and different album. After all, in Canada they
had earned three platinum albums and three gold, while in the States
they were riding on three gold.
'Hemispheres' was released in October 1978, and by the time December
rolled round it had already gone gold in the States.
'Hemispheres' was probably Rush's most ambitious album to date. It
was originally inspired by a book called 'Powers Of Mind' written by
Adam Smith. Neil Peart explained that Smith was a researcher who
studied the occult and various other kinds of philosophies, tried LSD,
transcendental meditation and so on.
Smith devotes one chapter in his book to the division of the brain
into hemispheres - Apollo being the right hand side of the brain and
Dionysius th left.
Side one of 'Hemispheres' is devoted to the further adventures of
Cygnus, the character who was last seen in 'A Fare well To Kings',
plummeting through a Black Hole in his spaceship Rocinante.
Says Peart who, of course, wrote the Iyrics for the album: "The
world he Ieaves is being ruled over by two gods who represent opposing
forces - Apollo and Dionysius. Apollo champions the force of reason
and rationale and Dionysius champions the force of instinct and
intuition. I'm taking the setting back to the dawn of creation when
there was just man not knowing who he is or why he's there.
"Apollo comes along and gives the people a shot at progress and
offers all these benefits and they say 'sure we'd like fires to warm
us in winter'.
"They follow him along and build amazing cities and get involved in
science and build beautiful things just for the sake of it. But
they're bored because they don't have an emotional attachment to the
things that they're making. They lose the knack and the interest in
doing them any more. An ennui falls over everybody and they hang out,
"They go after Dionysius who tells them what he can offer and
obviously the instinctive and artistic side of things that he offers
them - the music and dancing and love. They say 'yeah, that sounds
great after what we've had'.
"Everyone has a wonderful time, they leave the cities and just rave.
But when winter comes along they've lost the skills that would keep
them warm and that whole rational side of them doesn't function the
way it did. So the wolves and cold get to them and at that point they
break into total anarchy and chaos. That's the Armageddon section of
the song because both Apollo and Dionysis are fighting for control."
Eventually the whole problem is solved by the arrival of Cygnus. He
points out the chaos that the struggle between Apollo and Dionysius is
causing. So they appoint him as a god - the bringer of balance.
Essentially it's a classic Rush theme. Peart seems to have a horror
of human stupidity and is forever preaching that the middle ground is
the only way to go.
Thus, in 'Hemispheres' there's also a track called 'The Trees' which
is about what would happen to oaks and maples should they ever act as
stupidly as people do. It can be read as a union- bashing song but I
think that only diminishes what Peart is saying - peaceful
co-existence and live and let live are all.
There are just two other tracks on 'Hemispheres'. 'Circumstances'
deals with disillusion while 'La Villa Strangiato' is an instrumental,
reckoned by the band to be a musical reflection of some of the strange
dreams that Alex Lifeson is prey to. The latter piece is also
subtitled 'An Exercise In Self Indulgence' which rather gives the lie
to those people who imagine that Rush a humourless and over-pretentious
'Hemispheres' proved not to be exactly everyone's cup of tea. Geoff
Barton in Sounds, with commendable honesty, announced that he couldn't
make up his mind whether the album was the greatest or the worst thing
that Rush had done.
And the NME, in a convoluted and verbose review - which lumped in
'Hemispheres' with Art Bears 'Hopes And Fears' and Funkadelic's 'One
Nation Under A Groove' - found the Rush philosophy "frightening."
However, the fans appeared to have no such reticence. 'Hemispheres'
probably more than any other Rush album brought the band in touch with
a much wider audience.
Up till then they were still regarded very much in the symphonic end
of heavy metal mainstream.
'Hemispheres' seemed to make the band an appealing prospect to the
thousands of Yes and Genesis fans throughout the country.
When the album was released in October Rush started on their
'Hemispheres' world tour which was to last until June the following
year and see the band playing a startling total of 113 dates in
Canada, the States, Britain and Europe. In December 1978,
'Hemispheres' went gold in the States and in the same month Rush
played three nights at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto setting an
indoor Canadian attendance record.
In the middle of January Rush played two nights at the prestigious
New York Palladium. It's not a massive venue by north east American
rock and roll standards but to play there is recognized as an
important plateau in a rock band's career.
Their dates there were reviewed by John Rockwell, the influential
rock critic of the New York Times - the first occasion, I believe,
when their existence was acknowledged by this particular august organ.
Rockwell didn't exactly go overboard for Rush but like most of his
predecessors, who went into the band's concerts knowing not a great
deal about them and having no particular enthusiasm for their style of
music, he emerged showing respect for the trio.
He opened his review by commenting that rock critics spend much of
their time "splashing about in the new wave but an occasional dunking
in the old wave probably wouldn't harm them any." He then dismissed
the concepts of old and new waves, commented on the size and the
enthusiasm of the crowd at their Palladium dates and added "even if
Rush feels a bit miffed about the way it's ignored by the supposed
taste-makers of rock, it can take consolation in its audience's
"What Rush does is play tight, energetic progressive rock with a
strong science fiction overlay." Through being a three piece, said
Rockwell, Rush kept its music uncluttered and unfussy unlike so many
other science fantasy bands.
He approved of the complexity of the parts played by Alex and Neil
and added "Mr Lee sings in a spare but unusual way - a brittle
To his own taste Rockwell found Rush a little "busy and empty in the
manner of too many of these souped-up neo-King Crimson outfits.
"But there can be no denying that Rush answers some sort of need,
and answers it with crisp, professional dispatch."
Not exactly a rave review but one which showed respect and a deal of
understanding about what Rush were attempting to do and the numbers of
people who appreciated what Rush were doing. Although the review
doesn't exactly rate alongside the conversion of Saul on the road to
Tarsus it was the kind of press that Rush needed at the time. They
were still being ignored by the radio station people in the States at
time so coverage by well-read and respected journals was essential
alongside, of course, the massive turnouts that they were getting in
concerthalls across North America.
In the February edition of Circus magazine Alex Lifeson found
himself promoted to the status of a first division "heavy metal
axeman" while Rush themselves were described as "Canada's premier
pulverizers". The writer was David Fricke, a long-time chronicler of
Rush's activities in various journals, who had decided that Lifeson,
with the exception of Eddie Van Halen and Ted Nugent, was the most
charismatic and talented heavy metal guitarist North America had
Said Fricke: "Lifeson has developed a working heavy metal style
that, unlike his flagging contemporaries, isn't all power chords and
~The extended instrumental 'La Villa Strangiato' (from 'Hemispheres')
showcases that style with an impressive technical display of not only
his playing but how well he shoulders the responsility of filling
melodic and harmonic holes in a three piece format."
Fricke later quotes Geddy Lee saying (of Alex): 'yeah he's got a lot
of weight on his shoulders but no more than Neil and I. For our music
to work we have to have a rhythm section that's always happening. And
that's what sets us apart from other power trios - we have a lot
happening in the rhythm section, lots of changes, even melodies."
The second week in February saw Sounds magazine in England
announcing a "Rush, Nugent, Aerosmith Blitzkrieg" - which was another
way of saying that they'd got wind of projected British tours planned
by these three acts. Rush, they said, were scheduled to play more than
15 dates in 10 cities in England and Scotland - but dates were to be
confirmed. They added that Rush had been touring America extensively
since the release of 'Hemispheres' in November.
A week later the news was confirmed. The band was set for 18 dates
during April and May of 1979 - three nights at London's Hammersmith
Odeon, two apiece at Newcastle, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool,
Birmingham and Bristol and one-offs at Edinburgh, Coventry and
Southampton. The original plan was for them to do 36 dates, such was
the demand by fans, but the band felt that they couldn't cope with
such a large addition to an already exhausting schedule which they had
After all, apart from Britain the band were also lined up to play
dates in Germany, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium and Finland in a
six week sell-out tour.
Eventually, the number of nights they ended up playing at
Hammersmith Odeon was five - a remarkable achievement for any band.
Incidentally, before they set off for the tour they were awarded yet
another Juno in Canada for being "Best Group Of The Year" and when
they got to London they were presented with a silver disc for sales in
Britain of 'A Farewell To Kings'.
I paid a flying visit to Glasgow on April 25 to see Rush playing the
prestigious Glasgow Apollo. It was very much a Canadian night out in
the massive but run-down Scottish venue with Rush proteges Max Webster
opening the show.
It was the first visit to Europe for The Websters and it was only
natural that they should be accompanying Rush since they all grew up
together. Moreover they shared the same management company.
Max Webster: Kim Mitchell (guitar and vocals), Dave Myles (bass),
Terry Watkinson (keyboards), Gary McCracken (drums) and Pye Dubois
(Iyricist and fifth member of the band, without actually ever
appearing with them on stage), had been in existence since 1973,
having originally been formed by Mitchell and Dubois.
They'd signed with Mercury, the record company who also looked after
Rush, but had suffered in comparison. Mitchell and Dubois had told me
earlier that week that Rush had been very much the favoured sons as
far as Mercury had been concerned while Max Webster had been treated
as second best.
"But Rush themselves turned out to be a real help to us. We toured
with them a couple of times in America," said Mitchell "and they were
terrific. They helped us to play in front of a lot more people than we
might have expected."
By the time The Websters came to the UK in 1979 they had switched to
another record company, Capitol, who were pulling out all the stops to
impress. Perhaps they had a weather eye on Rush, in the hope that
their contract with Phonogram was soon to expire. Whatever, Capitol
did their best for Max Webster and, at the time, I recorded that they
played a fine and imaginative set which, given a degree of justice in
the world, would have gone a long way to establishing them in Britain.
But, at the same time, I also went on record as saying that at the
Apollo - and, as it turned out, everywhere else - the night belonged
They had rarely been in such magnificent form, made all the more
impressive by the fact that all three of the Rush guys had succumbed
to heavy colds within hours of touching down in Britain.
As usual, the light show was magnificent which meant that Rush had
to do their usual outstanding job as far as the musical side of the
evening was concerned.
They not only achieved that, but in actual fact surpassed it.
Despite the fact that they played for more than two hours, despite the
fact that we all stood for the whole of that time, despite the heat,
the over-powering volume, the smoke, the lack of oxygen - despite all
this by the time the band had left the stage for the last time I felt
as though they'd played for about five minutes. I could see people all
round me looking as though they shared that impression. Heads shaken
from side to side as though they'd just come out of a trance, people
sneaking glances at watches and adopting weird expressions of
Rush had incorporated a substantial chunk of 'Hemispheres' into
their set, alongside standards and gems from earlier albums.
The set included 'Anthem', 'By-Tor And The Snow Dog', 'Xanadu', 'The
Trees', 'Cygnus X-1', 'Hemispheres', 'La Villa Strangiato', 'Bangkok',
'Twilight Zone', 'Something For Nothing', the full '2112', 'Working
Man', 'Bastille Day', and 'In The Mood'.
Reviews in the music press varied. Melody Maker and Sounds were
decidedly approving, while Record Mirror were less than enthusiastic,
a publication called Popstar Weekly ended their "review" with the
slogan "Canucks go home" and NME reacted predictably.
One Glenn Gibson declared Rush "riddled with unforgiveable faults"
and concluded that "During any lull in the explosions and whirling
lights the band seemed as though they'd be booed off in a pub. That
was the only time you ever noticed them."
Gibson's critical premise seemed based on the fact that Rush placed
an awful lot of stress on visual effects and, as such, were fair game
for castigation. On the one side declaring the overall effect as
"almost awe-inspiring", Gibson tempered this almost grudging praise
with the suggestion since Rush had enough money to hire the best
people in the world to provide these visual effects, they were
guaranteed to come up with "some worthy aspects to the show."
A confused review, but one indicative of the critical climate at the
time, which tended to be almost unanimous in the view that anyone like
Clash was ideologically pure and therefore their music was wonderful,
whereas as someone like Rush - definitely politically suspect -
automatically had to come out with duff music
If the present reader feels that many critics of the time got their
only exercise from jumping to conclusions he wouldn't be too far off the
If only NMEs Gibson had known Rush had plans to make the eye-
dazzling parts of their show even more supernova. At the time Neil
Peart told me that the intention was for Rush to treat their British
fans to the nearest thing they could manage to their American touring
set-up, given the vastly different sizes of the venues they played
either side of the Atlantic.
One thing the British fans hadn't seen which the North Americans had
was the Rush back-projection show: this was to come later, during the
'Moving Pictures' tour in 1981.
"We put everything hack into our road show" Peart told me because we
know how important it is to keep up the excitement of a live show. The
back projection is just another way of keeping up that excitement,
along with the lights and all that.
"We know there are some parts of our set which aren't quite as
musically active as others so the best thing to do there is to make
sure that attention is centered on stage.
"There's no question of the effects taking anything away from the
music - it's a question of highlighting, or illustrating it."
During the interviews they gave on the British tour Rush revealed
that 'Hemispheres' had taken them much longer to record than any other
album they'd been involved in - two and a half months of recording
alone at Rockfield before they even got down to mixing at Trident.
Alex Lifeson explained one of the reasons was that it had been the
most "arranged" of all their albums which, paradoxically, meant that
since they had a clearer idea of what they wanted to do it took them
longer to achieve exactly that result.
They had planned to spend just on six weeks recording 'Hemispheres'
but, as Peart pointed out, at the same time as they had progressed
through their musical career, they had become more exacting in their
demands upon themselves.
He told one interviewer: "Our standards are very high. Second best
isn't good enough."
In addition. while they were here. the band and their management let
slip a couple of reminders to the media to show that it still wasn't
easy going for Rush in Britain, or most other places for that matter,
as far as mass media acceptance was concerned. The band were very big
among the public of quite a few countries around the world but press
and radio were still taking a cautious view of them.
Co-manager Ray Danniels said, comparing the Max Webster and Rush
situation: The press have gone for Max Webster straight away yet Rush
has been a band they have seemed to want to avoid." He added hastily,
however, "But it doesn't affect the band."
Alex Lifeson, when asked if he'd read the British reviews of
'Hemispheres' said that he'd only read Geoff Barton's in Sounds and
hadn't seen the ones in MM or NME because "They don't like us very
much anyway." Even then he probably hadn't derived too much joy from
Geoff's since the latter had indicated his own personal confusion over
'Hemispheres' feeling it was either a masterpiece or a terrible
To his credit Barton subsequently stated that he stood by what he
said in the 'Hemispheres' review but added he was probably pretty much
alone in his opinion and that that particular album had bust Rush's
potential market wide open, bringing the Yes-type fans alongside the
masses of heavy metal fanatics.
Aside from that the point remains that Rush's coverage in the papers
and their exposure on radio in no way reflected their enormous
popularity. By now, however, I believe even that didn't really bother
the three very much. They had succeeded despite being ignored and were
now in a position to ignore the pundits.
Happily, they never did. From the first day I met them until now
they have always been unfailingly polite towards the rock press and
enormously helpful. And they still maintain their strict rota of doing
interviews in turn.
Anyway, back to the narrative. After the British dates Rush headed
for the Continent where they were due to open a European tour in
Paris, on May 15. Unfortunately the hall burnt down - fortunately
before they'd got there - so that was rescheduled. The band opened in
Belgium and went on through Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and
Norway. That series went on until the middle of June, 1979. Then it
was back to Canada for a break - their first since October of the
previous year and the first for more than 150 concerts.
However, within a month of their getting back home, it was announced
in the music papers that Rush would be coming back to the UK to do a
one-off show at the massive, barn-like Stafford Bingley Hall on
September 21. The reason, according to the papers, was that Rush were
planning to record their next album in the UK - the betting was on
Trident in London as the favoured studio - and that they would take
the opportunity to play a special concert here.
There had been such an overwhelming demand for tickets on the
previous visit that Rush felt they should give the fans who had missed
them a chance to see the band - and the people surrounding Rush
obviously felt highly confident they'd have no trouble filling the
10,000 plus capacity hall.
No trouble? Too right - because within a week of the date being
announced it had been sold out and the promoters, Straight Music,
quickly organised another one for the following night. All in all
20,000 tickets sold without too much trouble at all - if anyone needed
confirmation that Rush were a major act they had only to look at those
However, those shows were still in the future and in the meantime
Rush were taking a well-earned rest before settling down to work on
new material for the upcoming album. This was a deliberate and
conscious change for Rush compared with their previous style of doing
things. In effect this had been a question of touring just about all
the time and taking the long dead hours that every band endures on
tour - travelling, sitting in hotel rooms etc. - to use as writing
For the new album - 'Permanent Waves', as it turned out to be titled-
Rush moved themselves off to a place called Lakewoods Farm in Ontario
where Peart locked himself away in a cottage, adjoining the farm, and
got down to work on the Iyrics. While he was beavering away in
splendid isolation Lifeson was playing about with his guitars and
Geddy was accustoming himself to his ever burgeoning collection of
instruments, mainly electronic.
The first thing that they actually cobbled together was an
instrumental given the intriguing nonsense title of 'Uncle Tounous' -
basically a workout of different ideas and a testing ground for
musical effects. You won't find 'Uncle Tounous' on any album. Instead
it was what one might consider as a prototype, ideas which were
incorporated into, or formed the basis for, a whole collection of
different songs and tunes.
First to be finished were 'Spirit Of Radio', 'Free Will' and
'Jacob's Ladder'. These songs, and others from 'Waves' were to be
dusted off on dates that the band had fixed up for around the same
time as the recording for the album, including the British dates at
The track on the album which took the longest time was 'Natural
Science'. Rush had finished doing the demos for everything on the
album except one track. They had moved from Lakewoods Farrn to Le
Studio in Montreal to begin recording in earnest, but there was still
For a while it looked as though something Neil had been working on,
based on the medieval epic 'Sir Gawain & The Green Knight' might fill
the gap, but it wasn't to be.
"It became too out of place with the album's other material",
explained Neil "so the project was shelved. But this did leave us with
a gaping hole in the LPs plan. So while Alex and Geddy worked on
overdubs I secluded myself to try to write something.
"For two days I stared in frustration at blank sheets of paper but
on the third day something began to take shape, eventually taking the
form of 'Natural Science', the album's concluding track."
The album was mixed at Trident on their British jaunt and it was
eventually released in January, 1980. Two of the album's songs,
'Spirit Of Radio' and 'Free Will' were heard for the first time in the
UK at the Bingley Hall shows and, significantly, the former received a
tumultuous response. Almost on a par, in fact, with the classic
'Farewell To Kings'. The show that I went to - the first - was a
complete and utter triumph for the band. I'm told by others who went
to the second show that that one went equally well.
The band played for about two hours each night, punctuating their
show with their spectacular light show. By the time it was over that
first night the crowd filed out in an almost reverent fashion, as
though they'd been witnesses to a religious experience, more than a
To support the release of 'Permanent Waves' Rush fixed up an
exhausting schedule - as usual - which was set to cover most of North
America from January through until the middle part May. A European
tour was mooted to begin in May.
With the album released in January tickets went on sale for dates
throughout Canada and the United States. On the record front the band
enjoyed spectacular success with 'Permanent Waves' spiralling up the
album charts and eventually making Five in the three majors -
Billboard, Cashhox and Record World.
In Britain it made number three. However, as heartening as those
performances were to the band, its record company and management, they
must have been absolutely stunned by the way the single, 'Spirit Of
Radio', exploded worldwide. For the first time ever Rush had a
genuine, certified worldwide hit single. A few weeks earlier David
Fricke in Circus magazine had recorded this little scenario, which
illustrates all the more starkly how Rush had done previously with
The disc jockey at CHOM-FM, Montreal, is winding up a radio
interview with Geddy Lee, singer and bass guitarist with Rush.
Ploughing desperately through a pile of Rush albums on the floor,
while the last record fades out, he finally looks at Lee with a
nervous smile. 'Let's go out with a hit'."
"A hit?" Lee looks genuinely puzzled. "We don't have any hits."
But a hit they did have with 'Spirit Of Radio' and, of course, with
'Permanent Waves' which indicated that the long hard years of slogging
around were paying off in a major way. On the concert front this kind
of acceptance was being demonstrated in a spectacular fashion
throughout North America with sell- outs being reported within hours
of tickets going on sale and shows being added on all over the place.
The fervour for Rush was very nearly demonstrated in tragic fashion
in Detroit in January. A month previously- December 3 to be exact - 11
fans had been killed in Riverfront Stadium in Cinncinnati when the
crowd rushed the gates at a Who concert.
Rush nearly had their own Cincinnati when tickets for their February
17 show went on sale at the massive Cobo Hall in Detroit on Saturday,
There were between 1,000 and 1,500 kids waiting in line to buy
tickets when the box office was opened at 8.30 a.m. - an hour and a
half earlier than the planned time. The box office manager had opened
early because of the crowd, some of whom - according to local police -
had been waiting all night in near freezing temperatures. With eight
police on duty the crowds rushed the doors, smashed the glass in six
of them and tore another two literally off their hinges.
Another dozen cops were called and restored order with the judicious
use of nightsticks - the lengthier American version of the humble
truncheon. To get people to move back they hit them on the legs with
Through some sort of minor miracle no-one was seriously injured
although several reported being trampled to the ground. Eventually all
20,029 tickets for the gig were sold out.
At about the same time Rush had made it clear in the American press
that they were concerned to a very great extent with the question of
safety of their audiences at concerts.
Rush specified in their contracts that there would be no "festival
seating" - which is an American promoters' euphemism for taking out
the seats and squeezing as many people as possible into a gig without
regard for safety.
Said Geddy Lee: "It's really ignorant It's treating kids like
cattle, which they're not. It's something we've fought for a long time
but nobody listens to you. They need a horrible tragedy like this (The
Who Cincinnati incident) before they'll go 'Oh yeah, maybe you're
"We've complained on a lot of our past shows. Can't we please have
reserved seating all the time, but unfortunately no-one really paid
attention until this incident happened."
Lee concluded 'You never hear of riots in reserved seating. That's
really what it boils down to."
Neil Peart echoed Geddy's feelings. "I'm very happy we have a clause
in our contract that allows for no festival seating. I tried to go for
it during the last tour because over the past few years I have been
watching people go through so much suffering at the front of the stage
people being pulled out of the audience bv their feet and people
just being pushed back and forth. It's terrible to watch."
Despite their reserved seating only contract rider, Rush still
managed to pull in some incredibly vast crowds on their American tour
the biggest they'd ever attracted and proof positive that they were
a massive band.
Just take a look at some of the figures. Down in Wichita they
pulled in 7,300 kids at the Kansas Coliseum. In Los Angeles at the
Inglewood Forum they attracted more than 10,000 who paid a total of
102,000 dollars to see the band. On their West Coast section of their
tour Rush pulled in more than 41,000 fans.
The Cleveland Coliseum saw them before an 18,000 strong audience,
Edmonton had 15,000, Fort Worth in Texas 13,000 and so on.
They played four nights in Chicago, four in New York, two in Seattle
all this went on from January through until May. Perhaps the most
startling area of all was St Louis. They played three nights in the
town the first time any rock band had played a major venue there three
times in a row, and all told 30,000 local inhabitants saw their two
hour plus show.
In one week alone - February 13 to 19 - the band generated more than
half a million dollars worth of ticket sales - 584,095 to be exact -
with those remarkable series of shows in St Louis and Detroit making
more than 200,000 and 250,000 dollars respectively.
The pattern was repeated all across the country. But if the figures
seem spectacular - which they are, to be honest - what's even more
surprising is that later Alex Lifeson was to say that the 'Permanent
Waves' tour was the first one from which Rush actually showed a
That was undoubtedly due to the sheer scale of the Rush touring
operation. They travelled around America with some 600,000 dollars
worth of stage gear, sound equipment and that light show, plus a road
crew in the region of two dozen - all of which was transported in four
big trucks, a couple of buses and a magnificently appointed camper
boasting just about anything the 1980s traveller could desire.
If the sheer statistics of the Permanent Waves' tour are impressive
the turn-about in the attitude of the critics on the other side of the
Atlantic was equally impressive. The band were finally recognized in
most quarters as one of the most impressive outfits stage-wise on the
road. In addition, Neil Peart's Iyrics and the sheer, outstanding
musicianship of all three members were getting the attention and the
praise they had deserved for so long.
The Cleveland show was rated as one of the finest performances ever
seen in the town. "Rush" said the reviewer "lives up to, and also
sets, standards that all touring bands of the Eighties must follow."
In Wichita the local critic raved over their "phenomenal
musicianship" while in Calgary the reviewer felt that Rush had showed
a capacity crowd that "heavy metal was far from dead." As a final
example, down in St Louis it was said that Rush had progressed "into
one of the foremost musical forces and performing ensembles in the
world." The writer added that the band had entered "an elite circle at
the pinnacle of international rock."
Of course it wasn't all rave reviews. The Kansas City man felt that
Rush were predictable, too loud and too reliant on visual and musical
spectacle. The reporter added that the band had "hrought down the
Up in New York State the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle popular
arts editor, Jack Garner, reserved a special mention for Geddy. Having
trashed the band generally he moved on to specifics. "The hardest
thing to take is vocalist hassist Geddy Lee whose voice MUST be an
acquired taste. He sounds like Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant would sound
if someone jumped off the other end of a seesaw."
It's probably fair to say that Rush themselves didn't much care
about the reviews - good or bad. They'd been vindicated by the public
and had no real need to worry about the professional pundits. Also,
from a purely fiscal point of view, according to manager Ray Danniels,
the band had started the tour around 300,000 dollars in debt and after
it, for the first time in their careers they were completely in
Danniels pointed out to a reporter in Toronto that the band could
have made a lot more money, a lot earlier in their careers but it was
their insistence on doing things their own way that had prevented them
from doing so.
He said that the band insisted on playing smaller, less profitable
gigs in areas which had been loyal to them in the past because they
preferred to return that loyalty - at some financial cost to
themselves - than go for the big bucks instantly. Given that - which
to me, as a close observer of the band, seems fair and accurate - the
mind reels back from the astronomical amount of money they could have
made on that historic 'Permanent Waves' jaunt.
After the Los Angeles Forum show on that tour Rush were dragged back
to a reception for the music biz where a reporter recorded them as
holding themselves aloof from the others present. Neil was said to be
continually looking for the exit, Geddy zipped into a remote corner
and Alex popped himself into an alcove where people could see him but
not touch him."
Why? Because they hate events like this. Geddy was quoted as saying,
at this particular event "Who are these people? I don't care if this
is L.A. These people in radio, in the record industry, they never
supported us getting here. The kids did. We were pressured into being
here and smiling. We shouldn't be here."
I've seen them do much the same thing on several occasions in
Britain - willing to take to people who had stuck with them throughout
the leaner times: in fact, not so much willing as positively eager.
But then, maybe an hour into the reception you turn round to see where
they are and they've gone.
It's just that they're keen to avoid being wrapped up in the music
business and if they've got time to spare after a gig they'd sooner
spend it talking to kids and signing autographs than sit around with
record company salesmen who are busily gulping down record company
wine and scoffing record company food.
Says Neil: "We're finding it easier to say no. This can be a pretty
sleazy business and I can understand people getting wrapped up in it
all. But we've learned what we should do."
Perhaps Ray Danniels summed their attitude up best when he said
"They may not go to cocktail parties and like it but they'll do the
longest set in the business for the people who've paid for it."
The fans were repaying Rush in kind on the record sales front by
making 'Permanent Waves' go gold in the States, platinum in Canada and
silver in Britain - all within two months of the album's release.
Furthermore, in April 1980, Sounds and Melody Maker published the
results of their annual readers polls. Rush and each individual member
of the band were placed in the top ten of each applicable category in
both polls - a magnificent achievement when the music papers were
telling us that Johnny Rotten's new band Public Image Limited was the
only group worth listening to.
However, among the music press there were certain specialist heavy
metal writers who enthused mightily about 'Permanent Waves'. Malcolm
Dome in Record Mirror said that while the album didn't quite reach
"the classic heights of 'Hemispheres' nonetheless Lee, Lifeson and
Peart have come up with half a dozen persuasive reasons for breaking
out the champagne and celebrating the new decade".
Dome also recommended the album as an answer to punters who thought
intelligent heavy metal was the figment of a half crazed reviewer's
warped sense of humour. If 'Freewill' and 'Spirit Of Radio' did
nothing for the listener, he added, then he should get back and wallow
in the sounds of boredom from Genesis and The Eagles.
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The contents of The National Midnight Star are solely the opinions and
comments of the individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the
opinions of the authors' management, or the mailing list management.
Copyright (C) 1995 by The Rush Fans Mailing List
Editor, The National Midnight Star
(Rush Fans Mailing List)
End of The National Midnight Star Number 1102
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