Thursday, March 17, 2011
RUSH IN 2012 - THE ARGUMENT
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am a huge fan. They were my first concert (Grace Under Pressure tour in 1985), my first favorite band. But, to be honest, I didn't think that they were a band that should be inducted, and here's why. If I were a voter, I'd have two main criteria in mind: (1) obviously the body of work, even if it is a small body (as is the case with Buddy Holly or Cream) and (2) their influence.
Rush's body of work speaks for itself, it's mind-blowing. I just wasn't sure how influential Rush was! They sort of exist in their own genre, and their influence isn't always so obvious. That was one of the things that turned my head around when I saw the excellent documentary, Beyond The Lighted Stage (which won the Audience Prize at last year's TriBecca Film Festival). I knew that Les Claypool of Primus (one of my favorite bands ever) is a huge fan, but his band is also like Rush - kind of their own genre. But watching all the different musicians talking about Rush's profound influence on them: Trent Reznor, Vinnie Paul of Pantera, Billy Corgan, Tim Commerford of Rage Against The Machine, Zakk Wylde, Danny Carey of Tool, Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters and Kirk Hammett. Then I also thought of other artists, like Kim Thayil of Soundgarden, Vernon Reid of Living Colour, Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, all the guys from King's X, Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam, and I'm probably forgetting lots of other people.
It's not necessarily that people are trying to copy Geddy Lee's bass playing, Neil Peart's drumming or Alex Lifeson's guitar playing (he is one of the most underrated guitarists, in my opinion). Although I'm sure some musicians do try, the smart ones avoid even attempting that (the rest end up as favorites of subscribers to guitar or drum magazines, but without much appeal outside of that). You don't hear many (or any) bands that you'd refer to as "Rush clones." It would be stupid to try do copy them, you just couldn't do it.
I think it's more of an idea of being heavy but also really intelligent. Precise but really passionate. And not being boxed into any one thing. Yes, there are common elements to Rush songs, but they really progressed a lot. They started out as a heavy blues rock band, influenced mainly by Cream, The Who and Zeppelin. By the end of the '70s, they were something very different. In the '80s, they incorporated new wave and even reggae influences (particularly The Police and Talking Heads). In the '90s, Neil Peart even took a break from recording to re-learn how to play the drums. This from the guy who has topped every drummer poll on earth!
Neil of course has been their lyricist since joining the band, and early on, his J.R.R. Tolkien and (especially) Ayn Rand influence insured that rock critics wouldn't really like him. But while he was inspired by Rand, he wasn't a disciple by any means. He simply reacted to her theme of being an individual (which is kind of rock and roll in its own way, and something any rock and roller should respect). That's a theme that's always been inherent in Rush and their music. They do what they do, they are what they are, they never change to fit in, and they do things their own way. Oh yeah, and they have an embarrassment of classic songs and albums (I'll cite everything they released between their 1974 self-titled debut and 1984's Grace Under Pressure in the "classic" category. They've done a lot of great work since then, of course: 2007's "Far Cry" and 2002's "One Little Victory" are two of my favorite Rush songs.
Much of what determines the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is how well a band has fit into Rolling Stone magazine. I'm not hating on them: I've been a subscriber for probably more than 20 years! And I think that a lot of their inductees are great choices: the first five or so years of induction, they're hard to argue with. I am not someone who thinks that the Hall of Fame should resemble the playlist of a classic rock station. But get over yourselves, voters: Rush deserve to be in, period!