Each week we bring you the latest musings from our resident rock blogger and this week thoughts turn towards one of his biggest passions – Rush.
I once went out with the only girl in the country who liked Rush.
Actually, that’s a lie. Apparently there are three of them – the others live in Felixstowe and the Outer Hebrides.
Now rock music has its fair share of female fans. At last year’s AC/DC concert at Hampden Park, I’d estimate at least 30 per cent of the crowd were girls.
And despite sexist lyrics guaranteed to give the politically correct brigade a collective heart-attack, I’d expect a sizeable proportion of the crowd who go to Whitesnake concerts this summer will be of the fairer sex.
Much of that will be to do with David Coverdale as much as his music. Throughout the decades, testosterone-fuelled sound has appealed to a sizeable minority of females.
But Rush? They’re not a girlie band in either sight or sound. Let’s face it, Geddy Lee isn’t exactly Robert Plant or the aforementioned Squire of Saltburn.
Rush, however, are cool. And that’s official because the Guardian says so. Or at least it calls them the coolest uncool band on the planet.
I’m sure Neil Peart, Alex Lifeson and Lee will settle for that because for years, even decades, they’ve been cruelly written off as some sort of freakish musical cult.
And what makes it even worse is that their fans are branded weirdos for liking them. Some even say so themselves.
I went along to a premier screening of Rush’s excellent documentary Beyond The Lighted Stage a few months ago and was enjoying it immensely until the moment when one devotee called himself a nerd.
What followed was a confessional sequel in which the audience was asked to believe that Rush were some kind of musical refuge for the bullied, the oddball and the manically depressed.
It made uncomfortable viewing for me and my mate Matt, who’ve always considered ourselves rather cool members of society, listening to Rush more for pleasure than prescription.
And by the way, the female Rush fan I became closely acquainted with during my student days didn’t wear glasses and a brace, thick tights and tartan skirts. In fact, she was slim, gorgeous and stylish which was probably why I got the heave-ho after a few weeks!
Perhaps if I’d looked more like Robert Plant, the relationship might have lasted longer. For all her deep appreciaton of Xanadu and Cygnus X-1, I doubt I’d have got any closer to her heart, had I resembled Geddy, bless him.
But enough of image, demographics and adolescent sociology. I love Rush for their music and so do the millions of fans across the world who have bought their albums in such numbers that only The Beatles and The Rolling Stones have more gold and platinum discs.
Their forthcoming tour of the UK won’t attract too many headlines _unless The Guardian fancy doing a follow-up to the excellent article published in their G2 supplement last month which featured Lee and Lifeson, brandishing their double neck guitars on the front cover _ but there won’t be any more devoted, more passionate audiences from Glastonbury to Knepworth when the Canadian trio hit the stage next month.
Rush have been the barometer of my own musical life. I got into them in the late-70s around the time Hemispheres was released and sixth formers at my school wore big badges with a naked man sitting on a brain on their blazer lapels.
By 1980, having back catalogued 2112, Farewell To Kings and Hemispheres, I bought Permanent Waves on the day it was released and the following year and again in 1982, Moving Pictures and Signals were on my turntable by 10 am on the morning the records hit the shops.
The mid-80s was a time when my passion for rock music was not quite as intense, evidenced by the fact that I didn’t even buy Grace Under Pressure, choosing instead to tape the new album off a friend. Ditto Power Windows and probably Hold Your Fire too though by now my interest in Rush was so diluted I can’t honestly remember the first time I listened to that synth-obsessed release.
Love, marriage and kids ensured the 90s were, by and large a musical vacuum for yours truly and it was not until someone lent me the triple CD Chronicles that my interest in Rush was reborn and by the time Vapor Trails was out, my enthusiasm was such that I bought it on day one.
VP was not my favourite Rush album, in fact it’s probably one of my least favourites but between 2001 and the release of the excellent Snakes And Arrows, not only had I caught up on albums such as Counterparts, Presto and Test For Echo, I’d replaced all my old vinyl with the remastered CD’s of their earlier stuff.
Rush can’t claim to have got me into rock music nor be cited as the sole reason I experienced renaissance in my mid to late-30s. But when I head to Newcastle’s Arena on May 21 it will be with the same sense of excitement and anticipation I journeyed to the City Hall in June 1980 to see the band for the very first time.
You never know, I might even bump into one of their three female fans!