The enormously popular Canadian Trio Rush certainly is no “fly by night”
(No. 19 in a continuing series on artists who should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but are not)
By Phill Marder
First off, let me make it clear. I’m not one of those Rush fanatics. But I do like the trio a lot, and when it comes to the question at hand … that being “who belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?” … the inclusion of Rush is a no-brainer.
It’s ironic that the Canadians got their big break in Cleveland, which is, of course, the home of the Hall of Fame that continues to ignore Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart. But in 1973, a copy of their debut album, “Rush,” was sent to Cleveland DJ Donna Halper, who brought it to the attention of Mercury Records, which astutely signed the group to a two-album deal. It’s also ironic that from 1989′s “Presto” to 2007′s “Snakes & Arrows,” the group’s recordings were released on the Atlantic label, making Rush one of the very few members of that stable not to be inducted as of this date (Yes and Foreigner are two other notable Atlantic giants yet to come in this seemingly never-ending series).
Rolling Stone’s disdain for the Canadians probably has something to do with their rejection thus far. In the “New Rolling Stone Album Guide” the highest rating a Rush album receives is 3 1/2 stars, which puts them in the average to good range. No four stars (excellent) or five stars (classic). The write-up, attributed to Mark Coleman and Ernest Lechner, includes comments such as “…their love of tricky time signatures and busy solos is what hypnotizes fans and bores everybody else. Lyricist Peart’s mystifying cosmic bent and lead singer Lee’s Donald Duck-on-acid howl inspire similar love-it-or-loathe-it debates.”
After the break caused by the death of Peart’s wife and daughter, the article describes the release of “Vapor Trails” by stating the group “… returned in 2002 with a new, geeky-as-ever album and subsequent world tour.”
Lechner, by the way, is described as a frequent contributor to “Rolling Stone” and the “Los Angeles Times,” whose book on the history of Latin rock was to be published in 2005. Mmmm. I haven’t read that book. Latin rock? I wonder how many chapters are dedicated to Rush.
In the same review, however, Coleman and Lechner do give Rush credit for “developing fearsome chops.”
The allmusicguide.com is much more charitable with its praise and rates most Rush albums higher, Jason Ankeny writing, “Over the course of their decades-spanning career, the Canadian power trio emerged as one of hard rock’s most highly regarded bands; although typically brushed aside by critics and although rare recipients of mainstream pop radio airplay, the group nonetheless won an impressive and devoted fan following while their virtuoso performance skills solidified their standing as musicians’ musicians.”
Musicians’ musicians. But one doesn’t have to be a musician to realize these guys can flat-out play. Which is one reason why they’re so popular. Sure, Lee’s vocals are an acquired taste and many never do grow a liking to them, but you can’t argue with their success. Obviously, there are many who love the band and year after year Rush supporters are among the noisiest in expressing their displeasure with their heroes being denied their rightful place in Cleveland.
How popular are they? Chew on the following.
- With virtually no hit single support, Rush has placed 18 albums on the United States charts since 1974, 10 reaching the top 10. These numbers exclude live concert albums and compilations, by the way.
- While most artists slack off after being around a long time, Rush has placed its last five albums in the U.S. top 6.
- Since 1974, the trio placed the same 18 LPs on the Canadian charts, 14 of which reached the top 10 (one just missed at No. 11), including six No. 1, two No. 2 and three No. 3 entries.
- In the United Kingdom, Rush had 16 albums reach the top 40, half of which made it to the top 10.
- Since 1980, Rush also has charted hit albums in Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Sweden.
- While having relatively little success with selling singles, “Limelight,” “Tom Sawyer,” “New World Man,” “Distant Early Warning,” “The Big Money,” “Time Stand Still,” “Force Ten,” “Show Don’t Tell,” “Dreamline,” “Ghost Of A Chance,” “Stick It Out,” “Cold Fire” and “Test For Echo” are just a few of their cuts that have received heavy radio airplay, becoming favorites among fans.
- Currently on tour, Rush continues to be one of Rock’s best drawing concert attractions.
- Reportedly, they rank third behind just The Beatles and Rolling Stones for most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band.
- They, like their also-ignored countrymen The Guess Who, are members of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame (1994 induction).
The Hall of Fame seems to go out of its way to recognize the obscure, including some who can barely sing or play their instruments, while rejecting many who demonstrate the highest proficiency in their recordings and stage performance. Rush consists of three virtuosos who have dazzled – and continue to dazzle – fans in the studio and on stage for close to 40 years, proving even those ridiculously proficient on their instruments can rock.
I’m not sure what year he was referring to, but the comment could be applicable to almost any year. It’s no wonder there’s such a howl each time the Hall of Fame announces its nominations for inductions. It’s not Donald Duck on acid. It’s millions of Rush fans around the world voicing their displeasure.
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