From Rush With Love
The other query, posed in the face of any moral dilemma, is “What would my 16-year-old self do?” Teenage Neil was a brainy misfit in a middle-class suburb 70 miles from Toronto who permed his hair, who took to wearing a cape and purple boots on the city bus, who scrawled “God is dead” on his bedroom wall, who got in trouble for pounding out beats on his desk during class. His teacher’s idea of punishment was to insist that he bang on his desk nonstop for an hour’s worth of detention, time he happily spent re-creating Keith Moon’s parts from Tommy. For years, Peart wore a piece of one of Moon’s shattered cymbals around his neck, retrieved from a Toronto stage after a Who concert, and his current drum kit includes a sample trigger bearing the Who’s old bull’s-eye logo.
In their early years, opening for practically every major band of the 1970s, Peart and his bandmates — singer-bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson — were disturbed by what the drummer would later describe as the “sound of salesmen.” “We would hear them give the same rap to the audience every night,” says Peart. “ ’This is the greatest rock city in the world, man!’ That was creepy. I despise the cynical dishonesty.” They did get along with the guys in Kiss. “We would get high with Ace Frehley in his hotel room and make him laugh,” Lee recalls, “and they were a really good influence on us in terms of learning to put on a show.”
They were taken aback, however, by Gene Simmons’ and Paul Stanley’s unabashed view of Kiss as a product. “I don’t want to knock them,” says Peart. “But once I was in a little restaurant in Kansas, and a guy with Kiss Army tattoos kept playing Kiss songs on the jukebox. He believed in a marketing campaign, swallowed it as religion. He was like a convert to Scientology.”
Ultimately, Peart wants the freaky, purist kid he once was to be proud of him. “It’s about being your own hero,” he says. “I set out to never betray the values that 16-year-old had, to never sell out, to never bow to the man. A compromise is what I can never accept.”
Rush have spent 41 years mastering the art of no compromise. They’ve superserved their superfans while pretty much ignoring everyone else, and it’s all worked out pretty well. There are weirder bands and there are bigger bands, but none quite so weird and quite so big. In each date of their current arena tour, Rush run through their catalog in reverse order, so nearly all of the show’s second half is devoted to their Seventies work, showcasing the band in its purest, oddest, arguably most awesome form.
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