In the wake of Neil Peart’s death, interest in Rush — the band that featured his virtuosic drumming and thought-provoking lyrics for more than 40 years — has surged, propelling their 1976 prog-rock masterpiece 2112 onto the Rolling Stone Top 200 Albums chart.
From January 10th through January 16th, the band sold 24,600 albums in the U.S., an increase of more than 1,000 percent compared with the previous week. The 2112 LP led the way, making it to Number 45 on the RS 200, moving 12,800 total album units last week. (The Rolling Stone Top 200 Albums chart tracks the most popular albums of the week in the U.S. by a combination of digital and physical album sales, digital song sales, and audio streams.)
Overall, the band’s on-demand audio streams jumped 340 percent week on week, totaling more than 16 million from January 10th through January 16th. Synth-rock anthem “Tom Sawyer” led with 3.1 million, while FM staples “Limelight” and “The Spirit of Radio” followed with 1.8 million and 1.6 million, respectively. The wildly technical instrumental “YYZ” pulled in just under 1.6 million streams last week. Song sales also jumped by a whopping 1,575 percent, with the band selling 28,000 track downloads.
It’s fitting that this week’s top-selling Rush album was the one on which Peart, bassist-vocalist Geddy Lee, and guitarist Alex Lifeson solidified their identity as progressive-rock masterminds. The LP’s entire first side featured an epic narrative suite — driven by Peart’s Ayn Rand–inspired lyrics chronicling a musician resisting an oppressive regime — that would become one of their most-beloved pieces. But when they made 2112, they were coming off 1975’s commercial disappointment Caress of Steel, and their future as a band was in doubt.
“We called the tour for Caress of Steel the ‘Down the Tubes Tour,'” Lifeson told Rolling Stone’s Kory Grow in 2016. “We had passes made that had that on it. But that experience gave us the courage to stand up to what everybody was demanding of us. I remember clearly saying, ‘OK, screw it. We may go down in flames, but at least we know that we’ve done it our way.’ There’s no way we’re gonna remake the first record [1974’s Rush] just because that’s what the record company wants and they’re worried about sales. So we dove into 2112 and there’s a little more angst in that record than with Caress of Steel’s [suite] ‘The Fountain of Lamneth,’ which was structurally the same sort of thing.”
2112 ended up going multiplatinum and helping to unite a rabid Rush fan base that would remain loyal through the band’s final shows in 2015 and beyond.
News of Peart’s death came as a terrible shock to the trio’s many supporters — including everyone from Adam Sandler to Mike Piazza — as his lengthy illness had not been made public. “It is with broken hearts and the deepest sadness that we must share the terrible news that on Tuesday [January 7th] our friend, soul brother, and bandmate of over 45 years, Neil, has lost his incredibly brave three-and-a-half-year battle with brain cancer (Glioblastoma),” Lee and Lifeson said in a statement on January 10th.