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For all the stories they’ve told through song, the actual formation story of Rush is quite simple: Friends from school who live in the same suburban Canadian neighborhood form a band to play gigs at youth centers and local bars. After a few years, their songs gain traction on the radio, their albums start selling, and they’re soon traveling and touring the world. An overnight success they weren’t.
Of course, the details are more complicated, but the fact remains that the success of Rush is really a testament to successful friendships — and a lot of hard work. Throughout their storied, almost 50-year career, the band was as prolific for their progressive musical styles and impassioned lyrics as they were for their brotherhood and general everyman demeanor. Even their supposed hard partying days in the Seventies were largely kept under wraps compared to other bands of that era. Chalk it up to that inscrutable Canadian-ess that defines so many of our great neighbor’s exports; for this trio of Torontonians, it wasn’t about the parties or the fame or the attention, but rather about playing good music and putting on a memorable show.
Though the band stopped touring and releasing music years ago, their legacy lives on through these books, which chronicle everything from their formation story to their instruments and even their tour setlists. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or are looking to learn more about Rush (in light of Neil Peart’s recent passing), we’ve rounded up six books that tell the story of one of the greatest rock bands of all time.
1. Rush: The Making of A Farewell to Kings: The Graphic Novel
A graphic novel that chronicles the making of Rush’s 1977 prog-rock classic, A Farewell to Kings, this 144-page book follows the writing and recording of the album as told through interviews with the band (primarily guitarist Alex Lifeson) as well as Kings producer Terry Brown. The accompanying text is by David Calcano (the ceative director of LA-based animation studio, Fantoons) and Lindsay Lee, though it’s told from the band’s point of view. Renowned illustrators Juan Riera, Ittai Manero, and Lee contribute to the incredibly stylized and detailed artwork.
A Farewell to Kings was reportedly recorded in just three weeks, with the band members splitting time between Toronto and Wales. The scenes in the book shift from studio to stage, to the band members’ homes, as Calcano and Lee recount how Rush laid the framework for Kings, their fifth studio album, and the inspiration behind the songs. One of the band’s most iconic LPs, the album would spawn hits like “Closer to the Heart” and “Xanadu,” while being hailed as one of their most challenging and ambitious projects to date.
This fully-authorized graphic novel reveals all the details behind the scenes (from heated discussions over the direction of the album to candid, share laughs between the guys) in a vivid, full-color comic book. Available in hardcover, this makes a great gift or display piece for any fan of Rush.
2. Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book of Bass
Geddy Lee teams up with journalist Daniel Richler on a book that’s all about that bass. The 400+ page hardcover tome covers everything from Lee’s personal collection of vintage electric bass guitars (many dating back to the 1950s), to interviews with some of the best bass guitarists in the world, from U2’s Adam Clayton, to Jeff Tweedy, John Paul Jones, Les Claypool and more
Photographer Richard Sibbald is given access to more than 250 classic basses from Lee’s extensive collection, from so-called “beauty queens” — pristine instruments never lifted from their cases — to the heavy-duty players Lee took with him on the road. Each photograph is accompanied by text from Lee, about his connection to the specific instrument.
In addition to chronicling Lee’s collection, the book also tracks the basses used behind some of Rush’s most memorable recordings, and on their final R40 tour. Fellow Rush band member, Alex Lifeson, provides the foreword.
This is a great book to pick up for professional guitarists, aspiring musicians, and fans of Rush alike.
3. Rush: Wandering the Face of the Earth: The Official Touring History
Rush may have made magic in the studio, but the band has always shone brightest on the stage. From performing before 60,000+ fans in Brazil, to playing hole-in-the-wall bars back in Toronto, this book chronicles the band’s touring career, with every setlist, opening act and noteworthy moment documented in meticulous detail. Accompanying each entry are both black and white, and full-color photographs, some of them released for the first time. The hardcover volume covers 496 pages and includes a look at the band’s humble beginnings in Canada, to selling out their final tour, which sold almost half a million tickets.
Research for the book was done in conjunction with the band, who vetted all the details. The book includes a foreword from Les Claypool, an introduction from Rush’s former lighting designer and director Howard Ungerleider, and an afterword from The Police drummer, Stewart Copeland.
4. Rush: Album by Album
Rush: Album by Album pays tribute to the iconic rock band’s discography with a look back at all 19 of Rush’s studio albums, from their 1974 self-titled debut, to 2012’s “Clockwork Angels.” Since their debut, Rush has sold more than 25 million albums in the U.S. and a reported 40 million worldwide, making them one of the best-selling rock bands of all time.
This book reveals the story behind each album, from behind-the-scenes discussions between the members and their label, to the songwriting process, recording equipment used, album artwork and the final album release. It also details the tours that supported each album, with a look at every setlist and critical — and fan — reaction.
Accompanying the text are more than 120 photographs, from both studio sessions and live performances.
Author Martin Popoff claims to have “written more record reviews than anybody in the history of music writing across all genres” as a long-time contributor to Revolver, Guitar World, and others. Here, he serves less as a reviewer and more of a moderator, leading honest discussions about how the songs came to be and the impact that each album left on the worlds of music and pop culture.
5. Contents Under Pressure: 30 Years of Rush at Home and Away
The guys in Rush have never released an authorized biography, but this book, from Toronto-based journalist, Martin Popoff, is as close to official as you can get. Popoff interviewed Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart personally, to hear the band’s story in their own words. The resulting 200-page book is a more intimate look at the band, providing first-person stories and reactions to some of Rush’s most memorable career moments, from the struggles of starting out in Canada to the thrills of touring the largest stadiums in the world.
Filled with anecdotes, a formation and touring timeline, and trivia that’ll stump even the staunchest of Rush fans, Contents Under Pressure promises one of the most in-depth looks at the band — at least in book form.
First released in 2004, the book was recently re-released in paperback to celebrate its 15th anniversary.
6. Rush: Chemistry
There are other biographies out there, but many Rush fans swear by Rush: Chemistry, as one of the best introductions — and re-tellings — of the group’s history. The title of the book comes from the song of the same name, off Rush’s 1982 album, “Signals.”
Unlike other writers on our list, author Jon Collins didn’t get to interview the band for this book, but his years as a music journalist and Rush fan allow him to offer up some new insight into just how the band rose to the top of the industry and endeared themselves to millions of fans around the globe. From Rush message forums to Reddit threads and social media posts, fans of the band say this book is required reading.
First released in 2010, Rush: Chemistry spans 288 pages and is available in hardcover or paperback.