Gaz Coombes: the new piece on a loop

The death of Neil Peart from cancer immediately put an end to Canadian band Rush. Back on the career of an exceptional drummer.

Neil Peart grew up in Port Dalhousie, Ontario. He will spend his adolescence between regional groups in pursuit of a career as a full-time drummer. One year older than Lee et Lifeson, Neil Peart once spent 18 months in England in his late teens, earning a meager salary at a Carnaby Street jewelry store, The Great Frog, while trying to join a band.

When he auditions for Rush, Lee and Lifeson are, according to the former, “completely blown”. Peart’s technique, powerful and complex, results from a “monomania” avowed dating back to his teenage years in semi-rural Ontario. But, as Lee says, “We were city guys and so, in our eyes, Neil was a dungeon. He looked weird, lanky, and he worked in his father’s farm equipment shop. We thought he was a bit of a slob. But he was much more experienced than us.

Neil Peart is also a great bookworm, a fairly rare phenomenon among rock musicians. Lee and Lifeson suggest he write the band’s lyrics, but it will take some persuading to convince him. “Extroverts don’t always understand introverts,” will recognize the drummer.

The literary side of Neil Peart adds a new dimension to Rush. On the second album, Fly By Night, his knack for telling evocative stories showcases the band’s increasingly grand music. “Rivendell” refers to Tolkien; “By-Tor & The Snow Dog” imagines a mythical battle between good and evil, its protagonists named after manager Danniels’ two dogs, Biter and Snowdog. “Anthem” is more revealing; Peart appropriated the title from a 1938 novel by Ayn Rand. This Russian-born philosopher is the author of The Fountainhead (The Source lives). Peart would later cite Rand as the main inspiration for 2112.

This connection will cause the greatest controversy of the band’s career. Recognizing the influence ofAyn Rand, Peart aligns herself with a thinker whose theory of objectivism can be interpreted as “enlightened self-interest”, which Neil Peart maintains, or, at worst, as a form of far-right capitalism. In a 1978 interview given to NME, he is attacked on the beliefs he shares with Rand. Peart, who describes himself as “an ultra-liberal with a sensitive heart”remembers a “intellectual conversation” with the journalist Barry Miles.

But the published article draws a parallel with the Nazis (“The shadow of the hundred-year Reich?” advances Miles). Peart feels “totally betrayed”. Lee, given his family history, is furious. “I wanted to kill this guy,” he said. “How dare he describe us as fascists?” “I was surprised by the noise it made,” Miles will specify much later. Permanent Waves is also a transitional album for Peart as a lyricist. Rand’s influence is still evident on “Freewill”, but he got rid of Tolkien and Coleridge. The very look of Rush is different. Gone are the prophetic robes and the mustache. The drummer now has short hair and Lifeson wears a thin new-wave tie.

In 1981, the group’s best-selling album was released. Moving Pictures defines the sound of the new Rush and tops the Canadian charts and ranks number 3 in England and the United States, but this newfound fame irritates Peart. The text of “Limelight” – “I can’t pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend… We have to put up barriers to preserve ourselves” – recalls those of Roger Watersfrom Pink Floydin The Wall. “The Wall is also the story of my life,” this Peart. “Isolation – as touring musicians we have all experienced this.”

In the early 1990s, Rush was considered “the biggest cult band in the world”, impervious to fashions. But towards the end of this decade, a catastrophe occurs which seems to strike down the group. In July 1997, Peart’s 19-year-old daughter Selena died in a car accident. Ten months later, his partner Jacqueline Taylor died of cancer. At his daughter’s funeral, Peart told Lee and Lifeson, “Consider me retired.“Lifeson remembers it like it was yesterday:”On that day, the group ceased to exist. It was all about Neil and how he could get out of this.

Peart traveled across North America by motorcycle for months, trips he would later chronicle in his memoirs, Ghost Rider: Travels On The Healing Road. Finally, in 2001, after marrying photographer Carrie Nuttall, he called Lee and Lifeson and told them he was ready to work again. Afterimage will output: “a reaction to a tragedy,” he will say. After Peart’s return, Rush is more prominent than he has been since the 1980s.

On a more positive note, the group’s rating rose in 2010 with the release of a documentary. Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage contains fascinating clips from a never-aired early 1970s TV shoot in which a teenage Lifeson argues with his parents about his rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle choice. We also see the three members of Rush during a recent dinner at the restaurant, completely drunk (“It was a crazy night,” this Lee. “Pretty typical”). Above all, it reveals one of the rarest things: a successful rock band in which the friendship has endured. According to Peart: “JI know how it can be – I’m friends with [le batteur de Police] Stewart Copeland. But we share something both musical and personal.

The 19thth and final Rush studio album, Clockwork Angels, released in 2012. And although the group is reluctant to use the term, it is clearly a concept album. Plus, the story it tells – influenced by steampunk sci-fi, with a hero caught between the forces of order and chaos – bears more than a vague resemblance to that of the album that started it all. , 2112. Rush will come full circle. And as Peart wrote on Hemispheresa long time ago, in 1978 (in French in the text): “What goes around comes around…“Despite a few comebacks and concerts here and there, Peart died on January 7 in Santa Monica of brain cancer. and Rush will forever remain one of the greatest cult but sadly underrated bands in rock history.

Abel Corroyer

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