What rock bands have the most consecutive gold or platinum albums? The Beatles and the Rolling Stones are obviously one and two, but would you believe number three is Rush?!? I was surprised (and maybe a bit gratified), but after watching the Beyond the Lighted Stage, an excellent new documentary about the 40-plus-year-old band, it makes some sense. (My wife, who hates Rush, actually liked the film.)
The band has a deep, devoted following — almost exclusively male — that’s probably just as quirky (and nerdy) as the bandmates themselves, with their sci-fi epic album sides, frequent time signature changes, and shout outs to “the genius of Ayn Rand.” Neil Peart, the Rand fan who writes their lyrics, is arguably the best rock drummer of all time. Geddy Lee is an incredible bassist too, and Alex Lifeson is no slouch. They are highly esteemed by musicians, if not by rock critics or contemporary rock fans. Among those who appear in the film to praise Rush’s influence are Trent Reznor, Billy Corgan, Kirk Hammett, Taylor Hawkins, Jason McGerr, Gene Simmons, and Jack Black. It also highlights Cleveland’s role in bringing Rush to American fans; WMMS added “Working Man” to its playlist as a “bathroom song” (a track long enough for DJs to take a quick break) before they’d even been signed in the U.S.
Like many others, I went through a Rush phase. They were staples on Philadelphia’s two AOR stations (WMMR and WYSP), and Exit . . . Stage Left was a part of my own regular rotation. My first high school band included a Rush song in our basic set. Big mistake (see the Rush fan demographic noted above). Our next band replaced Rush with cooler tunes (The Police, INXS, etc.), but more than a few rehearsals would devolve into YYZ jam sessions. Watching Beyond the Lighted Stage brought back a rush of Rush memories, including playing “The Spirit of Radio” at a high school dance. It was a poor choice, to be sure, but I still like it. Here’s a taste the lyrics:
All this machinery making modern music
Can still be open-hearted.
Not so coldly charted, it’s really just a question
Of your honesty, yeah, your honesty.
One likes to believe in the freedom of music,
But glittering prizes and endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity.