Rushing Into Mainstream Fame

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Many a dedicated Rush fan has lamented the lack of mainstream recognition that their favorite band has failed to realize for decades. The progressive rock powerhouse from the Great White North (otherwise known as Canada) cranked out albums and toured extensively within the confines of what must have felt like a shield of invisibility. Despite their significant base of fiercely dedicated fans and top-notch musicianship that earns them praise and respect from many of their peers, it seemed Rush just wasn’t cool enough to be recognized by rock’s most-recognized and influential gatekeepers.

Only during the past few years has the group begun to break down the wall that separated them from the “cool” bands and defined them as a band that attracted fans who were often considered “nerds” or “geeks.” Perhaps there just wasn’t enough sex and drugs served up with their rock and roll. Their music has always been technically complex and has been accompanied by lyrics that are meaningful and thought-provoking, particularly after drummer and lyricist Neil Peart joined the group in 1974.

Things are changing for Rush these days and they’re showing up in more places than just the posters on the bedroom walls of “nerdy” fans. They’ve been in the movies (I Love You, Man), on Comedy Central’s ultra-cool Colbert Report and were even featured in an issue of Rolling Stone magazine. Talk about breaking the wall down!

It seems that their acceptance by the mainstream is only gaining momentum these days. For starters, Peart has recently been named number two in Gibson’s top ten drummers of all time. For the curious, the late John Bonham was ranked number one by Gibson, something Rush fans might not agree with, but number two is still pretty darn good for a guy who plays for a “nerd” band.

Speaking of Neil Peart, there’s a report from the Rush fan site RushIsABand.com that Peart will appear on the The Late Show With David Letterman on Thursday, June 9th. The rare TV appearance is part of what the Letterman show is calling “Drum Solo Week,” and will feature a performance by a renowned percussionist each night of the week. Seeing Peart, who often shies away from the spotlight, on national TV will be a nice treat for Rush fans.

Other folks who have been enjoying a little Rush lately include the space shuttle astronauts whose daily wake-up call included the Rush track “Countdown” on May 24th. It’s hard to imagine a better tune for the astronauts to wake up to since it was written as a kind of tribute to the shuttle program and was included on their Signals album which was released during 1982.

Unlike Peart, guitarist Alex Lifeson does not seem to put off by the camera, in fact, it seems he is embracing it with gusto. The Rush axe man is set to appear in a new movie based on a book entitled Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance by Scottish author Irvine Welsh. The movie, by Toronto filmmaker Rob Heydon which will feature Lifeson as Scottish psychiatrist Dr. Fig, has been talked about since the beginning of the year, but with the September release approaching, it’s worth mentioning again. The clip below suggests that Lifeson’s role may not be an entirely serious one, which would not be at all uncharacteristic.

Rush is finally enjoying the recognition that their fans knew they have deserved since the early days. It may be a bit hard to understand why it has taken nearly four decades for this to happen but the guys in the band never seemed to lose much sleep over it. Their focus has always been on the music and that was a decision that has served them well – mainstream recognition or not.

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