Rush Drummer Not Your Typical Rock Star

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I’ve been a fan of Rush, and especially, Neil Peart since I first heard them back in the late 1970’s. I would not go as far as calling myself a ‘super fan’ or anything like that — I have all of their albums and still listen to them and I read new entries on Peart’s site but I don’t have any Rush memorabilia like autographs or posters or anything like that. I guess I’m just not into that stuff.

Way back when, I also attended a Rush concert or three and always enjoyed the show a lot. Being a bit of an audio snob, I have to say I still enjoy listening to recorded music on a good system as much (or more) than hearing it live in a concert setting.NP

I did, in my youth, have what I considered to be a Neil Peart ‘copy cat’ drum kit. Not quite as impressive as the real thing, but it was a pretty impressive-looking set-up and I really got a kick out of playing on it.

A recent story about Neil Peart came to my attention that made me think a little bit about Rush and my years of listening to their music.

A fan from Virginia makes a great point when he compares being a Rush fan with belonging to some secret society. Being into Rush always had that ‘under-the-radar’ feeling about it for me as well, and I suppose that has a lot to do with some other points that came up in the article about the band’s lack of recognition by the powers that be, if you will.

As much as I admire Peart’s ability as a drummer (and lyricist, by the way), I guess what I have to say next might sound like sacrilege to Rush ‘super fans.’

First, I will say, truthfully, that Peart is my favorite rock drummer of all time. No question about that. However, as someone who has knocked around on the drums enough to have an appreciation for how difficult it is to play at, say, a Neil Peart level, the drummers that have impressed my more than any other I have ever heard have not been rock drummers.

I admit being ignorant about this subject, but what I think I am trying to allude to is what might be called ‘jazz fusion’ or perhaps just ‘fusion.’ I wish I was informed enough about the subject to name names and albums and all that, but my reference, unfortunately, will be a less precise.

For those of you who are old enough to remember MTV when it first came on the air, around 1980 or so, I think, there was not a sufficient number of music videos at the time to fill up all that broadcast time. Or at least that was my theory at the time.

Anyway, when they were not playing music videos, they would just play music without the video. Kind of just throwing some records on to avoid dead air or something.

The music I remember them playing most of the time during these periods was what I considered, in my own uninformed way, ‘jazz fusion.’

Whatever it was called, it was just mind-blowing and for the life of me, I could not imagine how those drummers could even keep up with it all. To say nothing of remembering those insane time signatures and actually executing them! To this day, it remains the most mind-blowing drum work I have ever heard.

I’ve tried, through the years, to keep an ear open for this stuff again and have even spent some time trying to find this kind of music again. I’ve come close, but the stuff that MTV was playing back in the early days still eludes me.

The closest I have been able to come was some stuff that Terry Bozzio did a few years ago with a guy named Levin and a guy named Stevens. Also some of the Chad Wackerman stuff is pretty wild as well. I really get a kick out of listening to that stuff.

I suppose being more impressed by some fusion drummers than I am by Neil Peart’s playing does not make me the Rush anti-Christ, but no doubt there are some that would disagree.

I don’t expect I’ll ever stop listening to Rush or being impressed by Peart’s skills, but I think it’s good to wander a little outside your usual sphere of musical influence once in a while and see what else is out there that might impress you. Perhaps even impress you a lot.


  1. phil August 30, 2007 at 9:11 am

    i’m a huge rush fan too…just saw them twice last week in KC & STL – fantastic shows to be sure. I think you would really get a kick out of Dave Weckl & Steve Gadd. These cats have played with Chick Corea and the Elektric Band and Al Jarreau, respectively. Check it out!

  2. RealRockNews August 30, 2007 at 10:10 am

    Thanks for that info, Phil.

    I will check those two out for sure. I am somewhat familiar with Steve Gadd, as I believe he has worked with Steely Dan and was responsible for that very cool solo work on Aja. And now that you mention him, the solo in that song is a lot like that ‘fusion’ stuff I was talking about. Very cool.

  3. Michael Haddy September 10, 2007 at 2:48 am

    Just came across your page. I saw this comment about Neil Peart. And the fusion drums. Check out Billy Cobham, Narada Michael Walden, and Spyro Gyra. Hope this helps in your quest.


  4. RealRockNews September 10, 2007 at 6:15 am

    Thanks, Michael.

    I will check those guys out as well.

  5. Scully January 10, 2008 at 3:14 am

    My own 2 cents here. I remember the late ’70s (I’m dating myself here) when the big argument in places like Circus Magazine (anyone remember that?) was who was better: Neil Peart of Rush or Carl Palmer of ELP. Carl had a bad ass competition with Buddy Rich (the famous jazz drummer) and the reviews were mixed (also Carl used his huge ELP set and Buddy used his 5 piece set). Anyway, I was a firm fan of C.P. over N.P., mostly because my drummer friends pointed out that CP used single stroke “paradiddles” when NP used “drop roles” during solos. My evolution about this is to consider longevity, commitment, dedication, longevity. It means more to me now that Rush has stayed together for so long, making music that I can enjoy, and with such intensity, that I have now doubt saying that Neil Peart is the better MUSICIAN when it comes to drumming. You have to consider the bigger picture. Yes, Chad Wackerman may be more exciting, but when do you get to hear him?

  6. RealRockNews January 10, 2008 at 7:10 am

    Thanks for stopping by to share your view, Scully. I think we might be talking about two separate issues here.

    You said N.P. is a better musician, but to me, your supporting argument is saying that N.P. is a more SUCCESSFUL musician. Judging by Rush’s popularity (whether that’s measured by their bank accounts or number of albums sold) probably surpasses that of guys like Wackerman or those other jazz guys.

    Interesting you bring up Carl Palmer. Never been a fan at all. No doubt the guy has technical skills but I always felt he lacked “feel,” and his playing was too mechanical. Kind of a human drum machine.

    When I judge a Wackerman against N.P., I suppose I am actually judging based on my ability to perform that stuff. I have not played for many years but used to bang around on the drums for my own entertainment mostly.

    Although I was able to keep up with many Rush tunes (enough for my own satisfaction anyway!), I just could not ever picture myself coming close to keeping up with some of that “other” stuff.

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