For over 40 years, Rush has been both rock's ultimate power trio and one of progressive rock's most inventive boundary pushers. Long derided by critics for their lengthy songs and cerebral, often obscure, lyrics, Rush has maintained a legion of devoted fans throughout and, since retiring from touring, has seen a bit of a critical re-evaluation of their work. Two documentaries, "Beyond the Lighted Stage" and "Time Stand Still", have offered a peek behind the curtain of the touring lives of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart, and let fans see a side of the group not experienced from the stage. If you only know them for their instrumental skills, check out these five lesser-known facts about Rush for a look inside the band.
1. Neil Peart doesn't do meet and greets because he's shy
While Rush fans adore drummer Neil Peart because of his intelligent lyrics and his status as one of rock's greatest drummers, some fans shelling out for meet and greet tickets have been miffed to find out that Peart is not included in those meetings. This, along with the fact that Peart rarely does press, has led to accusations that he's a jerk. But in "Beyond the Lighted Stage," Peart offers a much simpler answer; he's shy. While it's hard to believe a man who performs in front of 20,000 people nightly could suffer from social anxiety, Peart insists he doesn't meet with fans because he finds people telling him how wonderful he is “embarrassing.”
2. Geddy Lee's parents were holocaust survivors and inspired one of the band's greatest hits.
Rush's frontman and bassist Geddy Lee was born Gary Lee Weinrib and his parents were both Polish holocaust survivors. Lee's mom was imprisoned in Bergen-Belsen and Lee's father was in Dachau. This harrowing tale of survival served as inspiration for primary lyricist Peart. “Red Sector A” from Grace Under Pressure never directly references Jewish concentration camps, but Peart has admitted that he took much of the inspiration for the song's bleak lyrics about “skeletons shuffled away” from Lee's mother's descriptions of Bergen-Belsen's conditions.
3. The clothes dryers on stage are a satire on arena rock trends
One of the more interesting aspects of Rush's stage show over the last decade has been the appearance of working clothes dryers on the right side of the stage. These set pieces, which spin Rush t-shirts throughout the performance, were brought about when Geddy Lee began to run his sound directly through the front of house console, eliminating the need for an amp stack on his side of the stage. Needing to fill a now empty hole on the stage, the band took the opportunity to poke fun at the habit of rockers filling the stage with walls of amps, only a few of which are usually functional. The dryers aren't the only appliances that have made an appearance on Rush's stage, they have also used refrigerators, vending machines and even giant rotisserie ovens that cooked real chicken and were attended to by a chef throughout.
4. Alex Lifeson delivered one of the most memorable Rock and Roll Hall of Fame speeches in history
After over a decade of being snubbed, Rush finally got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. While most Hall inductees take their speech opportunity to thank family, discuss influences or trumpet political causes, Lifeson simply said “blah, blah, blah” in conversational style through his entire speech. The speech quickly became a YouTube sensation, hailed by many as a brilliant takedown of the typical long-winded Hall speech.
5. Neil Peart travels to Rush concerts alone, on his motorcycle.
Feeding into Peart's already established reputation as a loner, the drummer doesn't ride the tour bus to Rush gigs. Instead, he travels alone on his BMW motorcycle from gig to gig. Avoiding interstates and major highways, Peart sees these trips as an opportunity to truly see whatever country he's touring. On the tour for Clockwork Angels, Peart reportedly logged 28,000 miles on the tour route. After losing his wife and daughter in a short period, Peart even wrote a book about using a road trip to cope with his grief, entitled "Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road."