When you hear about fans of Rush, usually one of three albums come up when discussing the album that sucked them in:
You may get the odd Fly by Night or even occasionally A Farewell to the Kings and very, very rarely, someone will say Power Windows.
And to be fair, the fans of Rush, of which I am one, tend to be a diverse lot. After you get past the album that grabbed them, their list of favorite Rush material will be fairly different than another fan. One fan might like all of the early albums, another might like 2112 onward. In a weird way, Rush is very much like Kiss in this respect that your favorite albums say a lot about the period of the band you grew up with, your tastes in music and maybe even you as a human being.
I am one of the few Rush fans that will tell you straight up, the album that got me into Rush was Counterparts.
And it’s all because my Uncle Bill didn’t dig it.
Being Canadian and not too far from the general Toronto area, it was impossible not to know a little something about Rush. I was aware of the band and knew one, maybe two songs. I remember liking “Roll the Bones” because I thought it was a little ballsy of a band my Dad’s age (which I can say fairly accurately as they went to the same Junior High. Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson are a year older than my Dad) to include a rap part in the middle of one of their songs. In 1991, I didn’t really get that the rap part was done with tongue firmly in cheek.
But beyond “Roll the Bones”, I didn’t give the band much thought. Roll forward to 1993, I’m up at the cottage and Uncle Bill has wandered over from his cottage and dropped a CD on my lap.
“Here ya go. Maybe I’m getting too old, the songs seem to weird to me.”
Later that day, I go back my room in the cottage and throw on Counterparts. I still love the cover of Counterparts, there is something so simple but great about the design of the bolt going into the nut and from a completely marketing stance, what a great image to be able to use on merchandise.
I placed the disc into the CD player and hit play.
To this day, I don’t get why my uncle didn’t like it.
The album starts with the opening hard hits of “Animate” which may not set the pace for the rest of the album but really does set sort of a tone for it. Each song slips smoothly into the next. From “Animate” we slide into a louder rocker of “Stick It Out,” which wasn’t too dissimilar to the alternative bands I was listening to at the time with the exception that Rush are much, much, much, better players. From there, we stick with a similar tone with “Cut to the Chase” until they switch gears with “Nobody’s Hero.”
From beginning to end, there seems to be a drive to Counterparts that I’m not sure I’ve quite heard on a Rush album before or since. We get songs about love and relationships, an instrumental. It’s everything you love about Rush but they were definitely keeping up with the times on this album and yet still very much doing their own thing. In other words, while I, a child of the 90’s alternative scene, could definitely get into the songs and there were some definite similarities between a few songs on Counterparts and the music I was listening to, the album was definitely a Rush album.
Now there are two stages to my Rush fandom. The first starts when I get Counterparts. I ended up borrowing Presto and Hold Your Fire from Uncle Bill. That would be followed by me making a cassette copy of both of those albums as well as a Rush greatest hits disc borrowed from a friend of mine. And for a while, I was done.
And then came Beyond The Lighted Stage.
So little bit of a sidebar and name drop, I had met radio personality and chronicler of rock and roll history Jeff Woods when I appeared as a guest on a television show called Explore Music. Jeff has laughed at the name of my podcast at the time which was called Two Assholes Talking About Nerd Stuff. Jeff thought the name was great and we became friends via social media. Beyond the Lighted Stage is a documentary on Rush that is absolutely amazing and it had just premiered at Hot Docs in Toronto. I saw the trailer and desperately wanted to see it. I contacted Jeff who graciously contacted Rush’s management and arranged for me to have tickets to the second showing.
All I had to do was go and pick them up.
So I drive to downtown Toronto and end up at this very nondescript looking building. The kind that you figured would be rented out to UofT students. I buzzed, explained who I was and I get let in, I go through the second set of doors to see gold records, and awards and plaques.
I was at the offices of Rush’s management.
It was all I could do not to squeak out “Oh my god!” but I kept my cool, if for nothing else so Jeff wouldn’t get the call about the nerd he had sent them that had tried to steal a Roll the Bone gold record.
I went to the doc with my friend Brandon and was just blown away by not only how much of Rush’s back catalog I loved, but how much these guys sounded like people I knew. That I could kind of relate to this band. Among the things that really caught me was Neil Peart describing his love of “Animate” and briefly explaining that he loved the drive of that song which was the same thing I loved about it.
At which point, my love for Rush went into overdrive. I have since passed that love on to my wife who had never really heard of Rush before I came around. June 17, 2015, I took her to her first Rush show and currently one of the last shows Rush has done in Toronto, possibly one of the last shows they will ever do period. It was an amazing showcase of every period of the band and to my joy and slight surprise, “Animate” was part of the setlist. My eternal thanks go to Alan Cross for hooking up this lowly writer with such amazing seats.
To this day, “Animate” and “Nobody’s Hero” are two of my favorite Rush songs and my love for the band seems to only deepen every year.