What better way, we thought, to celebrate 40 years of Rush, than by asking 40 famous Rush fans for their favourite Rush song? So we did…
**CLAUDIO SIMONETTI **
“I always listen to Rush with great pleasure. I always liked them because, in some way, I think they are very similar to Yes, one of my favourite bands. But they are a bit darker than Yes, as you can hear in songs like Red Barchetta, one of their most representative pieces, where you can hear a harder sound, thanks to the vigorous drums of Neil Peart, and keyboards aren’t used to soften their sound.
“I would compare Alex Lifeson to Andy Summers of The Police. Neither are great guitar virtuosos but they have certainly helped to create their respective bands’ unique sound.”
**SEAN REINERT **
“My favourite Rush song would have to be Jacob’s Ladder from the Permanent Waves album. From the start of the tune in 11⁄8 (5⁄8-6⁄8), with the vocals coming in in 4⁄4, how could a musician not love this tune? Without sacrificing originality Rush have always had the uncanny ability to make odd time/odd meter into a catchy, radio-friendly experience. Take a big hit… put your headphones on and remember what 1980 sounded like.”
**DOUG OTT **
“I choose Freewill! I love this song for so many reasons. It’s inspired by Ayn Rand, who shaped my life with books such as The Fountainhead, Anthem and Atlas Shrugged. The statement that the song makes speaks for the individual as opposed to the masses.
“It’s got great bass and guitar counterpoint; I love it when Alex breaks away from Geddy playing the main riff and starts playing chords.
“It has one of the best solos on the Permanent Waves album. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Alex play so fast. The cool thing is, he plays chords in the solo as well as shreds! I still haven’t mastered that solo; on my bucket list for sure!”
**TERRY BROWN **
“The Twilight Zone is a little gem with a very strong lead guitar motif from Alex, Ged’s verse vocals up in the stratosphere and then the chorus slipping into an eerie flanged vocal that is in the ‘zone’. This is all held together by Neil’s very concise, driving percussion closing with the airy guitar solo which makes this one of my favourite Rush tunes.”
**MATT YOUNG **
“My favourite Rush track would have to be Headlong Flight from Clockwork Angels, which is almost certainly my favourite Rush album. The track rocks right from the start with its huge chorus and superb instrumental, where each member receives their moment in the spotlight.
“As with the rest of the album, the song shows that Rush remain very much at the cutting edge of the genre, while keeping in touch with their roots. It’s the perfect balance of past and present.”
**JAMES MONTEITH **
“For me it’s Caravan from Clockwork Angels. It has some captivating, technical bass work from Lee, and riffs galore from Lifeson, which makes this a classic I return to regularly. Not to mention the insane solo/jam combination… Absolute genius!”
Taylor Hawkins. Credit: Getty
“The live version of A Passage To Bangkok off Exit… Stage Left is probably my favourite Rush moment of all time. I like this more than the album version; the feel is a bit funkier and some of the drumming is absolutely not of this world. Exit… Stage Left is probably my favourite Rush record, and this is definitely my favourite track from this record.”
**JOHN MIDDLETON **
“Circumstances is my choice. I really love the complexity of the Hemispheres album and the various lengthy twists and turns within the first track, but Circumstances is more of a hard-hitting classic rock song. The main thing that stood out to me was the riff leading into the chorus, which really reminded me of Tool – one of my favourite bands growing up. They were responsible for name dropping bands like Rush and King Crimson, which led me to really exploring the 70s classic prog stuff.”
**FRANK VAN BOGAERT **
FISH ON FRIDAY
“I’d choose The Trees from Hemispheres. This track has a gorgeous build-up, starting with a nylon guitar. Although one might expect this to evolve into a folky song, it twists into a fierce rock performance.
“I especially like the synth bass sound in the breakdown part. Also, as a youngster I was quite intrigued and wanted to know what instrument this was… turned out to be the mighty Taurus pedal. Also the lyrics in this song are quite engaging, as a statement in favour of equal rights for everyone.”
JAIME GOMEZ ARELLANO
“It’s very hard to choose one Rush song above all others, but I think I’d go for Working Man. The intro riff is probably one of the finest in music history. And Neil Peart, although not on this, remains one of my biggest influences as a drummer.”
Phill Jupitus. Credit: Rex Features.
“I find myself in the odd position of being loosely known as a bit of a Rush fan. I’m actually not. They are delightful and engaging chaps, and their management are ludicrously hospitable. But I’ve just worn their T-shirtson TV a few times by virtue of a mutual acquaintance. I decided to go and see them in Amsterdam a few years ago. They were very good. And YYZ was as insanely complex as it was incredibly catchy. The feeling in the room for them and the affection in which they are held, can’t fail to move anyone.”
“Tom Sawyer is probably my favourite Rush track of all time. It has all the elements that makes them such a great band. With a great groove, several hooky riffs and a strong and anthemic vocal. The Moving Pictures album is by far an away my favourite album of theirs. And this is the prime cut from it.”
**KIM SEVIOUR **
“I really like Closer To The Heart. I love the simplicity of this song, and the overall feeling that runs through it. The lyrics – ‘I will draw the chart, sailing into destiny’ – are beautiful, and signify an empowering optimism that I’m really drawn to.”
“I found Moving Pictures among a charity shop haul, and YYZ always stood out to me. It’s a rare thing, a great rock instrumental. The opening riff sounds like the mighty Voivod five years early. It also has a great solo. I think Lifeson is a very underrated guitar player, he’s like the prog Johnny Marr with loads of ideas and textures.”
Grant Nicholas. Credit: Getty.
**GRANT NICHOLAS **
“I first discovered Rush when I was around 11 years old, after hearing The Spirit Of Radio coming through the wall of my older brother’s bedroom. I was instantly drawn to the phasing guitar riff and drum fills. This is a classic Rush track taken from a great album, Permanent Waves. The musicianship on this album is so good, and Rush are still a great live band. This track is a flashback to my youth growing up in South Wales, listening to albums with my mates.”
**ALAN STRAWBRIDGE **
“My choice is The Analog Kid. On the Signals album, Rush demonstrated how they’d developed the ability to write concise pop songs – with The Analog Kid being a fine example. Propelled by a breakneck ear-worm riff reminiscent of current prog-pop genii White Denim, and lyrically a lot more uplifting and emotional than their earlier albums, this track still retains the fresh power trio sound.
“This is alongside the last vestiges of the chunky production which made Moving Pictures and Permanent Waves such essential albums. They developed this songwriting style over their consecutive albums, but with diminishing returns often due to the production typical of the late 80s and 90s which never did them any favours.”
MIKE WEATHERLEY, MP
“It’s Something For Nothing from the album 2112. Not only is this song on the album that defined Rush, and not only is the track a fantastic head-banging, air-guitar monster bit of metal/rock, the track also has the ultimate lyrics to live your life by. Rush have always been masters of a meaning in many songs, but this one really shakes things up with a huge message: basically, ‘Don’t just sit on your arse dreaming and waiting for things to happen – you have to go out and make things happen. Life is in your own hands…’ I had the lyrics posted up above my desk for many years. An anthem played to a backdrop of screaming guitars. Love it.”
Nicky Wire. Credit: TeamRock.
**NICKY WIRE **
MANIC STREET PREACHERS
“A Farewell To Kings is my favourite Rush album, along with Moving Pictures. Xanadu is one of the greatest instrumental sections of all time. The drumming’s phenomenal and the bass playing is as funky and cool as anything. Geddy’s got the strongest fingers. It sounds like he’s whacking the shit out of that Rickenbacker, the hardest bass to play.”
“The one Rush song I really, really like is La Villa Strangiato. And the version I particularly like is the one off the live album Exit… Stage Left.
“The second half of the song, where Alex Lifeson starts playing the atmospheric guitar solo on the front pickup of the Les Paul in A minor, is both beautiful and evocative. I remember learning to play the whole thing with my school friends Phil and James Hearley in their parents’ attic when I was 16 years old.
“Of course the intro deserves a special mention as well, with the spooky guitar swells followed by what can only be described as a Spanish assault on the senses. The complex instrumental breakdown at the end displays the band’s technical virtuosity, and particularly why Geddy always won Best Bassist year in year out in the rock mag polls. I sort of had Rush foisted on me as a youth by the brothers, but while a lot of their catalogue passed me by, this track stuck for all the right reasons.”
“I’d go for The Camera Eye from Moving Pictures. For me, this is Rush continuing in the tradition of their incredible 70s epics, but achieving something more structured and lyrically mature. As with the whole of the Moving Pictures album, it strikes a perfect balance between the power trio format of the 70s and the more layered keyboard- dominated sounds to come. It’s also got one of the great Alex Lifeson guitar solos – among so many!”
**LAWRENCE GOWAN **
“For 14 years, I was under the same management company as Rush, and therefore was aware of their musical development at relatively close range. Their song Limelight caught me immediately, and still does to this day. It’s so well crafted and at the time it stood apart melodically from their earlier work. To my interpretation, the lyric expresses something profound on the delicate subject of trying to balance fame with ‘real life’. That’s a tricky topic to put into perspective and still remain entertaining.”
**DAVE BROCK **
“I’d go for Between The Wheels from Grace Under Pressure. It has a powerful synth-bass presence, and some fantastic lead guitar playing from Alex Lifeson. This is a good, heavy piece, with interesting lyrics. Overall, a great prog rock number, from one of their best albums. Hawkwind toured with Rush in the States during the 70s – jolly fun was had by all of us.”
Mike Portnoy. Credit: Will Ireland.
“If I had to pick the quintessential Rush song, it would have to be La Villa Strangiato. When I was a teenager in the early 80s and in the heat of my deepest Rush influence, that was the benchmark for instrumental prowess. Not only for us drummers, but also for fellow bass players – that quick bass and drum breakdown – and guitarists – perhaps still Alex Lifeson’s greatest recorded solo.
“As I also stated in the Beyond The Lighted Stage film, to us blossoming musicians at the time, La Villa… was the ultimate musical challenge to learn, as no other instrumental song in rock history had that level of technical precision.”
“My favourite Rush song is Losing It from my favourite Rush album Signals. It’s one of the most emotionally charged Rush songs and the guest electric violin playing from Ben Mink is incredible! Peart’s lyrics are moving and the song is very melodic. Also, being a keyboard player, this whole album has the most early analogue keys of any Rush album and that really appeals to me.”
**STUART NICHOLSON **
“I’m a big Rush fan, and my favourite track is probably Marathon from Power Windows which, for me, was their last truly great album. We actually used to play that song in local pubs in the early days of Galahad, which raised an eyebrow or two as it was such a big sound, especially for the time.”
**DANNY CAVANAGH **
“When I was about 12 years old, and beginning to discover music and exactly how much it meant to me, one of the bands most adored by the circle of music lovers in my class was Rush. I went along to a friend’s house one weekend and heard The Spirit Of Radio and I was very moved by it. There was a lyric in this song which still makes my hair stand on end to this day: ‘Emotional feedback/on a timeless wavelength’. Just beautiful.”
Michel ‘Away’ Langevin. Credit: Getty.
MICHEL ‘AWAY’ LANGEVIN
“If I have to name one song that combines all the elements I like from Rush, it would be Natural Science from Permanent Waves. It’s a multi-part epic with a sci-fi quantum physics theme, and a touch of militant environmental consciousness.”
“Tom Sawyer shows the absolute ability of those musicians to be completely restrained when they want to be, and over-the-top unleashed when they want to be. It’s clever, it’s brilliant, it’s everything a song should be coming from great musicians.”
**ROSS JENNINGS **
“The Camera Eye is my pick. It contains everything you want to hear in a Rush song. Their infectious use of synth integrated into their signature riff-driven sound – and what a riff that is! – embellished with Neil Peart’s percussion wizardry, this is their last great prog epic.
“Its pacing and rhythm are catchy as hell. Yet it has an intense energy, and is lyrically captivating. To me, it’s their defining moment, and I’m also so thrilled it featured on their Time Machine tour.”
“I got heavily into Rush as a teenager back in the early 70s – yes, I’m that old – mainly listening to and being inspired by 2112 and Hemispheres. But in hindsight, my favourite album has to be Permanent Waves because, in my humble opinion, it simply has the best tunes.
“Their late-80s ‘synthesizer period’ was not my cup of tea, but for me, Counterparts was an excellent return to form. In fact, the song Nobody’s Hero from Counterparts is probably my most treasured Rush song overall. I love the chord structure and the catchy melodies, coupled with Geddy’s great soothing vocals and Neal Peart’s thought-provoking lyrics about homosexuality and AIDS.”
Pat Cash. Credit: Kevin Nixon.
“For whatever reason unknown to me, Hemispheres is not regarded as a classic Rush album by many. But I can’t disagree more. For me, it’s the ultimate Rush album, and the first real prog rock record I ever got into. Sure, I knew about Pink Floyd and Genesis, but Rush were almost unknown in Australia, and that was kinda cool.
“Cygnus-X1 Book II: Hemispheres, the first side of the album, is quite extraordinary. It really has everything a prog rock album should have. It’s all about mystery of the gods. What ultimately blew me away was the huge sound for a three-piece band. Geddy Lee’s voice, of course, is something very unusual. The first side is officially one song swerving back and forth with changes and atmosphere. The first 12 minutes, with its twists and turns, leads to a spooky three minutes before they stomp back again into what is my favourite piece of Rush music, bar none.
“It made a huge impact on me as a teenager, and to this day still does. The song finishes with beautifully sweet lyrics showing all the sides of Rush that we love. Neil Peart really is a poet, and has the talent of making lyrics timeless. They seem as poignant now as they would have been when the gods were creating the universe.”
“I’d go for 2112, despite its length. The track’s so catchy and has some very heavy moments. There’s a riff in there that’s really powerful.”
**MIKE HOLMES **
“YYZ sounded great when it first came out in the early 80s, and sounds even better when they do it live now. On the 2012 Clockwork Angels tour when they used the live strings it sounded massive. For me, this was the beginning of prog metal, and became a blueprint for a whole genre. Neil Peart is all over this track – he absolutely nailed it and really set a standard for others to aspire to.”
“Power Windows is my favourite Rush album by far. The production is amazing and the use of keyboards is really tasty.
“The songs are so melodic. Marathon has all the best examples of this. It’s a great song and the middle section solo just blows me away. A huge keyboard part drops in after a brilliant solo, and it’s spine tingling. The drumming is amazing. Rush peaked with Power Windows.”
**MATT HALPERN **
“I remember hearing La Villa Strangiato by Rush, and it was the longest song I had ever heard at the time. I didn’t even know bands were allowed to write songs that long at the time! I’d like to think La Villa Strangiato has inspired me to be open minded about letting songs grow, and breathe when writing songs with Periphery.”
Joe Elliott. Credit: Joe Elliott.
**JOE ELLIOTT **
“I saw Rush play Xanadu live at their first ever UK gig. This was at the Sheffield City Hall back in 1977. It was the solitary new song they played on that tour, and as I already had the live album All The World’s A Stage, which is pretty much what they played, the only thing I wasn’t familiar with. But it stood out as an epic piece. It’s 11 minutes long and musically meandering from quiet to very loud all the way through… Amazing stuff.”
MIKKO VON HERTZEN
“I went to this music-oriented high school back in the day called Sibelius High. Moving Pictures was a big thing for us. There, we had band with my elder brother Kie, which was called Venus Flytrap, a prog band with time signatures that would throw off even ourselves occasionally. Inspired by the Morse code of YYZ, we started our gigs with this awkward instrumental piece of music which in fact was the Morse code of our band’s name. We thought it was cool. I don’t think many people agreed.”
**NIALL MATHEWSON **
“There are two Rush tracks that had a big influence on me as a songwriter. The Big Money – I love the premise and drive of this track. Manhattan Project – this track was so powerful live and, for me, the imagery that goes with it is just brilliant. And scary.”
**GRUTLE KJELLSON **
“I’ve picked a Rush fave for this that has little to do with the classics. Today, my Rush song is one of the hits of my youth; one of the legendary songs on the Hear ’n Aid [famine relief] album. You know, when heavy guys used to care: Distant Early Warning. Not necessarily the best Rush song, but the best of the 80s.”