"Geddy and Neil wanted to kill me. They were really upset": Alex Lifeson on the truth behind his infamous 'Blah Blah Blah' speech at Rush's Rock Hall induction

Rush at the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, 2013
(Image credit: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame YouTube)

On April 18, 2013, Rush were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, at a star-studded ceremony at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.

The band were inducted into the Rock Hall by Foo Fighters duo Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins, both self-confessed Rush nerds. In his speech, Grohl talked about his introduction to Rush in 1976 via a "cool stoner older cousin" who handed him a copy of 2112, an album he hailed as "heavy shit." He then pulled up a photo of the band in white kimonos and skin-tight 'pants' - "the most infamous band photo of all time" - and joked that, all these years later, the image of Alex Lifeson could still be found on 'CamelToe.org'.

"If you aren’t into Rush," Spin noted, "the speech is basically like Homer Simpson describing the merits of Grand Funk Railroad. If you are into Rush, this is a validation of your life."

As Rush took to the stage to deliver their acceptance speeches, one might have assumed that would be the end of the evening's 'banter'. Neil Peart thanked the group's road crew, co-producers, friends and family. Geddy Lee spoke of his "two really terrific partners" in the band, and spoke of "the privilege" of making music together. And then Alex Lifeson stepped to the podium, and spent over two minutes saying 'Blah Blah Blah" in a variety of ways, to audience reactions ranging from confusion to hilarity. 

His bandmates, smiling through somewhat forced grins, were not in on the joke. Their reaction afterwards? "They wanted to kill me," said Lifeson. "They were really upset."

The guitarist spoke about the incident in depth in 2019 to writer James McNair for the now defunct Planet Rock magazine. Asked if it was true that his bandmates had no idea of his plans, Lifeson admitted, "I didn’t know myself."

"We had a little rehearsal in the afternoon, just checking the teleprompter was working," he told McNair. "I was reading my speech and trying to memorise it - no easy task when you get to this age. In the end I thought, 'I should just get up and go blah, blah, blah or something.' And then it was, 'Oh my God! Do I actually have the balls to get up there and do that?' So, during the actual show when we were sitting at the table I leaned over to my wife to tell her my plan. Then somebody gave this very serious and grand speech and she was like, 'And you’re gonna blah, blah, blah?'

"I committed to it as I was walking up to the podium," Lifeson continued. "And, yeah, I did have a mischievous smile on my face, because I was thinking to myself, 'Al. You’re gonna do this.' All these people were getting up and giving these long-winded speeches, most of which were really fucking boring. I thought, 'Here we are in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame - isn’t rock supposed to be irreverent?'

"Geddy and Neil had no idea what was was going on. I think they were confused. I had my back to them and they couldn’t see that I was acting-out the whole story of  Rush and how we got there." 

Lifeson went on to explain that his bandmates didn't initially get the joke... but saw the funny side soon enough.

"They wanted to kill me," he recalled. "They were really upset. They were like, 'What is the matter with you? How could you do that after our heartfelt speeches?' Then the following day I got an email from Neil saying 'I owe you and apology the size of Texas. I am so sorry that I got upset. I’ve been inundated with emails from everybody I know saying, Wasn’t Alex’s speech great?’ So I was vindicated!"

Watch the speech below:

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.