Rush vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee says that he and his former bandmates Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart thought that their 1978 album Hemispheres might be “way too weird” to appeal to the general public.
In an interview in the new issue of Classic Rock magazine, Lee looks back upon the making of his band’s sixth studio album, which reached number 14 in the UK charts and spawned fan favourites The Trees and La Ville Strangiato, and admits “what surprises me to this day is that I have so many fans come up to me and say that they think that it’s the ultimate Rush album.”
“I had absolutely no idea how people would take it,” Lee confesses to CR writer Dom Lawson. “I just thought people would think it was way too weird. We had no idea. I knew it would be a tough sell to radio, because these pieces [which included the 18-minute-long, six-part Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres] were so long. But you can’t worry about that stuff when you’re doing it. I saw this interview with [actor] Robert Redford the other day, and he quited TS Eliot, and Eliot said that it’s all about the trying, and what happens after that is none of our business. I’d say that sums up how we felt after making Hemispheres.”
“It didn’t feel like a transitional record,” Lee adds. “It felt like the end of an era for me. I felt that the side-long [songs] thing was getting predictable for me as a writer, and I wanted to bust out of that. In a sense it felt like saying goodbye to that period. I had ideas of where I wanted us to go. Songs like The Trees and Circumstances pointed in that direction. I wanted to tell stories, but I didn’t want to be weighed down by themes that had to keep repeating over a twenty-five-minute period. I wanted to be able to accomplish many more musical ideas over twenty-five minutes.”
“I don’t know if I can ever possess the necessary objectivity to be able to see and hear what people see and hear in Hemispheres,” Lee concludes. “But I like to think that it’s the ambitiousness in the effort we put in. There’s something truly prog about that record, and I think fans of that genre really appreciate that.”
To read Geddy Lee’s full, in-depth dive into the making of Hemispheres, pick up the new issue of Classic Rock when it hits the shelves later this week.