Following the death of drummer Neil Peart’s 19-year-old daughter Selena in a road accident in August 1997, Rush took an extended hiatus from the music business, with none of the trio - vocalist/bassist Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and Peart - sure whether they’d ever share a stage again.
But speaking in the new issue of Classic Rock magazine, Lee says that a phone call from one of the trio’s long-time heroes, former Led Zeppelin frontman Plant, helped drag the musicians out of the darkness.
“Page & Plant were touring [1998 album] Walking Into Clarksdale and they came to Toronto,” recalls Lee, referencing the Zeppelin duo’s July 4, 1998 appearance at the city’s Molson Amphitheatre. “Someone kept calling our office saying they were Robert Plant and they needed to speak to me. No one believed it, but turns out it was him.”
“We were on hiatus after Selena [Neil’s Peart’s daughter] had passed away and we were not in a good place. I called Robert back, and he wanted us to come to the show, and I was pretty down in the dumps at that point. And he said, ‘No, come to the show, we’ll talk.’ He understood what was going on with the band. I remember him saying: ‘You’ve got to re-join life, and sooner is better than later. So get your ass down here.’ So I called Alex up and said we’re going to see Page & Plant.”
“And they were totally awesome. They were so nice. There’s nothing better than meeting someone you admire for so many years and so many reasons and finding out they’re true gents.”
Elsewhere in his interview with Classic Rock, Lee reveals that, after hearing Zeppelin’s first album, Rush “wanted to be them instantly.”
“I remember when the first album dropped and we waited at our local Sam The Record Man store in Willowdale, grabbed the record, ran to my house, put it on and sat on my bed freaking out over Communication Breakdown. They were a huge, huge influence on us. We wanted to be them instantly.”
“The phrase ‘heavy metal’ didn’t suit Zeppelin,” Lee adds. “It didn’t suit them because they were so much more than a heavy metal band. They had a sound that constantly surprised. They used influences and they took chances that other heavy metal bands just would not conceive of.”
You can read more from Geddy Lee in the new issue of Classic Rock magazine, which is available to pre-order online.