Geddy Lee Admits He ‘Barely’ Made Sense of Rush Concept Albums
Former Rush frontman Geddy Lee admitted he “barely” followed some of the band’s concept album ideas, after decades of having sung lyrics written by drummer Neil Peart.
The band split after a final tour in 2015, although it took Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson some time to become fully convinced that Peart had retired and had no intention of ever returning. They both believed there could be no future for the band without him.
“The first couple of months, we were emotionally hungover,” Lee told the Guardian in a new interview. “We didn’t know where the future was going to take us so we didn’t talk a ton then. And then we started to communicate again.”
Asked if he’d been certain it was over following their last show, he replied, “Not 100 percent. Neil was pretty adamant it was, and he played it like it was going to be the final show. And that’s why he actually left the drum throne and came out and gave us a hug on stage, which he swore he would never do. I guess I was a bit of an optimist. But nope. I think Alex accepted it more as the end. I thought we really killed it that night, but it was hard to tell because it got really emotional in the last 20 minutes. That’s the first time I ever got choked up at a microphone. So I guess a part of me knew.”
He continued, “I miss playing with Rush. I don’t miss traveling with Rush. I miss being on stage with those guys because it was a singular honor to me. I’m sure I will play live again one day, but it will never replace that intensity of what a three-hour Rush show was like to perform: it challenged me to my max and that’s rare in this life.”
He reflected that, driven on by fan support, the band entered a stage in the mid-‘70s when their ambition outweighed their musical ability. Citing 1978 track “La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self Indulgence)” as an example, he said, “We thought, ‘We’re going to write this long piece and then we’ll just record it live off the floor and boom!’ But it was really difficult. It was beyond us. … [I]t surprised me how popular that song was among our fans. They just love it when we go into that crazy mode. Yes, it is an indulgence, but it seemed to be a pivotal moment for us in creating a fanbase that wanted us to be that way.”
Lee described his relationship with Peart’s lyrics as “odd at times,” explaining, “Being an interpreter for Neil has been a singular pleasure of mine and a really difficult job at the same time, because I’m not always on the same page as him. As we grew as a band, I became trusted by him to be his sounding board and his editor, and if I couldn’t get into a thing, he would leave it alone. That’s the beauty of a relationship that lasts.”
Asked if he’d been able to make sense of Rush’s concept album, he replied, “Barely. I grew up listening to Yes. I still can’t tell you what any of those records are about, honestly. I don’t think it matters, because the music and the lyrics create a sound, and that gives you a picture of a meaning. Sometimes that’s enough to make you love it.”