Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart
Original Release: Moving Pictures
Definitive Version: Anything live. I have a recording from the Presto Tour, 1990, on my iTunes, but really, any live version will do.
It seems difficult to believe, but there was a time in my life when I wasn’t a Rush fan. Actually there were two times, and I’ll talk about the second time later.
I didn’t like Rush at first. You have to understand that at the time I found The Who, the only Rush songs I knew were Fly By Night, Working Man and Bastille Day. Bastille Day was interesting, but I didn’t like either of the others.
Jin got Permanent Waves soon after it came out, and I got to know Rush a little better from that, but I still didn’t like them. To me, Rush was burnout rock, that is, all the smokers liked Rush, so I lumped them in with AC/DC and Cheap Trick and the other hard rock that Jin got into and I didn’t.
Jin and I had the same touchstone—The Who. She went in one harder, punkier direction, and I went in the other, to the longer, more experimental sounds of Led Zeppelin, Yes and Jimi Hendrix. Rush fit into a category that wasn’t on the path I followed, or so I thought.
Then I heard this song for the first time my junior year of high school. I’m pretty sure I heard Limelight and Tom Sawyer before I heard this one, but this song was the game-changer. Quite simply, this song made me a Rush fan.
I’m pretty sure I was at Mike’s the first time I heard it, and I can’t remember now whether it was from him buying the record and us listening to it or us listening to the radio while it was on. It could be either. Q-FM used to have live weekends once a month or so, where every song they’d play was a live version. Mike and I always seemed to catch those for a while when I’d visit after staying with Dad.
We’d play this stock market game he had on his screened-in porch with the radio on, and if that wasn’t the first time I heard this time, it was the first time it hit me. I was struck by the story of a futuristic society where cars had been banned, and the melodic nature of the music.
This wasn’t a Rush with which I was familiar. This was, as Dave Grohl put it in his pitch-perfect speech inducting Rush into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (go find it if you haven’t heard it), some heavy shiznit.
From there I started listening more carefully to Tom Sawyer and Limelight and recognizing that what was there with Red Barchetta was in those songs, too. And I started to realize something. By this time, I had seen a few bands in Columbus, and it seemed to me that no one ever played a Rush song, even the older stuff.
I mentioned this to Mike, and he agreed with me, but why was that? The more I listened, the more I concluded that it was because Rush’s music was really intricate and difficult to play. It was just three guys, but there was so much going on that no one could copy it. I think it’s telling that Tributosaurus has never tried to pay tribute to Rush—and I’ve seen at least one of the guys at a Rush show, so I know at least one is a fan—even though they could draw from as many musicians as needed.
When Exit … Stage Left came out, it was all over. It was one of my most played records my freshman year at Wabash. I had jumped firmly onto the Rush bandwagon.