Slow progress, but Rush's hour is here at last

James McNair talks to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's latest inductees

When Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins inducted the veteran rock trio Rush into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this month, they did so with great affection and a winning mischievousness. For starters, they donned lengthy wigs and white silk kimonos, dressing as Rush circa 1976 to perform "Overture", the wonderfully grandiose opening track from the group's dystopian concept album, 2112.

That Grohl – modern rock's great tastemaker and Zelig figure – so relished inducting Rush is another mark of how far they have come. Formed in Toronto in 1968, Geddy Lee (bass and vocals), Alex Lifeson (guitar) and Neil Peart (drums) have sold more than 40 million albums, morphing from cherished outsiders to the biggest "cult" band in the world.

"For years, I think it was almost taboo for people to acknowledge the influence of such a freak-flag band as Rush," says Lee today ahead of the band's UK arena tour in May. "More recently, there's been a maturing of our audience into positions of success and power."

The band's mainstream acceptance – if that is what they are finally winning – has been a long time coming. Rolling Stone was sniffy about Rush for decades – and this despite a revelation from an insider there that the group were one of the magazine's most-requested cover stories. Lee's unusually high voice has also made things tricky at times, one critic famously describing him as sounding like "a chipmunk on acid".

"'The damned howling in Hades' was another one," the singer laughs, "but it suited what we were doing back then and I was never going to change that. The gibes were painful at first; I'm a human being. I just grew a thick skin and learnt to accept that my voice is part of what makes Rush unique."

In truth, what's really odd about Rush's story is the persistence of certain key myths. It's odd, for example, that a band that has so consistently sent itself up (witness Lifeson's surreal acceptance speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame via YouTube, or try Googling Lee as the kilt-wearing Scotsman Harry Satchel) is still sometimes seen as a po-faced act for whom Samuel Taylor Coleridge remains a lyrical touchstone.

"Yeah, that prog-rock style of music we were doing early on was a bit overblown and if you write an 11-minute song called 'Xanadu' it's probably inevitable that the critics will say you're pretentious", Lee says.

"As for the lyrics, from [1980 album] Permanent Waves on, Neil was often writing very insightful stuff about the human condition. The early songs about Greek gods and mythical creatures have always got the most flash, but then there are later songs like 'Losing It' [about ageing's degenerative effect on artists' gifts], and 'Red Sector A' [part inspired by Lee's parents being survivors of Auschwitz]."

Rush's 19th studio album, Clockwork Angels, reached No 2 in the US last year; No 1 in the group's native Canada. It would also have reached No 1 in the UK had copies that came free with a Classic Rock magazine fan-pack edition fulfilled chart-eligibility criteria.

How, I ask Lee in closing, have Rush managed to avoid the sadder rock-star clichés and stay successful for so long?

"We've been able to sin in silence, and fortunately whatever transgressions there have been have slipped by relatively unnoticed," he says. "We all have healthy relationships, and there's something in our nature that's not for quitting, whether it's a band or a marriage. Maybe it's a Canadian thing."

Rush's UK tour runs from 22 to 30 May (livenation.co.uk)

Arts & Entertainment
TV

Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit