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 and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders