A Rush Newsreel
by Neil Peart
... Dateline: New York
City, May 9, 1980.
In the midst of a crowded and chaotic backstage
scene, following the second of our four nights
at the Palladium, a few quiet words of agreement
became the unlikely conception for this album.
Prior to this, it had been our announced
intention to record and release a second live
album, but an unlooked-for charge of ambition
and enthusiasm caused a last-minute resolution
to throw caution out the window! (onto 52nd
St.), and dive headlong into the making of a
studio elpee instead. The reasons for this are
difficult to put on paper, being somewhat
instinctive, but all of us had been feeling very
positive, and our Research and Development Dept.
(sound check jams) had been very spirited and
interesting, so it was felt that the creative
hiatus provided by a live album was not really
necessary at present, and it would be more
timely and more satisfying to embark on the
adventure of a new studio album. Right!
... Dateline: London,
June 4, 1980.
It is never too late to change plans, but not so
with arrangements! Thus we went ahead with the
live tapings we had planned, recording our five
shows at the Hammersmith Odeon, as well as dates
from Glasgow, Manchester, and Newcastle. Then we
would record some shows in this upcoming tour,
and put together a live set that would represent
a wider scope of our concerts, musically,
temporally, and geographically. This is no bad
thing, and should prove to be a good move,
unless we change our minds again, in which case
we could combine three tours, or four, or...
... Dateline: Toronto,
July 28, 1980.
An intense thunderstorm raged outside all day
long, while indoors a storm of a different kind
was brewing. In the studios of Phase One, two
complete sets of equipment crammed the room, and
two complete bands filled the air with a
Wagnerian tumult, as Max Webster and ourselves
united to record a song for their album, called
"Battlescar." This could only be a very unique
and enjoyable experience, attempting something
on such a scale as this, and I think the result
will testify to its success. This day also
afforded Pye Dubois (Max's lyricist) the
opportunity to present us with a song of his,
humbly suggesting that it might be suitable for
us, if we were interested. Having been long-time
admirers of Pye's work, we were indeed
interested, and it eventually became "Tom
Sawyer," and it is interesting that an
identifiable Max influence crept into the music,
by way of Pye's lyrical input.
... Dateline: Stony
Lake, Ontario, August, 1980.
The address and time of year will probably best
describe the setting, as the creative work
begins in earnest. For those interested in
Alex's adventures in aviation, it may be
reported that a large pile of wreckage, and a
rather sizeable hole in the top of a truck, bear
witness to his prowess in the field of
radio-controlled airplanes. (There's a man
outstanding in -- Never mind!) Happily, he was
somewhat more fortunate in his dealings with the
genuine article, (and on many an afternoon)
could be seen buzzing and strafing the house.
distractions aside, we were banished to the
barn, and began the process of assembling ideas,
both musical and lyrical. "The Camera Eye" was
the first to be written, soon followed by "Tom
Sawyer," "Red Barchetta," "YYZ," and
"Limelight." Things were taking shape.
It is interesting
sometimes to retrace the sources of some of the
musical ideas; for instance, the instrumental
section of Tom Sawyer grew from a little melody
that Geddy had been using to set up his
synthesizers at sound checks, then was forgotten
until we were searching for a part in that song,
when it emerged as very strong theme. "YYZ" is
the identity code used by Toronto International
Airport, and the intro is taken from the Morse
code which is sent out by the beacon there. It
is always a happy day when YYZ appears on our
On the other end of
those tags, though, it becomes increasingly
apparent to us just how valuable touring is,
primarily in our development as individual
musicians, which in turn directs the progression
of our music. Sometimes in the dark days of a
mid-tour depression, brought on by fatigue,
homesickness, and hence frustration, the
stresses of touring would seem to outweigh the
benefits, but when we reach the 'Final Exams' of
writing and recording, the evidence of change
and improvement is very rewarding.
... Dateline: Toronto,
August 31, 1980.
We return to Phase One, together with our
long-suffering old standby, Terry Brown (Broon),
our co-producer and Chief Objective Ear, fouling
the air with "Gitanes," and offering criticisms
and suggestions where necessary. We put together
some rough demos of the aforementioned five
songs, as well as a rough (to say the least),
and riotous (to say the most), version of "Witch
Hunt." This was the winner of the most
re-written song award, being very difficult to
get a handle on, but our intention had always
been to use it as the 'production number' of the
album, in the tradition of such pieces as
"Different Strings," "Madrigal," and "Tears."
This frees us from our usual practice of writing
as we would play live, maintaining the
discipline of a three-piece band. It would serve
as a sort of vehicle for experimentation and
indulgence. For instance, we would be using Hugh
Syme's talents on the keyboards, and my entire
drum part was recorded twice (as two drummers)
in one verse, while in another, a percussion
section was created by recording each sound
differently. The introduction was a very strange
endeavour, as we assembled a 'Vigilante Choir'
out in the snow, and the sound of the 'haunted
child' at the beginning. Although the main
thrust of our work has always been directed
towards its live presentation, it is nice to
take a small dose of studio indulgence!
... Dateline: Portland,
Maine, October 1, 1980.
It was here that we concluded a short tour,
mainly the eastern seaboard of the United
States, in which we rehearsed the five completed
songs whenever possible, and introduced "Tom
Sawyer" and "Limelight" into our shows, although
both would undergo some changes before being
committed to tape.
... Dateline: Morin
Heights, Quebec, October through December, 1980.
Once again we returned to the beautiful
Laurentian Mountains, and to the amiable
ambiance of Le Studio. We had been very much
looking forward to our return here, and were not
disappointed, it proving to be every bit as
great as our memories. A very friendly place.
We were soon made
painfully aware (literally) of the ambitious
nature of our project, as we had to work long
and hard to capture the right sounds and
performances for each track. The only exception
to this, for no apparent reason, was "Red
Barchetta." With only a few runs to get the
sounds together, it was to be that rarest of all
animals (for ourselves, anyway!), a one-take
wonder. No one could have been more surprised
than we, especially after the relentless
grinding it had taken to capture "Tom Sawyer,"
"Limelight," and "YYZ." (Are you sure, Broon?)
We had purposefully
left one song still unwritten, with a view to
writing it directly in the studio, as we have
had such good results from this previously.
Songs such as "Natural Science," and "The
Twilight Zone" have benefitted from the pressure
and spontaneity of this situation, although then
it happened by force of circumstances, where now
our planning includes a space for 'no-plan.'
"Vital Signs" was the
ultimate result, eclectic in the extreme, it
embraces a wide variety of stylistic influences,
ranging from the sixties to the present.
Lyrically, it derives from my response to the
terminology of 'Technospeak,' the language of
electronics and computers, which often seems to
parallel the human machine, in the functions and
interrelationships they employ. It is
interesting, if irrelevant, to speculate as to
whether we impose our nature on the machines
that we build, or whether they are merely
governed by the inscrutable laws of Nature as
we. (Perhaps Murphy's Laws?) Never mind!
ANYWAY!! The tracks
were eventually finished, albeit a few days
behind schedule, when the mixing and the
disasters began. In a massive electronic
freak-out revolution, the digital mastering
machine, the mixdown computer, and one of the
multi-track machines, gave up their collective
ghosts one after the other, driving poor Broon
to distraction, and setting us two weeks behind
in the end. After much technical tearing of hair
and gnashing of teeth, the machine maladies were
finally put right, and Geddy returned to perch
on Broon's shoulder, and the Skiers of the Woods
were seen no more on the Wilderness Trails.
As with anything that
drags on too long, we were glad to finally
finish, but even more glad to hear what it was
we had finished! It is a curious sensation, when
listening back to a completed album for the
first time, how quickly all those months and all
of those difficulties go racing by. How can a
mere forty minutes of music contain and express
all of the thoughts, feelings, and energy that
goes into it?
Then suddenly you're
listening without analyzing, transformed from
the performer to the audience, feeling the
responses that you hope the listener at home
Perhaps it is true that
in a synergistic way the output does add up to
all of that input, perhaps it is all in there
for the discerning listener to experience, maybe
Time travels backward at the speed of light,
maybe Alex Lifeson is 'Gub,' maybe...
Why are you asking me
all these questions?
I am still releasing my
hostilities on Tama drums, all with wooden
shells, and the inner side 'Vibra-Fibed.' The
bass drums are 24", the toms are 6, 8, 10, 12"
concerts, and 12, 13, 15, and 18" closed toms. I
am still using my 'old faithful' wood-shell
snare, a 5 1/2 x 14 Slingerland, and have
recently made a switch to wooden timbales, and
retired my tympani and gong in favour of a pair
of Tama 'gong bass drums,' which are open-ended
bass drums on a stand, utilizing oversize heads
to give a very deep, resonant sound.
My cymbals are Avedis
Zildjians, with the exception of one genuine
Chinese China type. The Zildjians are 8" and 10"
splash, 13" high-hats, two 16", and one each 18"
and 20" crash cymbals, a 22" ride, an 18" pang,
and a 20" China type.
In the Percussion
Department are orchestra bells, tubular bells,
wind chimes, temple blocks, cowbells, triangles,
bell tree, crotales, and Burma bell.
I use Remo clear dots
on my snare and bass drums, Ludwig silver dots
on the concert toms, and Evans Looking Glass
(top), and Blue Hydraulic (bottom) on the closed
toms. Clear Remos are used on the timbales and
gong bass drums. Ludwig pedals, Slingerland
high-hat, Tama hardware, and Pro-Mark 747
drumsticks are the final details.
Equipment I will be
using on the 'Moving Pictures' tour:
Oberheim-- OB-1, OB-X, and OB-8, two sets of
Taurus pedals, interfaced with the OB-8,
Mini-Moog, Roland Digital Sequencer, assorted
BASSES AND GUITARS
Two Rickenbacker 4001's, Fender Jazz Bass,
Rickenbacker 4002, double-neck Rickenbacker,
incorporating 4001 with twelve-string guitar,
double-neck Rickenbacker, incorporating 4001
with six-string guitar, Ovation acoustic.
Two BGW 750B power amps, two Ashley preamps, two
2 x 15 Thiele-design cabinets fitted with EVM
speakers, two V4B Ampeg cabinets with JBL
speakers, Yamaha solid state guitar amp.
Gibson ES355, 345, SG Standard, 1175
double-neck, Fender Stratocaster, Ovation
Classic & Adanis, for acoustic guitars, 2 Ashley
SC-40 preamps, 1 Ashley SC-66 Stereo Parametric
2 Marshall Combos, 2 Hiwatt 100's with 2- 4 x 12
cabinets & 1 Leslie cabinet.
Roland 301 Echo Unit, Advanced Audio Digital
Delay, Electric Misstress [sic], 1 Roland
Chorus, 1 MXR Micro-amp, MXR Distortion, Morley
Volume Pedal, 1 ELL-BEE (L.B.) 30-7965 Model 'C'
Type R (Series XL-3427) Remote Floormount
Advanced Relay Effects Switching Configuration.
Management by: Ray
Danniels, SRO Productions, Toronto, Canada.
Road Manager and Lighting Director: Howard
Stage Manager: Michael Hirsh.
Concert Sound Engineer: Jon Erickson.
Stage Right Technician and Crew Cheif: Liam Birt.
Stage Left Technician: Skip Gildersleeve.
Centre Stage Technician: Larry Allen.
Guitar and Synthesizer Technician: Tony Geranios.
Stage Monitor Mixer: Greg Connolly.
Security cheif: Ian Grandy.
Personal Shreve: Kevin Flewitt.
Concert Sound by National Sound; Tom Linthicum,
Fuzzy Frazer, and Dave Berman.
Concert Lighting by See Factor International;
Nick Kotos, Head Technician, possily Mike Weiss,
and who knows?
Concert Visuals created by Nick Prince, Al
Kamajian, and Nelvana Ltd.
Bus and Truck-Faces: Tom Whittaker, Billy
Barlow, Mac MacLear, Pat Lynes, Richard Owens.
Concert Projectionist: Lee Tenner.
Concert Rigging: Bill Collins.
U.K. Transportation by Edwin Shirley Trucking,
Len Wright Travel, and Bill Churchman (the Red
Program design: Hugh Syme.
Photography by Fin Costello, except where
Booking Agencies: United States -- American
Talent International, NYC; United Kingdom --
Bron Agency, London; Canada -- The Agency,