It’s been a long week for Rush and a long time coming, their long-awaited induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the unusual schedule it’s created. The typically press-shy band has sat in front of camera after camera, explaining why the honour means so much to fans and guessing at why they were excluded for so long, while at the same time preparing for the daunting evening and, simultaneously, an upcoming tour. Geddy Lee sighs that it’s been a “crazy” few days.
And yet, as they sit down for another interview at a glitzy hotel suite in Los Angeles, the power trio from Toronto seem relaxed to the point of goofiness. Lee, the band’s formidable bassist, keyboardist and frontman, is jokingly squawking in a comically different register while he and drummer Neil Peart laugh about the dangers of slouching on camera.
On the couch for an interview or onstage for a performance, the trio feeds off one another. But amid the craziness of the week, the members of Rush admit that the magnitude of this particular honour has begun to sharpen into focus. While they were steadfastly ambivalent through all the years of apparent snubs, and even to a certain extent upon first learning of their induction, they can’t help but be flattered now by their band finally receiving its due.
“It’s a lovely attainment, an elevation to arrive at,” said Peart, pointing to the number of luminaries they’re joining. “It’s a constellation and we’re one little spark of light up there.”
“You can’t help but reflect on your career and what it means,” Lee added. “If you’re that kind of person that thinks about context.”
“If you’re a reflective sort of person – which we’re not – but if we were,” adds a laughing Peart.
“If we were, you can’t help but think about your context and all that we’ve done together, and what it’s been like to be a band for all these years,” finished Lee. “And to receive this nice pat on the back.”
Of course, it’s the amount of time it took for that pat on the back that has given fans such chips on their shoulders.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame began honouring performers in 1986 and Rush was first eligible to join back in 1998. Since then, thousands of fans have signed hundreds of petitions, and could only stew while countless other acts were marched into the shrine ahead of Rush. In the 15 intervening years between Rush’s eligibility and their admission, some of the artists who were welcomed into the hall include Aerosmith, the Lovin’ Spoonful, Steely Dan, the Talking Heads, Jackson Browne, ZZ Top, the O’Jays, Blondie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Ronettes, Madonna, Abba, the Hollies, the Comets, Donovan and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Rush was hardly alone among the supposedly snubbed. Yes, the Moody Blues, Kiss, Kraftwerk, Joy Division, Chic, Duran Duran, Black Flag, Cheap Trick, Journey and Bad Company are among the thus-far excluded artists often cited by disgruntled critics of the rock institution.
So, why was Rush ignored for so long? Theories abound: The rock hall is biased against progressive rock, evidenced by the absence of Yes and the Electric Light Orchestra; Rush was remarkably consistent but never scored big singles, with only 1982’s New World Man cracking the U.S. top 40; and Rush was never a critical darling, with the band only earning the begrudging respect of many music scribes through their stunning longevity and instrumental virtuosity. For a long time, they were also considered just a little bit uncool.
Lee, certainly, has had cause to ponder that question over the years.
“I think there’s a lot of reasons to it,” he said, behind a pair of round-framed sunglasses. “Progressive rock is not accepted by this group of people who make this decision. Yes are not in the hall. That’s an error. Deep Purple are not in the hall. That’s an error. Moody Blues are not in the hall. So prog-rock is viewed as a kind of lesser art form by the powers that be.
“So that’s part of it,” he adds. “And of course, we are not really a mainstream act.”