Rush preserved for posterity
Seminal album 2112 included in cultural trust
Drummer Pearta bit divided about Canadian honour
Oct. 21, 2006. 01:00 AM
POP MUSIC CRITIC
Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart has mixed feelings about the Toronto trio's 1976 prog-rock masterpiece, 2112, being singled out for conservation.
On the one hand, Peart is flattered that the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust, an organization dedicated to safeguarding Canada's film, TV, radio and musical legacy, is adding the 2112 masters to its archive.
The album will be officially inducted during the organization's annual MasterWorks ceremony to be attended by Governor General Micha?lle Jean Thursday at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. It will be honoured alongside 11 other works, including the NFB documentary The Champions and the classic Quebec film Les bons debarras.
"It seems a worthy thing," says Peart on the line from Los Angeles, where Rush is working on a new album to be released next year. "We've been slowly trying to rescue our old master tapes and transfer them to digital because they do degrade horribly over time. So I understand the necessity of what they're doing."
Whether Peart would have chosen that album ? or any other by Rush ? for preservation is another matter.
"I accept the transitory nature of music in general and especially popular music," he says. "As a listener I move on and very rarely go back and listen to anything I listened to 30 years ago. I'm always about moving forward. When an artist I like puts out a new record, I don't listen to the old one any more.
"I see it the same way with Rush. When we tour, we play those songs. They're still great to play and I'm still proud of many of them. But I would definitely fear the realization that the best record we made was 10 or 20 years ago. That would be hard to live with."
Peart might be reluctant to flag 2112 as Rush's best album, but has no reservations about identifying it as the band's breakthrough. Recorded in a month by Peart, singer/bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson, it was a calculated act of creative defiance.
"Our first three albums had all done so-so in Canada and the U.S.," Peart recalls. "We were under a lot of pressure from our record company and management to be more commercial, to toe the line as it were, and write some singles. We were made to understand that this was our last chance.
"We could cave under that kind of pressure, of course, or we could rebel against it. We were mad at people daring to tell us how to make music. For me, growing up in the '60s, that was simply evil. It was very much us against the suits. That kind of energy was present big-time during the recording."
Far from delivering radio-friendly singles, Rush devoted the entire first side of 2112 to the title track, a 20-minute composition on the theme of rebellious individuality loosely inspired by the Ayn Rand novel Anthem.
"Suddenly, our sales multiplied five or six times and we were headlining small theatres," Peart says. "It was absolutely the hinge in our whole career. It could so easily have gone the other way. If that record had fallen between the cracks, it would have been the end of us I'm sure."
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