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Music / Rush (Band)

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Rush in their final years. From left to right: Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart and Geddy Lee.
All the world's indeed a stage
And we are merely players
Performers and portrayers
Each another's audience outside the gilded cage.

Rush were a Canadian rock trio formed in 1968, although, listening to some of their songs, you'd never guess there were only three of them. They were probably best known for Geddy Lee's "wait, is that a guy?" vocals and prominent bass and Neil Peart's early Ayn Rand-inspired lyrics (though he had distanced himself from her after some backlash, and it's really only the albums from Fly by Night through about Hemispheres where her influence is particularly apparent). While the band had always been an album rock (and later classic rock) radio favourite, Rush saw a decent boost to their popularity for their contributions to the video game series Rock Band — and another, unfortunately enough, following Peart's passing.

One of those bands that split people down the middle — a lot of people hate Progressive Rock in general, and many disapproved of Peart's early fondness for Ayn Rand. (To be fair, while Peart acknowledged he still had areas of agreement with Rand, he did not agree with her whole philosophy, and he removed her "thank you" credit from 2112*.) They are probably the biggest Cult Classic band in the world: they have sold tens of millions of records throughout their career, but although a lot of people that like them really like them, the same goes for people that dislike them.

Although most commonly associated with Hard Rock and Progressive Rock, their style varied considerably during their career. Originating with a fairly straightforward Hard Rock sound heavily influenced by Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin; they remained such for their first few albums, similarly incorporating fantasy and science-fiction themes into their lyrics, and elaborate arrangements into their instrumentals. They were increasingly influenced by the growing Progressive Rock movement but maintained a harder-edged sound than most of their contemporaries, and it was at this point that Peart's infatuation with the writings of Ayn Rand became prominent. They soon began to incorporate Jazz, New Wave, Pop, and Reggae influences; and transitioned to a predominantly Synth Rock style that lasted well through The '80s, a sound heavily influenced by Talking Heads and The Police. In the '90s with the release of Counterparts, the band yet again changed their stylings to stay relevant, now taking elements from Alternative Rock and even Grunge and while maintaining some of the Progressive sound; they began moving back into their earlier Hard Rock style, including the release of an EP of covers of songs by their earliest Hard Rock influences like The Who, The Yardbirds, and Cream.

The group's line-up remained consistent since Peart joined in 1974 to replace founding drummer John Rutsey, making them the third-longest enduring band in rock music (only ZZ Top and Golden Earring have been together longer) by the time of their retirement. Once Peart joined the band, he became the primary lyricist, while Lee and Lifeson concentrated on the music. Before that point, Lee and Lifeson did all the songwriting; Rutsey had written some lyrics for their eponymous 1974 debut album, but never gave them to the others.

Both Lee and Lifeson split off in favour of solo efforts during the band's tenure (My Favourite Headache and Victor, respectively). Lifeson reportedly had a sequel album in the works, Victor II, but abandoned the idea in light of Peart's personal tragedies. (Peart's daughter Selena was killed in a car wreck, and his common-law wife Jackie died of cancer ten months later; Peart recounts, "They said it was cancer, but of course it was a broken heart.") Lee recorded My Favourite Headache during the band's hiatus.

Shortly after the release of their debut album, Rutsey, a diabetic since childhood, left due to health problems and was replaced by Peart. Rutsey passed away in the summer of 2008. Lee replaced original bassist/vocalist Jeff Jones shortly after the band formed in 1968.

In 2015, the band announced that their R40 Tour, which concluded on August 1 of that year, would be their last large-scale tour due to health issues for Lifeson (arthritis) and Peart (tendinitis). However, they left open the possibility of smaller tours and future studio projects. Lifeson put an end to this idea when he confirmed in a January 2018 interview that Rush was done, and they had no plans to record a new album or tour anymore. Peart's death from brain cancer two years later made it clear that the band was over for good. Lee and Lifeson have since said they may eventually record together again, but will not tour, or release any such material under the name Rush.

In 2022, Stern created a pinball machine based on the band's work, with the surviving members of the group participating in its creation and providing voice work especially for it.

Not to be confused, if such a thing were even possible, with Rush Limbaugh, who you may also hear on the radio. (Note: As of March 2012, this Rush has submitted a cease-and-desist order to the other one for unauthorized use of their music. Use of their music by political figures seems to be a Berserk Button of theirs, as they have issued cease-and-desist orders to several other political figures as well. Check this story for a wonderful Hurricane of Puns and count all the Rush song titles and lyric references you can find.) Also not to be confused with the Formula One biopic by Ron Howard or a flying robot dog.

See also Freewill in 2112, a musical based on the album.

Principal Members (Founding members in italic, most recent members in bold):

  • Jeff Jones - bass, lead vocals (1968)
  • Geddy Lee - lead vocals, bass, guitar, keyboard, synthesizer, mellotron (1968–69, 1969–2018)
  • Alex Lifeson - guitar, vocals, synthesizer, mandola, mandolin, bouzouki, keyboard (1968–2018)
  • Neil Peart - drums, percussion, glockenspiel, wind chimes, bell tree, vibraslap, triangle, tubular bells, temple blocks, timpani, gong, cowbells, crotales, timbales, plywood, cymbals, hammered dulcimer (1974–2018, died 2020)
  • John Rutsey - drums, percussion, vocals (1968–74, died 2008)

Studio Discography:

Extended Plays (EP):

  • 2004 - Feedback

Live Discography:

  • 1976 - All the World's a Stage
  • 1981 - Exit...Stage Left
  • 1989 - A Show of Hands
  • 1998 - Different Stages note 
  • 2003 - Rush in Rio
  • 2005 - R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour
  • 2006 - Grace Under Pressure Tour note 
  • 2008 - Snakes & Arrows Live
  • 2011 - Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland
  • 2013 - Clockwork Angels Tour
  • 2015 - R40 Live

Non-album singles:

  • 1973 - "Not Fade Away" (a Buddy Holly cover) / "You Can't Fight It"


  • 2010 - Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (history of the band up to and including the Snakes & Arrows Tour)
  • 2016 - Rush: Time Stand Still (retrospective on the R40 Live Tour)

"We are the priests of the Tropes of Syrinx":

  • Philosophical musings about Objectivism, especially in the period from 2112 to Moving Pictures. In the period after this, they actually swing pretty far in the direction of subjectivism, especially on Hold Your Fire.
  • Fantasy and sci-fi themes and settings, often in tandem with the above; "2112", for example, is a loose adaptation of Ayn Rand's Anthem and "Hemispheres" is a near-literal rendering of Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy
  • Conceptually linked songs spread out across an entire album side, or even multiple albums as in the case of "Cygnus X-1" (two) or the "Fear" series (three, expanded to four once Vapor Trails came out).
    • Clockwork Angels is a full-on concept album. Sci-Fi/Fantasy author Kevin J. Anderson and Peart have also written a novelization of the album's story.
  • As with the above, Rock Operas
  • Long songs with Epic Instrumental Openers, with the band's live shows featuring increasingly elaborate drum solos as a mid-piece of the concert. Since The '90s, Peart used multiple drum kits on a circular platform that rotates around his seat so that he may at various points play traditional drums, xylophones, other exotic types of percussion, electric drums, or synth pads set to play brass band samples.
    • Commented on by a comedian hosting the band on his show: "The band Rush is here! Either that, or a drum factory exploded in the studio."
    • The group's 2010–11 Time Machine tour included a 45-minute performance of the Moving Pictures (Album) in its entirety (never ever touch this button).
  • Long concerts. From 1996 on, their concerts averaged at least 2-1/2 hours each. They played a 60-70-minute opening set, then took a short break before doing a second (longer) set. There's a reason they stopped using opening acts.
  • Strong basslines to the point where the bass can be considered the lead instrument in some songs.
  • A good sense of humor about themselves (as shown by their collaborations with South Park, SCTV, and Aqua Teen Hungerforce, some of which are used in their live shows)
  • Unusual time signatures and rhyme schemes (The Larger Bowl, for example, is based on a form of Malaysian poetry called "pantoum")
    • The intro of "YYZ" is written in 10/8 and incorporates the Morse code of those three letters, which are the location code for Pearson International Airport in the band's hometown of Toronto.
    • "Subdivisions" alternates between 7/8, 4/4, and 3/4 (or possibly 6/4) signatures. Some parts only last a couple of bars before switching to the next. Very easily messed up if tried on a marching band.

"For the tropes of the prophets were written on the studio walls":

  • Achievements in Ignorance: The quick timbal triplet fills Neil plays at the beginning of "Time Stand Still" were inspired by a similar fill in a Genesis song. Later, he worked with the same engineer as that Genesis record and was told that the fill he was inspired by was recorded with the tape slowed down.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: From "The Spirit of Radio": "...and the magic music makes your morning mood."
    • "Machinery making modern music" from the same song.
  • Aerith and Bob: We have Alex and Neil... and then we have Geddy. Geddy's birth name is actually Gary, but he had it legally changed to Geddy at some point (see Funetik Aksent and Stage Name below). In terms of birth names, we've got Gary, Neil... and Aleksandar! ("Aleksandar" is just the Serbian form of "Alexander", and Alex's parents were Serbian immigrants, but it's still no wonder he goes by Alex.)
    • Aleksandar Živojinović, need we remind you ("Lifeson", according to Alex himself, is a loose translation of his surnamenote )
  • Affectionate Nickname: Used by fans and band members: "Dirk" (Geddy), "Lerxst" (Alex), "Pratt" (Neil). During the band's early years, Neil was also sometimes referred to as "The Professor"; he's gone by "Bubba" in his books about his motorcycle travels.
  • Album Title Drop:
    • Permanent Waves (named after one of the three sections of "Natural Science")
    • Hold Your Fire (from the opening lyrics of "Mission")
    • Counterparts (minus the plural "S," in "Animate")
    • Snakes and Arrows (from the opening lyrics of "Armor and Sword")
  • All Drummers Are Animals: Averted. If you just look at Neil Peart's face while he drums, you'd guess he was doing accounting work or something.
    • Most of the odd accoutrements on stage (the clothes dryers, the merch vending machine, Alex's kids' toys all over his amps) originated in attempts to crack Neil up. At one point in the Rush in Rio concerts, Alex successfully breaks Neil, who just stops drumming and gives him a helpless WTF stare.
      • On Snakes and Arrows Live, Geddy set up a bank of rotisserie chicken broilers on his side of the stage. So of course a stagehand comes out during "The Spirit of Radio" in a full chicken suit to baste the chickens. Neil actually smiles.
  • All There in the Manual: "2112" and Clockwork Angels have story segments written in the album notes which give context to the story being told on their respective albums. "2112" is fairly straightforward without the narrative but Clockwork Angels needs the extra context.
  • Answer Song: Played for Laughs. During performances of the instrumental "Where's My Thing?" on the Clockwork Angels Tour, Neil played a drum solo interlude that came to be known as "Here It Is!"
  • Arc Number: 2112, of course. There was also 30 for the 30th anniversary tour and 40 for the 40th anniversary (and final) tour (which was technically the 41st anniversary tour).
  • Audience Participation Song: In concerts, audiences sang along even to "YYZ"... an instrumental.
    • well as during the instrumental overture to "2112".
    • ...and the obligatory screaming to "...concert hall" in "The Spirit of Radio." The studio version includes the sound of a cheering crowd at this point, and a live-show tradition quickly developed in which the audience did the same as the house lights briefly came up after this line.
    • ...and some people air drummed along to Neil Peart's drum solo, which he tweaked or rearranged or completely overhauled for every tour.
      • Air drumming along with the triplets in the intro to "The Spirit of Radio" was a must for concert-goers.
      • Air drumming along to "Tom Sawyer" was unavoidable.
  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: For a time in the 1980s, Neil wore a vest and bowtie while performing (as seen on the Exit...Stage Left concert video).
  • Badass Bookworm: Neil was a voracious reader with a muscular build and a love of motorcycle riding.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Alex (blonde), Geddy (brunette), Neil (a middling chestnut shade). Best illustrated here.
  • Broken Record: During the Grand Finale (7th and final) movement of "2112" (the song), the lines "attention all planets of the Solar Federation" and "we have assumed control" are repeated three times each.
    • On the original LP pressing of Fly by Night, the wind chimes at the end of "By-Tor and the Snow Dog" were printed into the locked groove at the end of Side 1. When the needle reached this point, the chimes would play over and over until the player was shut off or the needle was lifted off the record.
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": Literally, on some Rush albums. The significance of these letters is not known, and although the use of the letter M on the cover of Power Windows is hinted at several song titles in the album that begin with or feature the letter M, the fans in general think the band is just playing around.
    • Bottom of the very back of the Vapor Trails booklet says the album is "brought to you by the letter '3'". That is not a typo. They're just those kinds of people.
      • With the release of the Vapor Trails Remixed album, what does the included booklet state now? "Still brought to you by the letter '3'". Amazing how a tiny non sequitur not only returns, but is now lampshaded.
  • Big "NO!": In the final lyrical section of "2112", "Soliloquy", Geddy lets out a disparaged (and surprisingly, not very Narmful) "Ooohh noooo!"
  • The Cameo: The band appears in a Chicago Fire episode, aptly titled "2112". Firehouse 51 rescues the band's manager. As a thank-you, he gives the firefighters 4 backstage passes to a surprise post-R40 concert. Mouch gets one and the rest of the house compete over the other three.
  • Careful with That Axe: Oh, boy.
    • The biggest example, of course: "Every nerve is... TORN APAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAART!"- AKA the highest note in Geddy Lee's career.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: The main lyrical theme of "Limelight", though it's less about disliking fame and more about feeling ill-equipped to handle it and its trappings.
    ''Cast in this unlikely role
    Ill-equipped to act
    With insufficient tact
    One must put up barriers
    To keep oneself intact
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Alex. Lord almighty, Alex. See his "La Villa Strangiato" rants below, and his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speech if you don't believe it. (Also consider the fact that on his solo album, he includes a mostly-instrumental track involving two shrewish women (one of whom is his wife) blathering away over a low musical track, discussing their men and how they're only good for one thing... shutting up and playing the guitar. At the end, Alex starts screaming "SHUT UP!" at them until they stop... and he keeps going.)
  • Colon Cancer: Neil has written seven books about his travels, all of which fit the title: subtitle formula (Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road and Far and Away: A Prize Every Time, for example), but the fourth book stands out as suffering from this. Its title is Roadshow. In full, the title is Roadshow: Landscape with Drums: A Concert Tour by Motorcycle.
  • Concept Album: Clockwork Angels
  • Cool Car: The titular "Red Barchetta", itself inspired by Richard S. Foster's short story "A Nice Morning Drive".
  • Cut-and-Paste Suburb: Discussed in Subdivisions, how everything is prefabricated and predecided.
  • Darker and Edgier: Caress of Steel
    • Counterparts is much heavier than any of the band's albums since Hemispheres, and also incorporates significant grunge influences. This was because Alex Lifeson was through with his guitar playing second banana to Geddy's keyboards. It also contains more sexually charged lyrics than the majority of their other albums.
    • Also Vapor Trails, which was heavily influenced by Peart's late 90s tragedies and 9/11.
    • Grace Under Pressure is much heavier lyrically than most of their other albums, with songs about the Cold War ("Distant Early Warning", "Between the Wheels"), the Holocaust ("Red Sector A"), and a Grief Song about a friend of the band who died in a car accident ("Afterimage").
    • Snakes and Arrows. Most of the songs on this album have exceptionally bleak lyrics.
  • Downer Ending: "The Trees". The maples finally get their rights from the oaks, but humans end up cutting down all of the trees anyway.
    • "Xanadu". A man finds the secret of immortality, but at the price of never leaving the titular palace. 1000 years later, he's driven to madness, desperately waiting for death.
    • A frequent interpretation of "2112". The protagonist kills himself just as the Elder Race from his dream overthrows the Temples of Syrinx. Alternatively, the Temples of Syrinx have crushed the last pockets of resistance. (Peart has said that the former was his intention.) Either way you look at it, it's depressing.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: On their first album, they sound like just another Led Zeppelin clone. This changed when Neil Peart joined, and took over writing most of the lyrics.
  • '80s Hair: Good God. Behold, Geddy around 1984. His mullet only got worse as the decade progressed. These days he calls the latter mullet his "raccoon skin hat" look and, on it, "Every time I see it, I wanna hurl." His bandmates fared no better: all three had terrible 'dos throughout the '80s. Alex became convinced he was a member of A Flock of Seagulls, while Neil developed a ghastly-looking rat-tail mullet that eventually became a full-on braid of action before he cut it off. Everyone's hair is probably at its worst in the music video for The Big Money, which also features bad mid-'80s fashion and bad mid-'80s CGI.
    • Averted as the band moved into the '90s. Neil was the first to start wearing his hair short, then Geddy (relatively speaking — he cut it back to shoulder length) and finally Alex. From Counterparts on, Geddy never wore his hair in a ponytail or mullet (or appeared with his eyes uncovered in any public appearances or shows.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Neil has one - Ellwood. He mentions his "unfortunate middle name" in his book Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road; when he begins cooking for his sick wife after their daughter dies in a car crash, he calls himself "Chef Ellwood". He also signs various letters depicted in the book with "NEP," for Neil Ellwood Peart.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: The primary conflict of Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres. The gift of Apollo (reason without love) lets the people build great wonders, but they don't derive any satisfaction from them and their lives feel empty. The gift of Dionysus (love without reason) makes the people happy, but they do not have any means to defend themselves from the elements. This seems to have been derived from Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy.
  • Epic Rocking: Were you expecting anything else? Their ten longest studio compositions are probably "2112" (20:34), "The Fountain of Lamneth" (19:57), "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres" (18:08), "The Necromancer" (12:34), "Xanadu" (11:05), "The Camera Eye" (10:58), "Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage" (10:25), "La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self-Indulgence)" (9:35), "Natural Science" (9:20), and "By-Tor & the Snow Dog" (8:37). The first three of these are suites that fill an entire album side; the rest are standalone pieces. Most of their albums have at least one track over six minutes long, though a few of the '80s and '90s albums don't. Among their albums, Hemispheres and Caress of Steel stand out for having four and five tracks, respectively, but nonetheless running for around forty minutes each. Live, their songs could be even longer than the studio versions, although some of the longest tracks (e.g., "2112") were only occasionally performed in their entirety.
  • Fish-Eye Lens: "Limelight" includes the line "Living in a fisheye lens"
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: It's implied that the protagonist of "Xanadu" is alone in the titular place, so his fate may be a particularly nightmarish version of this, approaching And I Must Scream levels.
  • Gratuitous French: "Circumstances" has the line "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" followed by the same phrase in English, "The more that things change, the more they stay the same."
    • The title of the song "Entre Nous" never comes up in the lyrics, but its translation ("between us") does figure in the chorus.
  • Grief Song: Several songs off of the aforementioned Vapor Trails could be considered these, coming in light of Peart's tragedies, particularly "Ghost Rider" and "The Stars Look Down."
    • "Afterimage" is a more initially obvious example, written about the loss of Robbie Whalen, an engineer and friend of the band who had worked on several of their albums before his passing. Lyrics from this song appear at the start of Neil's book Ghost Rider and in the packaging for the Different Stages live album, in memory of his late wife and daughter.
      • "Nobody's Hero" and BU2B2 also qualify, from Counterparts and Clockwork Angels respectively.
    • "The Pass" is something of an anti-Grief Song, berating an unspecified person for choosing to commit suicide rather than continue onward when they have done nothing to cause grief at their passing.
    No hero in your tragedy
    No daring in your escape
    No salutes to your surrender
    Nothing noble in your fate
    Christ, what have you done?
  • He's Back!: Neil, after recovering from his late-90s Trauma Conga Line. The whole band, really, when you consider Geddy did nothing musical until his solo album in 2000 and Alex didn't even touch a guitar for about a year after the tragedies occurred. Vapor Trails, the resulting album, is very angry, very sad, and generally seems like a grief album. Neil had nothing to do with the 2013 remix and reissue of Vapor Trails because he can't bear to listen to those songs; they take him back to a very dark place to which he doesn't want to return. (Two songs, "How It Is" and "One Little Victory," are included on R40 Live.)
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Geddy and Alex have been best friends since junior high. They're still best friends today. The band is really a three-way heterosexual life partnership, but Geddy and Alex stand out the most.
  • Hidden Depths: Alex plays drums on the demos (quick-and-dirty recordings of songs early in the writing stage) and, according to Neil and producer Nick Raskulinecz, his drum ideas wind up on the final recordings "quite often".
  • Horrible History Metal: Although listeners continue to debate whether Rush is a metal band, they're probably at least close enough to qualify for this trope, and "Bastille Day" covers the storming of the Bastille. "Manhattan Project" covers, well, the Manhattan Project and the birth of nuclear weapons.
  • I Call It "Vera": Starting in the 1990s, Neil rode a motorcycle from one tour stop to another, accompanied by one or more of his longtime friends. They gave the nicknames "Doofus" and "Dingus" to their bike-mounted GPS units. A third such unit was later christened "Dork."
  • Insistent Terminology: Geddy used to (and occasionally still does) go out of his way to remind American interviewers that YYZ is pronounced YYZed.
  • Instrumentals: Many, of which "YYZ" is the best known.
  • Job Song: "Working Man" is a song about a man complaining about his job.
  • Large Ham: Geddy was pretty hammy back in the day. He's toned it down a lot since. Alex is now the comedy-relief-providing village idiot ham.
    • The band often uses funny/bizarre/ridiculous video intros for sets and songs in their live shows, starring themselves or others. Guest stars over the years have included Joe Flaherty (in character as Count Floyd from SCTV), Jerry Stiller (first as himself, later as a chicken restaurant owner's daughter), Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas (in character as Bob and Doug McKenzie from SCTV), the boys from South Park, Paul Rudd and Jason Segel (in character as Peter Klaven and Sydney Fife from I Love You, Man), Jay Baruchel (as a tax auditor), and Eugene Levy (in character as Rockin' Mel Slirrup, a geeky 1970s-era DJ on SCTV).
    • A great example of Alex's hamminess can be found in their live performance of La Villa Strangiato from their Rio album. Skip to about 6:50 to get to the hammy weirdness
  • Lead Bassist: Geddy Lee pulls triple duty as the band's lead singer, bassist, and keyboardist, often using his feet to play floor-mounted synthesizer pedals at the same time as his bass. He's also considered one of the best and most influential bassists of all times. And since Progressive Rock is a genre where bass is often emphasized, many of their songs treat the bass as a lead instrument. He also has great stage presence during live shows. All of this makes him the most recognizable member of the band.
  • Lead Drummer:
    • Neil Peart, who is considered an extremely talented drummer (possibly one of the best of all time), and is also the main lyricist.
    • John Rutsey served as the master of ceremonies, introducing the songs in the band's early concerts.
  • Literary Allusion Title: "The Big Money" is named after a novel in John Dos Passos' U.S.A. trilogy; Peart is on record as an admirer of Dos Passos. However, he has also remarked that the lyrical content of his song is somewhat at odds with the content of Dos Passos' novel. The song "The Camera Eye" is also named for one of the four narrative modes Dos Passos employed in his trilogy.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: Once Neil joined the band in 1974 to replace John Rutsey, the lineup remained unchanged until Rush disbanded in early 2018.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Manhattan Project", which alternates between calm, happy verses and a catchy, energetic chorus, is about the development and use of the nuclear bomb during World War II.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "I Think I'm Going Bald", a song about the symbolism of hair loss. It based around Alex's fear of going bald in the future. Guess what happened in the future. Made even funnier by the fact that in 2012 Alex did something and is no longer going bald.
  • Name and Name: "By-Tor and The Snow Dog" from the Fly by Night album.
    • 'Armor and Sword' and 'Time and Motion' also use this trope.
  • Necromancer: The titular character of the song The Necromancer, is, surprisingly, a Necromancernote .
  • New Sound Album: Basically every Rush album is this.
    • The band tended to evolve its sound in cycles, with one album drastically changing their sound and the next album or few tweaking and perfecting it until it changes drastically again. Rush and Fly by Night were largely straightforward hard rock (with a few prog elements in the latter), Caress of Steel and 2112 dove off the deep end into exuberantly adolescent fantasy and sci-fi, A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres took a more mature, philosophical approach to the subject, and Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures kept the prog elements of the earlier albums while adding the more abstract and topical lyrics that would define the band's future output. Signals through Hold Your Fire exhibited extreme synthesizeritis, which was brought under control in Presto and Roll the Bones, albums that exhibited a refined, almost pop-like sensibility. Counterparts, largely alternative, heralded Test for Echo and its hard rock style, which the band exhibited through the end, barring the occasional '60s-retro and folk elements on Snakes and Arrows.
    • Counterparts is also notable for debuting Lee's single fingered, stupid fast Flamenco playing style and the return of his old Fender Jazz bass, both of which added a much more aggressive dimension to the music.
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: Averted, much like Dumb and Drummer: the bassist and drummer are the two members of Rush everyone remembers, with Geddy being not just a remarkable bassist but a distinctive vocalist, and Neil being widely hailed as one of the best drummers in rock if not all of music (and also no slouch as a lyricist). It seems to be Geddy Lee, Neil Peart, and... the blonde guy that plays guitar. Poor Alex.
  • Non-Appearing Title: Nearly every studio album has at least one, not counting instrumentals and individual movements of extended pieces. The only exceptions are Caress of Steel and Hemispheres.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Shortly after the death of Neil Peart's daughter and wife, the normally hammy and playful Alex Lifeson was in a state of such depression that he didn't think about music for a whole year. Keep in mind that this is the same guy who rants on stage and has said that he loves to sing but is "not allowed to."
  • Overly Long Gag: Alex's speech at the Rock & Roll hall of fame (see the link under Large Ham).
  • POW Camp: "Red Sector A" is a concentration camp.
    • Inspired by Geddy's parents, who were Holocaust survivors. Geddy claims his mother told him and his younger siblings stories of the camps before Geddy even turned 8, which Geddy in turn told Neil, who wrote "Red Sector A."
  • Piss-Take Rap: "Roll the Bones." They wanted John Cleese to record it, but he was unavailable. Geddy did it instead, and they just pitched his voice down to being nearly unrecognizable (drastically raising the pitch in audio editing software reveals that he pretty much just talked normally and called it rapping).
  • Progressive Metal: A major influence, due to their use of far heavier riffs than most other Progressive Rock bands (except a few). To the point where they have an article on the Metal Archives
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: Neil's last name. As Geddy himself put it, say the word "ear," and then put a "p" in front of it and a "t" at the end. "P-ear-t." In other words, it's said exactly as it's spelled.
  • Radio Song: "The Spirit of Radio":
    Invisible airwaves crackle with life
    Bright antennae bristle with the energy
    Emotional feedback on a timeless wavelength
    Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free
  • Rage Against the Heavens: "The Stars Look Down" is an agnostic take on this. As is "Freewill" - a strong take against astrology.
  • Rays from Heaven: "Jacob's Ladder" from Permanent Waves has this phenomenon as its subject.
    Bruised and sullen storm-clouds
    Have the light of day obscured;
    All at once, the clouds are parted,
    Light streams down in bright unbroken beams.
    Follow men's eyes as they look to the skies,
    The shifting shafts of shining weave the fabric of their dreams.
  • Rock Me, Amadeus! / Standard Snippet: "2112" quotes Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture towards the climax of its own overture.
  • Rock Opera: "2112" is by far the best known example, but they weren't shy about doing other album-side suites and extended pieces as late as 1980's "Natural Science" and 1981's "The Camera Eye."
  • Rock Star Song: "Limelight"
  • Rogue Drone: The subject of "The Body Electric" is a good example of this.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Averted in the case of "The Trees." Despite many people claiming that the song is about some kind of political conflict, it's not. Neil came up with the lyrics because he saw a picture depicting trees arguing with each other. That's it.
  • Running Gag: During the Vapor Trails, R30, and Snakes & Arrows tours, Neil's drum solos were respectively titled "O Baterista," "Der Trommler," and "De Slagwerker." All three of these translate to "The Drummer" in the native languages of the countries where the live albums were recorded (Portuguese, German, Dutch).
  • Sampling: Daffy Duck saying, "No More for Me, thanks, I'm driving" from "Rabbit Seasoning," can be heard at the end of "Red Barchetta" on the 2008 video Rush: Snakes & Arrows- Live in Holland.
    • A clip from The Simpsons shows up at the end of "The Big Money" on Rush in Rio:
    Homer: D'oh!
    Lisa: A deer!
    Marge: A female deer!
    • Dr. Evil's "One MILLION dollars" line from the first Austin Powers film is used at the end of "The Big Money" on the Clockwork Angels Tour album.
    • The band's commitment to live performances that replicate the studio experience leads to the heavy use of samplers during said shows. Otherwise, they'd find it hard to duplicate the ambient synth opening to 2112, for example.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: Most of their early albums (up to Grace Under Pressure) feature no vocal harmony at all (one exception being the song "Take a Friend" on their self-titled debut,) but since then, the majority of their songs have features what some fans call "The Choir of Geddys" with extensively multi-tracked, often intricate harmonies, all performed by Lee. On tour, the vocal tracks are triggered as needed by one of the three band members on keyboards, foot pedals or a percussion MIDI controller. Even though the harmony tracks are recorded triggers, Lee is singing all of the main vocals live during the shows. While guitarist Alex Lifeson is often seen at a microphone singing during the shows, his mike is actually turned down quite low because (as Lifeson himself has joked) while he loves to sing, he's not allowed to - and if you've ever heard a bootleg taken from the signal before it's run through the soundboard, you'll understand why!
  • Sequel Song: "Cygnus X-1 Part 2: Hemispheres"
    • The "Fear" series. Self-parodied with "Where's My Thing? (Part IV, "Gangster of Boats" Trilogy)" on Roll the Bones, then played straight with "Freeze" on Vapor Trails.
  • Shout-Out: Not many, but a few. "Bravest Face" obliquely references the Louis Armstrong song "What a Wonderful World" and the tv show Law & Order.
    • The Eraserhead posters on the studio wall in the videos for "Limelight" and "Tom Sawyer".
    • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: The quoted lyrics from "Limelight" at the top of the page are a shout out to Shakespeare's As You Like It.
    • The last few lines of "The Spirit of Radio" are a reference to Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence".
    • "Between the Wheels" drops references to both The Star Spangled-Banner (the national anthem of the United States) and the Great Depression-era standard "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?", written by Jay Gorney and E. Y. "Yip" Harburg, first appearing in the stage musical Americana, and later covered by many other artists.
  • Signature Headgear: From the mid-1990s on, Neil took to wearing a North African kufi (prayer hat) during live shows. Its main purpose was ostensibly to keep sweat out of his eyes; however, given Neil's lifelong tonsorial choices, God only knows what it might have been concealing (though fans can always guess.) He later began customizing them with artwork from the current tour.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Neil Peart himself has said that this is the primary reason for the shift in his lyrical stance: His early Ayn Rand-inspired lyrics came from a place of youthful idealism, but as he gained more experience, he came to understand that Humans Are Flawed, and Rand's extreme views consequentially weren't compatible with a functional society comprised of human beings. It's possible to see the shift occurring simply by reading his lyrics in chronological order; Hemispheres might be the dividing line, as "The Trees" has frequently been interpreted as a parable in opposition to collectivism (although Peart frequently insisted that it wasn't intended as one), but the sort-of Title Track is centred around the message that a balanced worldview needs both reason and love for others (the latter of which is rarely praised in Rand's work). In any case, the lyricist responsible for "Anthem" (1975) was writing lyrics like "The Big Money" in 1985, and this trope is a major part of the explanation.
  • The Smart Guy: Neil Peart was very much so, to the point of being nicknamed "The Professor." Also The Big Guy, being a drummer (known for hitting very hard, to boot), he could probably snap your neck with his bare hands if he wanted to. The main characters from ''I Love You, Man'' nearly found this out the hard way.
  • Small Town Boredom: Subdivisions, even more so in Middletown Dreams. What sparks the plot of Clockwork Angels.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": More like "Spell our song title with the 'the' in the right place": the Permanent Waves hit is "The Spirit of Radio", not "Spirit of Radio", "Spirit of the Radio", or (Neil have mercy) "The Spirit of the Radio". Lampshaded by Geddy on Exit...Stage Left ("This is 'The Spirit of Radio'!").
  • Spoken Word in Music Several songs contain examples of this, including "The Necromancer," "Double Agent," and "Cygnus X-1."
    • "Countdown," from 1982's Signals, includes bits of radio transmissions from the first flight of the US Space shuttle Columbia in April 1981, which the band witnessed.
  • Stage Name: Alex was born Aleksandar Živojinović, chose to go by the name Lifeson as it was a sort of translation of his name in Serbian (literally it means Son of Life). Geddy was born Gary Lee Weinrib, going by Geddy because of how the name Gary sounded when spoken by his mother in her thick Polish accent. Eventually subverted when he legally changed his name to Geddy (though his full name is still Geddy Lee Weinrib). Neil Peart was born... Neil Ellwood Peart.
  • Steampunk: Clockwork Angels is a full-on Steampunk epic with a companion novel co-written by Kevin J. Anderson. The two collaborated again for a loose sequel novel, Clockwork Lives, published in 2015.
  • The Stoic: Neil's expression rarely changes from his usual poker face. When it does, it's either adorable or hilarious.
  • Surreal Horror: "Cygnus X-1".
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: If read metaphorically, "The Trees" has this message. For whatever it's worth, though, Peart claims the song was never intended to have a political interpretation; it was evidently just inspired by a cartoon about trees arguing.
  • Title Track: "Fly by Night"; "2112"; "A Farewell to Kings"; "Hemispheres"; "Presto"; "Roll the Bones"; "Test for Echo"; "Vapor Trail"; "Clockwork Angels".
  • To Be a Master: All three members are known for their musicianship, but Neil in particular is determined to continue improving as a drummer. He even took lessons from drumming coach Freddie Gruber as part of an effort to completely overhaul his playing style in the mid-1990s.
  • Trauma Conga Line: The main character of Clockwork Angels experiences one. Listeners can draw parallels between the protagonist's traumas and Neil's late-90s traumas.
  • Trilogy Creep: The "Fear" series was planned as three songs ("The Enemy Within" off Grace Under Pressure, "The Weapon" off Signals, and "Witch Hunt" off Moving Pictures) written in reverse order, but released within three years of each other, from 1981–84. Come 2002's Vapor Trails, a fourth part, "Freeze", was added to the lineup.
    • Also played for laughs with Roll the Bones' "Where's My Thing?", subtitled as "Part IV" of the "'Gangster of Boats' Trilogy".
  • Uncommon Time: There is a common folk myth that Neil Peart can't play in 4/4. This isn't true, but their songs do switch meter signatures an awful lot. "Subdivisions" is a good example of this; it switches between 7/8, 4/4, and 3/4 pretty regularly. An exhaustive list of their use of this trope would probably be as long as this article.note 
  • Visual Pun: The covers of Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures, and Power Windows. The inside art of Hold Your Fire fits as well: a man juggling three flaming spheres.
  • Vocal Evolution: Geddy Lee used his higher registers a lot more often in Rush's earlier material than in their later works. Starting from about Permanent Waves, he started to sing in lower pitches a lot more often (though by many other rock bands' standards, his vocals are still fairly high-pitched).
    • This is more Vocal Devolution than anything; Geddy willingly toned down his voice a bit, sure, but the lower registers are moreso due to him losing the ability to hit those incredible high notes with age. In fact, the band has had to transpose some of their earlier songs, such as "2112," to accommodate for Geddy's voice. Older Rush fans often cite Geddy's fading range as one of their primary They Changed It, Now It Sucks! gripes, apparently oblivious to the idea that Geddy can't hit notes he sang as a 23 year old at 63 without physical pain or sacrificing his ability to speak for a day or two after.
  • Wanderlust Song: "Fly by Night", as well as "Dreamline"
    • "The Analog Kid" may count as well. Actually, wanderlust seems to be a recurring theme throughout much of Rush's discography, even when it's not front and center in a song's lyrics.
    • The story of Clockwork Angels starts out as this.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: At the end of "The Fountain of Lamneth", the narrator finally finds the titular fountain he's searched his whole life for, and realizes he now that he's found it, his life has no meaning.
  • Whole-Plot Reference:
    • "Red Barchetta" is inspired by Richard Foster's short story "A Nice Morning Drive". Peart attempted several times to contact Foster during the making of Moving Pictures, but was unable to do so and had to settle for a brief "inspired by" in the album credits. In 2007, they finally met and shared a motorcycle ride through the West Virginia backwoods.
    • "2112" is a standard dystopian story in several ways; however, after writing it, Peart noticed particular similarities to Ayn Rand's novella Anthem, and credited her for "inspiration" in the original release of the album so as to avoid plagiarism. That said, there are several significant differences between the two stories as well.
    • "Xanadu" is based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge's legendarily unfinished poem "Kubla Khan".
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The second half of Xanadu is all about how miserable the narrator is after achieving immortality.
  • World of Pun: The intro video to the second set of the Time Machine tour features an alternate reality Rush filming a music video for "Tom Sawyer," which gets interrupted by a group of barmaids Moving Pitchers.... yeah. The cover to this album has a couple more puns; there are people moving pictures. And the people on the right side of the album are tearing up, since these pictures are quite moving. And the back cover art shows a film crew making a "moving picture" of the whole scene.

Alternative Title(s): Rush