Rush inspires wide array of rockers, fans

April 22, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

Think of bands that influenced the alternative rock sound, and among the names most likely to come up are critical favorites such as Big Star, Joy Division, Wire and the Velvet Underground.

But ask the musicians what they listened to or played as kids, and a surprising number of alterna-rockers will answer "Rush." From Primus to Smashing Pumpkins to the Posies, there are countless cutting-edge rockers who grew up knowing all the chords to "Spirit of the Radio."

"I think it's just a function of time and place," says Rush drummer Neil Peart of his band's unexpected influence. Speaking over the phone from Buffalo, N.Y., where his band is on tour behind its latest album, "Counterparts," he mentions Candlebox -- the band currently opening for Rush -- as an example.

"Candlebox is a band that stylistically and approach-wise has nothing in common with us," he says. "But the guitar player was telling us that when he was in grade seven at summer camp, the first song he ever learned was 'Fly By Night.' And the bass player was saying that the first concert he ever went to, his mom took him to see us in Seattle.

"So we were very much a young musician's band then -- as we remain to some extent now."

The funny thing is that back when punk first broke, Rush was regularly beaten up by the rock press for being typical of the dinosaur rock that punk and new wave was meant to replace. Creem in particular poked fun at the Canadian power trio, treating the band as if it were a pox on popular music.

"Which was ironic at the time," says Peart, "because we actually embraced all that, and absorbed it. As music fans, as soon as I heard the Sex Pistols, I knew nothing would ever be the same again. We were young enough -- and, importantly, we were music fans enough -- to understand and embrace that whole trend.

"It was strange that we were used by [Creem]. But that's a very cynical outlook, of a magazine like Creem. Because they were all failed musicians. It was the classic stereotype of a bitter critic, and just having met them and talking to them at the time, I knew that was the case. They were bitter and resentful because they were failed, and when they saw people who couldn't play being successful, cynically, they supported it. 'If they don't understand my playing, then they deserve this trash.' "

Fortunately, Rush doesn't have to worry about such things these days. "People have much more broad-ranging interests in music," Peart says of today's fans. "There is no social stigma."

Consequently, what you'll see at Rush shows these days is an astonishingly wide array of fans. "There's everything from graying hair and balding heads to kids who literally weren't born when we started playing the States," laughs Peart. "So you have to reflect on that demographic spread.

"It's both strange and wonderful, I guess. It's great to have old fans, where we've remained a part of their lives all these years, but at the same time [it's great] to see young kids coming in. I get letters [where] they've never heard of us before 'Presto' -- like, two albums ago. They've never heard anything we've done before that. To them, that's an old record."

Get a Rush

To hear excerpts from Rush's current album, "Counterparts," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6219 after you hear the greeting.

Rush in concert

When: Tuesday, April 26, 7:30 p.m.

Where: USAir Arena

Tickets: $22.50

Call: (410) 792-7490 for information, (410) 481-6328 for tickets

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