Top 10 Rush Songs of the ’70s
The Top 10 Rush songs demonstrate how Canada’s favorite power trio have always been more than the sum of their parts. Now obviously, those pieces — guitarist Alex Lifeson, bassist / vocalist Geddy Lee and drummer Neil Peart are at the head of the class when it comes to musicianship, but there is more than just virtuosity at play. One thing that often gets lost in translation is that Rush really do have a grand sense of humor. So if you are taking them more seriously than they take themselves, what can we tell ya? We think they’re just peachy. So let’s get ready to take off with the Top 10 Rush Songs of the ’70s.
‘A Farewell To Kings’
The word “majestic” comes to mind when spinning through the title track from Rush’s 1977 album. Though it may have since become cliche to start off quiet and move into the loud portion of the song, it really does work. Lifeson’s beautiful acoustic guitar work provides a lovely introduction before the song kicks into gear and gets our hearts running. A prog-heavy mid-section only adds colors to the aural painting. What else can we say? It’s prime Rush from their first classic era.
‘What You’re Doing’
A slice of heavy rock action from the band’s debut album. This may be “the” riff of them all — so heavy, and so tasty, it just had to show up on our top 10 Rush Songs of the ’70s list. Lifeson’s guitar playing is a perfect example of the more simplistic side of the group’s early approach. This is how a hard rock band should sound on record — except, we needmore volume please!
‘By-Tor and the Snow Dog’
Rush’s first real epic-sized work arrives in the form of the side one closer on the ‘Fly By Night’ album, and it’s a doozy. The complexity of the instrumental break is a head shaker on first listen, but don’t worry — the guitars remain heavy and the power trio trip is still in full flight. Those of you who scoff at the pretentiousness of Rush lyrics may wish to quietly leave the room at this point. Singing about “tobes of Hades lit by flickering torch light” is really no more pretentious than singing about “little pink houses for you and me” when you get right down to it. Given the option, I’ll ride with By Tor any day!
Yes, we could have gone with the magnificent instrumental wonder that is ‘La Villa Strangiato’ to represent the maze that is ‘Hemispheres.’ But we threw caution to the wind and chose an unheralded piece of rock action, ‘Circumstances,’ for our Top 10 Rush songs of the ’70s list instead. One of the shorter songs on the album, this little gem combines the fury of the early simpler Rush with the dynamics of their progressive work. A riff to kill — or die — for, ‘Circumstances’ kicks off side two of the original LP with full force. A dramatic instrumental break before the final chorus only adds to the fire.
This song, the leadoff track from the band’s often maligned and misunderstood third album ‘Caress of Steel,’ is a killer from start to finish. A perfect show opener (see the band’s 1976 live album ‘All the World’s a Stage’ for proof) and a long-time fan favorite, it should have become more of a Rush standard over the years. Sadly, contrary to future lyrical warnings, time, in fact, does not stand still. Has this one been forgotten along the way? We hope not!
‘Fly By Night’
This kick-ass little rocker from Rush’s second album features a surprisingly strong pop sensibility, and if the main riff isn’t Byrds inspired, then slap us with all your Dream Theater records. At its core, ‘Fly by Night’ is a folk rock song delivered Rush style, and yes, that’s a good thing. For some reason, the trio seem to have abandoned this track as part of the live repertoire in recent years — hopefully their upcoming tour reverses this trend.
Sure, the lyrics of this song — the centerpiece of the classic ‘A Farewell To Kings’ album — are an easy target for mocking. And yes, it is all a bit over the top, but in this case, that’s quite alright! Peart makes greater use of his ever-growing percussion arsenal, while Lee takes full advantage of the Taurus pedals and keyboards he has introduced into the band’s sonic attack. It’s eleven-plus minutes of myth, legend and drama. Would we call it a guilty pleasure? No, there is no room for guilt in rock and roll. And no, this track has nothing to do with Olivia Newton-John or ELO.
The opening track from their magnificent second album, ‘Anthem’ is where Rush became RUSH! The addition of Neil Peart meant that, lyrically and musically, the band would never be the same. ‘Anthem’ has the band’s prog-rock leanings on full display but still keeps one talon firmly clasped to the hard rock of their debut. It also features another in a career-long run of first-class Alex Lifeson guitar solos. Combined with Peart’s precision attack and the not-so-secret weapon named Geddy Lee, this is Rush at their finest.
A must for inclusion on any list of the top Rush songs of the ’70s! Obviously, the band’s debut album showcases them as a different animal than they would soon become — at their most stripped down and simplistic. It’s a place they would, sadly, never return to stylistically, except maybe for the 2004 covers EP ‘Feedback.’ ‘Working Man’ is the king crown of this album. Lifeson’s guitar playing on here is pure raw beauty. The bare bones production only emphasizes the fact that, later adventures aside, at their heart Rush were (are?) a blistering rock and roll band.
‘2112’ just had to be at the top of our list of Rush’s top ’70s songs. First of all, at over 20 minutes long it’s almost like getting a whole album instead of a song. It’s also the track that really cemented their place in the rock and roll game. Like many great longer works (Genesis‘ ‘Supper’s Ready’ for instance) it’s really a bunch of short songs that fit together to make a larger piece. And, whadaya know, it works. It’s all drama and adventure musically and lyrically. Yeah, there’s a lot of controversy about Ayn Rand (the inspiration behind many of Peart’s lyrics at the time) these days, but one thing’s for sure, she couldn’t sing like Geddy Lee! A Rush masterpiece from start to end.