There’s Only One Pivotal Song In Rush’s Career
Rush performs Tom Sawyer Live – Ye Olde Rock/ YouTube
Since their inception in 1968, Canadian prog giants Rush has undergone various evolutionary phases, incorporating and discarding elements, and experiencing significant changes in their lineup, all while amassing an incredibly devoted fan base within the realm of rock music.
Most of the band’s occasional missteps can often be attributed to Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart’s unwavering commitment to exploring challenging creative avenues over an extended period.
Despite the criticisms they faced during some of their lesser albums, Rush continued honing their craft tirelessly. Still, certain moments in this success drew criticism. One of the most notable examples is the nine-minute instrumental track “La Villa Strangiato” from their 1978 album Hemispheres.
“That was a song where I would have to say our ideas exceeded our ability to play them,” Lee candidly admitted during a 2018 interview with The Guardian.
“It was beyond us”
Despite Geddy’s frank admission, the 12-part instrumental suite did push the boundaries for bands aiming to showcase their virtuosity on their instruments over extended durations.
“We thought: ‘We’re going to write this long piece and then we’ll just record it live off the floor and boom!’ But it was really difficult. It was beyond us,” the legendary bassist and vocalist went on.
Although it’s purely instrumental, “La Villa Strangiato” managed to convey a full narrative, complete with its own plot and characters. It draws inspiration from vivid nightmares that Lifeson personally encountered.
This song also stands out as one of the rare instances where Peart is acknowledged for contributing to the music composition, as he is typically recognized for his lyric-writing skills.
“It seemed to be a pivotal moment for us in creating a fanbase”
Although “La Villa Strangiato” may come across as overly self-indulgent, Lee referred to it as “a pivotal moment” in the band’s journey, instrumental in solidifying their devoted, almost cult-like fanbase, when listing some of Rush’s finest tracks for The Guardian.
“They just love it when we go into that crazy mode. Yes, it is an indulgence, but it seemed to be a pivotal moment for us in creating a fanbase that wanted us to be that way,” the Rush frontman added.
Rush’s dedication to intricate musical performances made them the ideal band for an audience predominantly composed of males. Lee acknowledges this, saying, “There’s no getting around that,” Lee says. “We would joke about it backstage. ‘See any girls in the front row?’ ‘No. Some attractive boys. A lot of ugly boys.’”
Later things started changing for them and Geddy added that finally “there’s girls in the front row”. He added with a laugh, “Or there’d be a sign in the back: ‘Mythbusters: Girls who love Rush. But we were too old to take advantage of it by that point.”
Just another prog masterpiece
Hemispheres is the sixth studio album from the Canadian prog rockers, hitting the shelves in October 1978 under Anthem Records. Rush started working on this record following a successful tour in support of their preceding release, A Farewell to Kings, during which the group gained a substantial following in the UK.
Staying true to their refined progressive rock style, the album featured the side-long epic “Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres” and “La Villa Strangiato”, which marked the band’s first venture into purely instrumental music.
“Hemispheres” garnered praise from music critics and achieved chart success, reaching the 14th position in Canada and the UK, and the 41st position in the United States.
Rush supported “Hemispheres” with a concert tour spanning from October 1978 to June 1979. Furthermore, the album enjoyed a re-release in various expanded formats on November 16, 2018, as part of the band’s ongoing 40th Anniversary editions, featuring the previously unreleased live performance by the band at the Pinkpop Festival from June 1979.