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Off the Beat 'N Path
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Driven: Rush in the ’90s and “In the End”


“Neil had to do what he needed to do, just find some sort of peace,” begins Alex, recapping the events of renewal that led to the return of Rush — new record, new tour, new Neil. “He had embarked on a long journey, a long and very painful journey on his motorcycle, basically just going and going and going, and never really knowing where he was going. But it’s what he needed to do. That whole process took a few years.

“And we had a meeting, he came up to Toronto and we talked. We talked about how we would go through this process. He wasn’t sure if he could do it, but he was willing to try. You know, he hadn’t played his drums for almost four years, so it was a very difficult time. He was a little apprehensive, and he was afraid, I think. He wasn’t sure how he felt about it, but it was a new start. He was starting to find a little bit of happiness for the first time in many years. He had to go through that.

“But he was a little nervous. He hadn’t played in a long time and he didn’t know if his heart could go into the music as it once did. Because he just didn’t look at music that way anymore. He had lost too much. It was a very, tentative fragile thing from the very beginning. From that meeting, it was a very fragile, tentative thing.

“We went into the studio with just us in there,” continues Lifeson. “Four block bookings for months and months and months. We were in there from January of 2001 until basically Christmas, and then we went into another studio to mix and spent a few months there. The project took thirteen or fourteen months altogether. It was a delicate time and everything happened slowly. Neil practiced a lot and played a lot while we were writing in another room.

“We would only take four to six months to make a record, six being the outside. To spend fourteen months on a record is a long, long time. But Geddy, after spending a year on his solo record, really believed that we shouldn’t have any deadlines. We’ve always been anal about the way we work; you know, six weeks for writing, one week for drums, five days for bass, two weeks guitar, two weeks vocals, mix. It’s always been like that. We’ve been doing that for decades, and with his solo record, Geddy said, ‘I played so much with my songs, and I could really see how they developed and how important it was to the growth of the material.’ He said with Vapor Trails, we had to not worry about deadlines, take as long as it takes to work that way. I was antsy for the first couple of months; I had that four-month to six-month thing in my head, and it was three months before we even had anything written. By that point I realized that he was right — forget deadlines; this record is going to take as long as it takes.”


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Begin by Telling

Vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with the same family we always take these kinds of trips with, because the children line up in age and we get along. The daughter-in-my-age-slot and me play mini-golf, feet away from our family suites. My turn to putt again. I decide to wind up like a pro and really whack the ball. It flies over or through a row of hedges into what we know on the other side is The Main Drag. No big thing. We have retrieved balls, kicked balls, racked balls, caught balls, dodged balls, served balls, teed up balls, inflated balls our whole life. We are old enough to do this.

We cross to the other side of the hedge and I spot the one that got away. (I believe I look both ways.) I start out across the multilane blacktop but don’t get far. Something flashes out of the corner of left eye. Body puts hands up just in time for the loudest sound I’ve ever felt. I’m fly—ing through the air, suddenly silent and magical. Now I’m skid-d-d-ing, exposed flesh kissing and rubbing asphalt as sound returns. People I don’t know gather above me. I’m-a-nurse takes off her shirt to reveal a sports bra. Don’t move an inch…hit by a van. Someone is screaming. It’s just my friend, she’s fine, always trying to make it about her. The sun is beating down on the scene. Cold sweat mixing with my blood, now peppered with little street rocks. I can feel when Mom is notified. I can hear her fear-footsteps landing one after the other, getting closer to what her new reality could be. When the paramedics arrive, I accept this fate. I am put on a stiff board with a neck brace and I am taken to a hospital in my bathing suit.

Mom and I take a cab back from the hospital to the hotel. I get out sore, shoeless, and road-rashed, but really actually fine, physically. People on a balcony somewhere are applauding the miracle. I know that if people are applauding me, Dad will be calling. I don’t feel like explaining. I want to disappear into something larger than anything having to do with me. I will never hear the end of this. They’ll all say I got hit chasing a ball like a dog. Your story in the wrong hands can be such a cruel poker.

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