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Anthem: Rush in the ’70s


Like Geezer Butler in Black Sabbath, to reiterate, Geddy indeed began on guitar. Alex, however, missed this part of Lee’s evolution.


“I didn’t know Ged when he played guitar. So the transition was already completed by the time we started jamming together and playing. Because that’s what we did after school. We’d plug into his amp and play. There was one guitar and one bass. So I’m not really sure about that transition. I’m sure he was interested in guitar like everybody was interested in guitar. But once we actually started playing and learning instruments, that was his chosen one. Just think John Rutsey in that early days—the drums became his thing but I don’t know if in his heart he wanted to be a drummer. I think he wanted to be a guitarist as well. But everybody had their job that they sort of gravitated to.”


Says Geddy, “I was nominated to be the bass player when the first band I was in, the bass player couldn’t be in our band. I think his parent’s prohibited him or something, and we had no bass player so they said, ‘You play bass’ and I said okay, and that was how simple it was. That happens to a lot of bass players. Everyone wants to be a guitar player, but I was happy to be bass player. Bass player is like being a major league catcher. It’s the quickest way to the majors. Nobody wants to be a bass player. It’s a great instrument, it really is, awesome way to spend your time. I had teachers you know; I’m just carrying on the tradition of Jack Bruce, Jack Casady, Chris Squire, a fine tradition of noisy bass players that refuse to stay in the background. So I feel that’s my sacred duty, to carry on what they started.”


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Taken by the Muse

Taken by the Muse

On the Path to Becoming a Filmmaker
also available: eBook
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Edmonton, December 1986
....After we hung up, I sat there in the dark, feeling utterly amazed. How providential that she had phoned this number, my office number, at this hour - and I was here! It was a call I could have easily missed - it felt like some strange force had been at work. No one else could have mentored better me than Margaret Laurence. No one else could have related so closely to my task; no one else could have stepped in with such wisdom.

Now, thirty-plus years later, I feel it's my time to pass some insights, and it is her voice that guides me. I have written screenplays and the occasional song, but never prose. It is a totally different medium, and I feel she is here with me as I step onto what was her platform. The advice she gave me years ago still rings true as I contemplate what it is I want to share with you.

This collection recounts a series of serendipitous encounters I had on my way to becoming a filmmaker. Such a career was not on the list of what a woman could be in the sixties. There was no film school or #metoo movement to suggest that my talent was worthy of attention; that it could provide a viable living; that I could be a visual artist, a writer, or a performer of any kind and not be a burden and a disappointment to my widowed mother. To follow my fancy would have been seen as a selfish thing to do.

But my passion was repeatedly stirred by unexpected challenges, by people who saw me more clearly than I saw myself. It was when I took risks, or remained open to possibilities, listened to my own rhythm, that my muse would suddenly be there and alter my course. It was not always through a person, though when it was it was never someone I would have expected. There were times when my muse was invisibly at work, provoking me, setting up obstacles, surprising me, triggering some magic, seducing me with the possibility that I could live with purpose, doing something I loved.

So now I aspire to be a conduit for your muse. Like Margaret.

But where do I begin?

Like many of my childhood pals, I followed a well-worn path into my twenties. After completing a bachelor's degree in mathematics, I travelled Europe as a way of finishing my education. But I wasn't "finished." I was restless and wary of settling down. I confronted my discontent with youthful abandon. After a year of teaching music at a junior high school, I quit and took off to circle the globe.

Without a strong sense of purpose, I became a wanderer. In a way, I was lost. I was at my lowest when destiny intervened and my circuitous journey of self-discovery truly began.

These are stories I have shared with friends, students, colleagues, and other raconteurs. In the telling, they have become richer, more intricate, and decidedly more playful. They all take place in the seventies - a decade of unprecedented freedom and privilege.

I have written them in the present tense, which means I have used the terms and expressions of the day with no intention to offend. For instance, in the seventies, in my world we still used the word Indian to define a huge population that included First Nations, Mexicans, Métis, and Indians from India - basically anyone one who was not white was assumed to be Indian. I didn't see a black person or hear the word Muslim until I was in my late teens. All Asians were Chinese. All visible minorities had nicknames that are now inappropriate. In Edmonton, we had French and Ukrainian and the rest were pretty much unidentified. The diversity of language used today to identify people, their cultural inheritance, their sexual preference, is a measure of how the world has changed. In reaching back to know myself as a young woman, I have been mindful of how unaware I was, how ignorant and insensitive. On the other hand, it was in part my naivety that kept me safe and optimistic about the future.

As Margaret Laurence advised, I have filled the spaces between my recollections with possibilities. While my memories of these real events hold these stories in place, I have allowed them to acquire a will of their own, determined to be more than a report of where I went and what I did. With age and experience, my stories have gathered meaning, and I have come to know myself better. I hope they will stir my readers' curiosity about themselves and the lives they are living.

A few months after her phone call, I heard that Margaret had taken her own life. She left quietly, without any fuss, only sixty-one years old. Having terminal lung cancer, she decided to save her family, friends, and herself the anguish of a slow, painful death.

She must have been sick the night she called, but nonetheless wanted to take care of some unfinished business and pass on to me something of what she had learned. She was so honest and generous. I regret that I never got a chance to meet her in person, to thank her for the gift of that call. She gave me the courage to explore the world within and to find my own way out.
--Anne Wheeler

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Limelight: Rush in the ’80s


“The right time, the right place, the right song, the right parts”


Pleased with the live/work arrangements for A Farewell to Kings, Rush tried it again for Hemispheres. Pleased with the live/work arrangement for Permanent Waves, Rush tried it again for Moving Pictures. Fortunately, the sequel effort this time didn’t disappoint, and the guys found themselves more Canadian than ever. Living and raising families in Canada, writing on Canadian farms, recording immersed in the Canadian forest, bridging the divide between English Canada and French Canada, winning Junos and paddling canoes . . . Rush were celebrating everything it meant to be Canadian.


“We went out to Ronnie Hawkins’s farm, out in the Stony Lake area,” begins Alex, on preparations for the record that would serve as Rush’s Machine Head and Paranoid, or Fragile and Not Fragile, as it were. “I guess it’s just north of Peterborough. He had a really nice little home up there, nice cottage with a big barn on it. We converted the barn into the studio, and set Neil’s drums up, and had areas for Geddy and myself. And it was a really nice location.


“We were there in the summer and everybody was in good spirits. There was a good energy to the work. We started writing there and basically wrote everything in rehearsal there, and then moved into Le Studio later that fall and started recording. There was a real positive energy, not unlike what we went through with Snakes & Arrows years later. But at that time, there was just something that was very strong and positive about where we were with that record. I don’t want to say it was effortless, but the effort seemed to be very smooth. We had some guests visit and we had a lot of fun across the whole process. It wasn’t just in the studio — it was a really nice place to be at that point in our lives.”


Geddy was enthusiastic about carrying on the concept kicked off with the last album. “Yeah, it was great, really exciting, Alex continues. “Because instead of one story you had five stories in the same time span, but you could link them with a sentiment or with an idea. A little bit less so with Permanent Waves but more so with Moving Pictures — that whole idea of a collection of short stories is what we were after and that’s what Moving Pictures is.”


Consensus is that Moving Pictures is the record where Geddy toned down his patented high shriek. “I bought it at Kresge’s,” laughs Lee on coming up with it in the first place. “I keep it downstairs in my studio for when I need it. Lifetime guarantee.”


“As the music changed, the desire to shriek changed,” explains Geddy. “I think I can still shriek if the music requires it. I have no conceptual adverse feelings about it. As the music changed, it became more interesting for me to write melodies as opposed to shrieking. It was basically used for cutting through the density of the music. And sometimes we would write without any consideration for what key we were in in the early days and I would find myself with twelve tracks recorded in a key that was real tough to sing in, so I didn’t have a choice at that point. Re-record the record in a different key or just go for it.


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