After nearly 20 years of angst-filled waiting, Rush fans were finally vindicated when it was announced in December that the Canadian progressive rockers would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 18. Despite the long wait, the band isn’t taking much time off for celebrating: It will begin the next leg of its Clockwork Angels tour on April 23 in Austin. Here, bassist/singer Geddy Lee looks back on the musical firsts that shaped his life, along with some of Rush’s musical milestones.
- First piece of music that you bought or received as a gift: It was a single by Billy Joe Royal called “Down in the Boondocks.” It was kind of a dumb pop song. It was a birthday gift. I didn’t really have a musical opinion about anything at that time. It was just a song that kind of stuck in my head.
- First concert or album that made you have an epiphany: That’s a big question. The first song that made me interested in music was “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison. It was the guitar intro, that riff, that I really liked and made me listen in a different way.
First song you learned to play on bass: I can’t remember the first song I learned to play on bass, but the first song I learned to play on guitar was “For Your Love” by the Yardbirds. That kind of was the beginning for me. I thought it was a great song and I loved the open chord progression at the beginning of that song. That and I remember trying to figure out “Pretty Woman” the first time I got a guitar, so it kind of got me getting into music.
- First song you wrote that you were happy with: Still waiting for that experience [laughs]. The first song I wrote was with [Rush guitarist] Alex Lifeson, and the first song we wrote that we kind of liked was “In the Mood,” one of our early songs.
- First Rush gig: Playing at a drop-in center called the Coff-In in Willowdale, Ontario. I had received a call from Alex to fill in for a bass player who couldn’t make the gig, and I came down early, we learned a few songs and played it together. That was the first time I played with Alex and John Rutsey, our original drummer.
- First time you heard a Rush song on the radio: It was “In the Mood” from our first album on CHUM FM in Toronto. I was at home. The album came out and we got all our friends and family to keep calling radio stations requesting our songs and we waited to see if someone would play it, and finally they did. I was really excited. Kind of an unreal experience.