Anthem: Background

“‘Anthem’ polished the sculpted, hard-rock sound of the first album to a glistening sheen.”—John Swenson, Rush Chronicles

“We were trying to be quite individual with ‘Fly by Night,’ which was the first record that Neil, Geddy and I did together. [‘Anthem’] was the signature for that album. Coincidentally, the name of our record company, which is Anthem Records in Canada, came from this song. Neil was in an Ayn Rand period, so he wrote the song about being very individual. We thought we were doing something that was different from everybody else. . . . I was using a Gibson ES-335 then, and I had a Fender Twin and a Marshall 50-watt with a single 4×12 cabinet. An Echoplex was my only effect.”—Alex in a 1996 Guitar World interview

“Alex and I had written this riff and we had written it back in the day when Rutsey was in the band, and Rutsey wasn’t into playing it. It was too complicated and it wasn’t his thing. He was more into straight-ahead rock & roll. We jammed with Neil the first day we met him on this opening riff. When he started playing, we looked at each other and were like, ‘Yeah, this is the guy. He can play. He’ll do.'”—Geddy in 2013 Rolling Stone interview

“When Neil Peart joined Rush in 1974, ‘Anthem’ was the first song produced by the new trio. It established Rush’s working arrangement—with Lee and Lifeson composing the music and Peart providing the lyrics—and it prefigured several hallmarks of Rush’s mature style, including the use of asymmetrical meters (7/8 for the song’s intro), contrapuntal separation between the bass and the guitar, and elaborate drum fills. [Contrapuntal means two or more independent but harmonically related melodic parts sounding together.] Most important, it introduced the theme for which Rush would become most renowned—individualism. ‘Anthem’ shares its title with with a short novella by Russian American writer Ayn Rand, an author Peart very much admired during the mid-1970s, and whom Rush would acknowledge two years later as the inspiration for ‘2112.’ [In the novella, a totalitarian state eliminates individual rights (even outlaws the word “I”), and only allows state-planned technological progress.]

“Rand, a Soviet defector, came to the United States in 1926 with boundless enthusiasm for some of the key pillars of American identity—liberty, individualism, capitalism, and certain constitutional rights—which stood in marked contrast to the political climate she fled in the USSR . . . . ‘Anthem’ merged heavy metal with individualist philosophy. . . . Rush was never a one-issue band, but individualism recurred frequently in the group’s repertoire . . . .”

“The song “could well be seen as a paean to the 1970s, which became known as the ‘Me Decade.’ It urges listeners to pursue their own interests and forget about what others think. Drawing on Rand’s ethic called the ‘virtue of selfishness,’ the song tells listeners to take ownership of their lives and never let anyone tell them ‘that you owe it all to me.'”—Christopher McDonald, Rush, Rock Music, and the Middle Class

“Paradoxically, Rand would probably have been horrified by the group. Although they went their own way, they did so collectively, and Rand railed against long-haired hippies and rock music on several occasions, most notably in a collection of essays on the Woodstock Generation.”—Bill Banasiewicz, Rush Visions

More about “Anthem”

Two “Anthem” tribute versions.

Back to Rush Vault

~ by rvkeeper on January 11, 2011.

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