Turn the Page: How Do These Rush Books Stack Up?
John Patuto of Power Windows transcribed the full text of Classic Rock’s 138-page Clockwork Angels Fan Pack magazine. A good chunk of the material has already shown up elsewhere online. That material includes interviews with the band members, thoughts from other musicians, a Q&A with Gene Simmons of Kiss and one with early producer Terry Brown.
But one portion of the magazine caught my eye, because it’s about something you don’t see too much on, and that’s the quality of the books written about Rush. So, I pulled that section out of John’s transcription and included it below.
The upshot: a thumb’s up for Martin Popoff’s Contents Under Pressure (ECW Press: 2004), kind of a thumb’s up for Jon Collin’s Chemistry (Helter Skelter Publishing: 2005), and a thumb’s down for Bill Banasiewicz’s Visions (Omnibus Press: 1988).
The two scholarly works, Rush and Philosophy, edited by Jim Burti and Durrell Bowman (Open Court: 2011) and Rush, Rock Music, and the Middle Class, by Chris McDonald (Indiana University Press: 2009) get a mention as well.
There are a few other books out there, but they don’t get any coverage. Two are lyric interpretations, including one that’s self-published, and a few early biographies that are out of print, although you should still be able to get them if you look hard enough. And then there’s Robert Telleria’s tribute book, Merely Players (Quarry Music Books: 2002), with it’s inexplicable misspelling of its own name (“Mereley Players”) on the cover. That should disqualify it right there. That book is really just a compilation of material from elsewhere and it’s out of print, too.
I have to agree with the reviewer from Classic Rock magazine that Banasiewicz’s self-references in Visions are off-putting and that Popoff’s Contents Under Pressure benefits greatly from the blow-by-blow he gets from the Alex, Geddy, and Neil. All in all, it’s hard to disagree with his main points.
My one difference is with their characterization of Rush and Philosophy as “bewildering but endearingly earnest.” This is a bit unfair. The book requires an investment of time to get what the contributors are saying, but everything makes sense and all of the pieces are thought-provoking, not unlike the music they’re writing about. So, I would change “bewildering” to “beguiling” and hope the publisher comes out with a sequel soon! And, in any case, if you want a plain-language explanation of many of the pieces in the book, we have that right here and I invite you to check it out.—Rob Freedman, Rush Vault
Here’s the book portion of the Fan Pack magazine:
Turn the Page
THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS of words have been written about Rush . . . We sort the wheat from the chaff, unearthing the insightful, the incisive, and the plain idiotic.
Does the world needs as many Rush tomes as currently weigh down the world’s bookshelves? Following a thorough trawl through the Rush bibliography, we can confirm that Canadian scribe Martin Popoff’s exhaustive Contents Under Pressure: 30 Years of Rush at Home and Away is the pick if you want to learn everything about these self-professed uncontroversial geeks who have made much endlessly enthralling music.
Popoff shares plenty of his own observations on the trio’s ever-evolving oeuvre, but it’s the contributions made by Geddy, Alex and Neil themselves that imbue the book with such a wealth of detail. The dazzling array of high quality pictures, too, make this the kind of consistently rewarding coffee table slab that the faithful will pore over with great glee.
The same could easily be said of Jon Collins’ Chemistry, which manages to cram a vast amount of information about each Rush album and the band’s rise to legendary status. If you’ve already got the Beyond the Lighted Stage DVD, these tomes might not be essential, but if you love the band as much as these authors clearly do, you’ll want to invest regardless.
Oddly, it’s the official Rush life and times, written by Bill Banasiewicz and first published in 1988, that is the one to avoid like the clap. At less than 100 pages—riddled with clumsy grammar and the wince-inducing stink of the author’s own self-importance—it seems remarkable that it was ever approved by such a cautious and thoughtful group of musicians. Maybe they just signed the contract to shut him up?
Either way, if you want to expand your Rush-related library, the bewildering but endearingly earnest Rush and Philosophy—part of Open Court’s Popular Culture and Philosophy series—goes some way to explaining the relationship between Neil Peart’s lyrics and right-wing talisman Ayn Rand’s squinty-eyed polemic. Similarly, Christopher McDonald’s Rush, Rock Music, and the Middle Class: Dreaming in Middletown offers academic analysis of the themes of suburban life and societal disquiet that have informed many Rush songs over the years. A barrel of laughs it is not.
Finally, for those brave enough to attempt to compete with the technical skills of Messrs Lee, Lifeson and Peart, numerous books of bass, guitar, and drum tablature are available. Careful you don’t injure yourselves by starting with “YYZ” though, eh?