Gary Lee Weinrib was born in North York, Ontario, Canada in July 29, 1953, and a few years later adopted the artistic name Geddy Lee, helping to form one of the biggest bands of all time: Rush. The group that mixed Progressive Rock and Hard Rock quickly became famous in the 70s and 80s due to their complex lyrics and sound, which made them really a unique group that couldn’t be compared to many of their peers.
The group was officially active until the death of their legendary drummer and main lyricist Neil Peart in 2020 at the age of 67 after years battling cancer. During four decades, they released 19 studio albums and have sold an estimated amount of more than 42 million records worldwide.
With a big discography is never easy to pick which record was their best but for Geddy Lee, there is one album that in his opinion is their “best work”.
The Rush album that Geddy Lee said is the best one
Since their first album, Rush has alwayes been a power trio, with a drummer, guitarist and bassist/singer. Their self-titled debut album already had Geddy Lee on vocals, bassist and keyboards alongside his childhood friend and guitarist Alex Lifeson. However, the drummer on that record was John Rutsey, that left the group not long after the release of that album.
He was then replaced by the late legendary drummer Neil Peart, who completely change the band’s sound and lyrics. If in the first album they used the be called the “Canadian Led Zeppelin” because of Lee’s vocals and their heavy sound, from the second album onwards they couldn’t really be compared to any other group entirely, since they were mixing Progressive Rock with a heavy sound.
There were a lots of ups and downs in between those 19 album released, with some successful works and some regrettable for fans and for the band members. Although they are often remembered for classics like “Fly By Night” (1975), “2112” (1976), “Permanent Waves” (1980) and Moving Pictures” (1981), for Geddy Lee the best album the band ever did was their final one: “Clockwork Angels” released in 2012.
He revealed that in an interview with The Guardian in 2018 when he was talking about the concept albums done by Rush. He was asked by the interviewer if he thought that a “novelisation” could make the album be better and he said: “… or a graphic novel, and then the movie, and then the TV series, and then the cartoon. It was not my idea. I liked the concept of that record and I do believe it’s our best work.”
“It was a tough record to make lyrically, getting it down to something that Alex and I could live with, that told enough of the story to satisfy Neil’s concept. There’s something about ‘Headlong Flight’ (song) that’s almost about the history of my band to me. It’s autobiographical in a way. Forty years into this career, and it goes by like that. The sentiment in that song is ‘I wish I could do it all again,’ and it’s true,” Geddy Lee said.
With 12 tracks, “Clockwork Angels” was released on June 8, 2012 and debuted at number 1 on the Canadian charts. It also performed well on the Billboard 200 reaching the second position. In that same year it won the prize of “Rock Album of The Year” at the 2013 Juno Awards.
How Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson “swapped” their instruments in one track on that album
To promote the album at the time, Rush released a video series with interviews about the making of that record. One of them was made with Geddy Lee and he recalled an interesting story that in a particular moment he started composing a song on guitar and Lifeson started playing the bass.
“(Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) There’s a song called ‘The Wreckers’ on the album. The way that song came into being was quite funny. We had had a technical breakdown in our writing part of the studio. So we wandered into the drum area. The big, big room where Neil was working on his drums. Laid all around this area are all the extra instruments we we bring with us.”
“Alex has numerous guitars to say the least. So I was just picking up guitars, listening to them and playing them. Just to see how they sound. (I was) having some fun and I found this one guitar that was an acoustic that was tuned to what they call a ‘Nashville Tuning’. Which is basically when you have a 12-string guitar. There are six thicker strings and six sympathetic strings. Those sympathetic strings are tuned a little differently than the standard tuning.”
“It’s almost impossible to play a chord on a ‘Nashville Tuning’ that doesn’t sound beautiful. So it’s a great for an inept guitarist like myself just to pick up and start making some noise. Everything sounds fantastic (laughs). So I just started playing and an idea for the record occured to me. I wrote the lyrics, starting sketching out a verse chorus thing. I got excited about it because it was a little different. So I played for Alex, he loved it.”
“He said: ‘You keep playing that’. (Then) he picked up my bass and he started writing a bass part for it. And I was getting off on that and the I started singing. By that time the studio was fixed. (So) we went back in our writing studio and we laid the track down like that. We were having a blast doing that. It was like we had become a different band for a few minutes.”
“Then we got to this middle section and we had this great idea for the middle section. But our limitations on the wrong instruments were becoming apparent. So we quickly switched back and wrote the rest of the song on our normal instruments. So we started sounding like Rush again. It was pretty funny to see that when we are not playing the right instruments we don’t really sound like us anymore (laughs). So it was a way of having kind of two bands built into one song,” Geddy Lee said.