A couple of nights ago, I watched a nearly hour-long interview with Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee of Rush. Their relationship and history is a rare one in rock music. Heck, it's rare in any creative endeavor. Longtime friends, they met before high school. Who else can we put in that category? Jagger/Richards is one. Lennon and McCartney certainly would have been. Maybe the U2 fellas?
While watching the interview, I was struck with how down to earth the guys are. They actually got into that a little bit, the fact that they purposely avoided most of the trappings of rock stardom, feeling that the attachment to a certainly level of celebrity can be one factor in the dissolution of a band. The other big reason they're still together is a simple one: they like each other. Friendships over the long term are tricky things to maintain, especially in situations where creative activities are forced to be "work."
In a way, Rush got lucky. Things were looking bleak after Fly By Night, and there was record label pressure for something more commercial. The guys decided to be true to themselves and follow their own instincts. Instead of an album with a three and a half minute, radio-ready single, they came out with 2112. The "luck" I speak of is the fact that the label left them alone after that, figuring that they knew what they were doing. Not many bands obtain that kind of freedom. Not many bands are around long enough to get there.
Longevity has become an extremely rare thing in the rock world. Record label near-sightedness and ghetto-ized and consolidated radio have held risk-taking at arm's length. At least, that used to be the story.
These days, bands rely less on major labels and more on their own energy to attain their goals. Yeah, we're not completely sure where it's headed, but I'm heartened by the fact that interesting music drops into my lap nearly every week (Strangely, a lot of it comes from Brooklyn. What's in the water over there?), almost none of it has involvement from the majors. It feels like a new era is here, where artists can do what they do best, without having to deal with pressure from some dude in a suit.
Rush is getting ready to go out on their "Time Machine" tour. After that, they'll be hitting the studio to complete Clockwork Angels, to be released in 2011. It's great to see a band hang around for so long, still doing vital work. Here's hoping that this new era of unshackled creativity produces similarly great results down the road.
Let's talk about it. Forty years from now.