There was plenty of Rush news to report this past week including a new Walmart commercial that features Rush's Working Man, a news update from Neil Peart, Imagine Dragons covering Tom Sawyer in concert, Clockwork Angels Tour receiving some more awards and accolades, and Rush's Signals getting featured in the new issue of Prog along with a new Alex Lifeson interview. Late last week US retail giant Walmart launched a new ad campaign which attempts to put the spotlight on the company's recent initiative to invest $250 billion over the next 10 years towards creating new manufacturing jobs in America. One of the TV commercials in the ad campaign is titled Working Man and depicts video of US factory workers while Rush's Working Man plays in the background. There are 60-second and 30-second versions of the commercial which you can check out on YouTube here. Walmart has been the subject of a lot of criticism for their business practices over the past few years, so fans are split as to whether or not this was a good move for the band. It's not the first time Rush's music has been used in a commercial for a major company. Back in 2012 Volkswagen released a commercial for the Passat which featured a man stopped at a traffic light rocking out to Fly By Night (watch it here).
Earlier this week Neil Peart updated the news page on his website with a new entry for February, 2014 titled Bubba and the Professor. In it Neil gives us a little background on 2 of his better-known nicknames (Bubba and The Professor) and also delves into how he's been spending his time off these past few months and his plans for the rest of his sabbatical. He describes writing a very cute song with his daughter Olivia (although it's unlikely to make its way to a Rush album), the Clockwork Angels graphic novel, another possible book project, working with Peter Erskine and - of course - traveling. Neil talks a bit about his friend and Alex Lifeson's former guitar tech Jimmy Johnson at the beginning of the update when talking about how his nicknames came about. Jimmy did an interview with Performing Musician back in 2009 and talks a bit about his time with Rush and why he left (thanks HannuFIN):
... Jimmy Johnson finally left the Rush camp in '97, once the band entered an understandable sabbatical period following some personal tragedies suffered by his old friend, Neil Peart. By the time Rush decided to get on the road again in 2001, Jimmy was already working full-time for Tommy Shaw and Styx, but he'll never forget the way Alex Lifeson handled the situation. "I finally got an email one day and Alex said, 'Listen, I've written you a message rather than calling you, because I don't want to put you on the spot. If you want to come and work again, we're about to start up, but I know you're in a place with Tommy, and whatever you decide we're still what we were together. Do what's right for you!' I was almost in tears and that's just what I needed to hear! We're still very close. He's a big part of my life, but life has to go on" ...
So if you ever wondered why Jimmy Johnson stopped working as Alex's guitar tech, now you know the story right from the source. You can read Neil's entire update online at this location.
The latest issue of Prog magazine contains a feature on Rush's Signals album with the cover tagline Rush: creating Signals, a synth rock opus!. The feature itself is titled The Albums That Saved PROG: Signals and contains a new interview with Alex Lifeson that was conducted when he was in London last November to receive the Spirit of Prog award at the Classic Rock Awards. Earlier this week Eric over at the Power Windows site transcribed the article and made it available online here. In addition to the Alex Lifeson interview where he shares some of his memories about the recording of the album, the article contains a short sidebar piece with Haken vocalist Ross Jennings.
Voting closed this past Tuesday in the 2014 Ultimate Classic Rock Awards and Rush came away on top in 3 of the categories; Song of the Year (The Garden), Best Tour of 2013 (Clockwork Angels Tour), and Best Live Album of 2013 (Clockwork Angels Tour). On a related note, Rush FOH Engineer Brad Madix and video director David Davidian both won in their respective categories this past weekend at the Tour Link Top Dog Awards ceremony in Scottsdale, AZ. Rush Lighting director Howard Ungerleider was in attendance and accepted the awards on their behalf. David Davidian has worked with Rush since 2002's Vapor Trails Tour and won Video Designer of the Year and Video Director/Operator for his work on Rush's Clockwork Angels Tour video. Brad Madix shared the FOH Engineer of the Year award with Linkin Park's Ken Pooch Van Druten. You can check out the full list of nominees here and all the winners on Tour Link Conference Facebook page.
Grammy Award winning alt-rock band Imagine Dragons kicked off their 2014 arena tour this past weekend in Boise and have been performing a cover of Rush's Tom Sawyer as described in this Rolling Stone article. The band is coming off a highly successful 2013 which saw them named by Billboard as The Breakthrough Band of 2013 and where Rolling Stone named their single Radioactive the biggest rock hit of the year. You can check out a camera phone video of the band's performance of Tom Sawyer in Boise on YouTube at this location.
Speaking of Tom Sawyer covers, the Montreal Guitar Trio will be releasing their 6th album Der Prinz next week. The album contains an all guitar, acoustic cover of Rush's Tom Sawyer which you can check out on YouTube here. The album will be officially launched at a concert for the Montréal en Lumière Festival on February 20, 2014 at L'Astral, and will be available on iTunes and in stores this coming Tuesday, February 18th. The CD will also release via Amazon in the US a month later on March 18th.
Last Friday was the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first landing in the United States. In celebration of the event, Fox News created their list of 11 bands better than The Beatles?, and coming in at #7 was our favorite Canadian power trio. Led Zeppelin came out on top of the list which you can check out here.
... Vigilant readers will also find the influence of Geddy Lee, Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson among these pages, three gentlemen whose music animates much of the action as I initially conceived it in my mind. ...
Virginia-based heavy metal band While Heaven Wept has entered the studio to begin recording their Suspended At Aphelion album and guitarist and primary composer Tom Phillips recently spoke with Blabbermouth.net about it, making several comparisons to early Rush albums:
... "If (2011's) 'Fear Of Infinity' was our 'Caress Of Steel', 'Suspended At Aphelion' is without question our '2112' - and anyone familiar with the stories behind those RUSH albums will understand that where we're coming from is very similar, both musically and circumstantially. ... it is a single, 40-plus-minute monolith divided into 11 parts - in the tradition of the aforementioned '2112' and our own 'The Furthest Shore', 'Finality' and 'Thus With A Kiss I Die', amongst others. Yet, musically... while clearly this is WHILE HEAVEN WEPT... it's very much beyond anything else we've ever done... VERY progressive, but in a harmonic sense more than the technical. ...
Actor and drummer Michael Chiklis was recently interviewed for Modern Drummer magazine and spoke about his drumming influences which include Neil Peart, and also showed off his new DW drumkit. You can check out the interview on YouTube here (thanks Sean).
A recent AskReddit post posed the question of whether anyone had ever won a contest to hang out with a celebrity. Redditor maciballz relayed his story about meeting and becoming friends with Alex Lifeson which prompted a lot of excited replies from other Redditors (thanks Jon P):
When I had cancer, my aunt asked me who I wanted to meet that was famous. I asked for Rick Mercer. 4 days later, he was on my couch drinking an Alexander Keiths. We ended up exchanging numbers, and we have been friends ever since. He even got me and Alex Lifeson of Rush to become friends.. not the exact type of answer you were looking for, but better than "a friend of a friend met..."
KISS will be joining their old tourmates Rush as Rock Hall inductees at a ceremony in New York City on April 10th. KISS frontman Paul Stanley is not impressed with the award and went off on the Hall in a recent Classic Rock interview (thanks King Lionhead). One of his beefs is the Hall's inconsistency regarding which past members of bands get inducted and he mentions Rush founding member John Rutsey:
... So the fact that there are 30 or 40 or 50 or some absurd number of Grateful Dead members all inducted, the fact that all of the Chili Peppers, including people who played on early albums that never amounted to very much are not inducted, the fact that John Rutsey, the drummer on the first Rush album is not inducted, the fact that Rob Trujillo, who's a great guy but didn't play on any of the classic Metallica albums, was inducted after being in the band six years makes me wonder exactly what are the rules? If the rules don't apply to everybody then they're not rules. ...
Here's the 60-second Walmart commercial featuring Rush's Working Man:
That's all for this week. Happy Valentine's Day and have a great weekend everybody!