Rush and The Tangent: Influences and Speed

This morning, Andy Tillison, the mighty and mischievous redhead of the prog world, posted this wonderful essay on how much Rush has influenced him and his music.


Delayed yesterday owing to the highly unpleasant news about Jonas – and only because I know he’s on the mend – here is the FOURTH of the albums I have chosen to represent some of the influential albums on The Tangent’s career. Once again to stress that this is not a chart, a “best of” – nor is it an effort to say or imply that The Tangent sound like this. Because today – i do not think we sound anything like this band, who (like the previous artist) hail from Canada

rush moving pictures
Perhaps THE greatest album in prog history?

So far my choices have been street credible and artistically laudable I think – and there will be those who heave a sigh of disappointment when they see that I chose an album by Rush. Indeed, I spent many years not having a great deal of time for this group and they didn’t really hit me until the mid 80s. But when they did… they did.

What I find so appealing about Rush – is something that Sally had also identified, independently of me before either of us met.. and that to us – to try an explain, is the MOTION in which Rush songs set themselves. Where many progressive bands take a stand on the hilltops- taking a view of the broader vista, Rush are always IN the landscape, travelling through it – usually at some speed! They’re looking at the hills that others are standing on – as they whizz past gas stations and motels, steel works and a very very familiar real world environment.

Whether you’re travelling in a gigantic 18 wheeler rig down a massive interstate highway as the swaggering pace of “Tom Sawyer” suggests, screaming across desert plains in a Red Barchetta, or hurtling through Space toward Cygnus X-1 – Rush always makes me feel I’m in motion. No surprises then that this album formed a soundtrack to Sally and My journey on the interstate from Colorado to Wyoming in 2015. After all, Brad Birzer had almost certainly deliberately left a copy in the car he had lent us.

I’m not alone here. As I’ve mentioned before… the film director JJ Abrams (who has used Rush before now in soundtracks eg “Tom Sawyer” in ) actually used the storyline of “Red Barchetta” (A young boy rebelliously driving a red sportscar across a desert landscape, in the future, pursued by robotic police vehicles) in his reboot of the Star Trek franchise. Sadly the music “cho$en” for this scene was not the song which so inevitably inspired it – and has neither the motion or excitement of the original.

I always wanted The Tangent to be a Rock Group. That phrase which means so much to all of us “Progressive Rock” is two words.. and that’s the music I always wanted to make. And if anyone represents the most succesful marriage of these two words, it’s Rush. On our first album the song “Uphill From Here” along with many others like it since expressed our desire to keep the band firmly rooted in the wider Rock & Roll idiom. Jonas had that rock and roll in his bass playing – born perhaps from his young love of bands like Kiss and certainly Roine, Luke have always had different eras of Rock manifest in their playing

Maybe the fact that Peart is himself a pretty intrepid explorer and traveller has something to do with the way he leads the band on. His travelogues are as exciting on paper as they are in his music. Sometimes his lyrics utterly utterly hit my sensitive spots with hammer blows. The lyrics to “Spirit Of The Radio” specifically reflect so much of what I believe about the music industry and music making itself….

“Glittering Prizes and Endless Compromises shatter the illusion of integrity” – lines that come into my head every time I see a band begging us to vote for them in some poll or award ceremony which usually benefits the publication more than the artists who are invariably “better than that” They are belittled in their quest – in a world where they deserve so much more real attention for the great things they do. And that’s the negative side that Rush identify.

tangent slow rust
Forthcoming from The Tangent.

The positive side is even better – and the cry of “All this machinery making modern music can still be open hearted” is a personal mantra of mine. That they saw this, anticipated nearly everything that makes music what it is today in 197? and were able to only see good in it is testament to this wildly open minded and innovative band whose career has been loved – and mocked by so many.

Rush are their own blend of styles and inspirations, their own unique Prog recipe that used ingredients of Zep, Sabbath, Yes, occasionally Genesis, Purple and ELP. They plough their own furrow – use their own rules and have stayed resoloutely together in the same lineup since their second album. For this they have my admiration and respect. Like Van Der Graaf Generator they would include references to academic philosophy and literature in their work and this had the wonderful effect of several thousand biker types throwing their fists at the sky to an idea that might have had its roots in Nietzsche. Rush aim high. Always did.

I love their North American take on the world… I liked the way on this album they tried to include us Brits by – having mentioned Manhattan as a focal place for Americans – they chose “Westminster” as the British equivalent. A place that means very little to the Provincial British(I am one of these) who know Big Ben as being “In London” and who for every 20 US dramas and movies about the US presidency have one grubby comedy show about politics in the UK. The last American show on this subject (3 this year) I completed was “Designated Survivor” where an impossibly virtuous man accidentally and unintentionally succeeds to the office and overcomes all the political ordeals to become the very embodiment of the American Dream. The last UK one I saw had the Prime Minister having sex with a pig. Ha ha! Westminster!! Nice try guys! We loved you anyway already! I even like the way Rush live shows feature a lot of their humour – which the audience here (including me) just don’t get.

A fantastic band of fantastic musicians. Now if the publishers of Mojo had been watching this rollout of influential albums thinking “here’s someone we could work with – good choices” I just blew it forever by choosing something desperately unfashionable and untrendy that hasn’t even had the decency to have a dead member a drugs casualty or an acrimonious fallout (that I know of) in 40 years. But that just echoes what I (and everyone else in this genre) chose to do with my life. To quote another of my influences….
“And We Don’t CARE”

One thought on “Rush and The Tangent: Influences and Speed

  1. Haha,Enjoyed reading this one,SO VERY MUCH Brad!!! Thank-you for posting this…….(AND for intentionally placing this MUCH-BELOVED album into the car for Andy to drive!!! 😉 )

    Anyway,what HASN’T already been said about this particular album? Just when I think I’ve possibly read EVERY thought,opinion,idea about this album,someone writes something NEW about it,that brings in a WHOLE NEW set of philosophies,regarding it!!! And for THAT,I Thank them for it!!! 🙂




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