I’m lucky that Rush has never been one of my favorite bands. Otherwise, it would’ve killed me that I never got to get their autographs. Now, don’t get me wrong. And all you Canadians that can’t get enough of them…I’m not saying I dislike them. I own three of their albums. I’ve seen them in concert twice and have a Rush T-shirt (although I only bought it because it was in the $5 bin at Hot Topic). I like them well enough, but I could name 100 bands I like more, and I don’t think they deserve to be in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Now, their drummer Neil Peart deserves to be in a drummer Hall of Fame, if there was one.
I started dating a musician recently, and at her place the other night she wanted to watch the documentary “Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage.”
I love documentaries and like enough Rush tunes that I thought I’d be entertained. I most certainly was.
It got me thinking about a few things regarding this band and autographs, and how Peart deals with fans.
First, I’ll tell you of my one “meeting” with the band. I’ve shared this story before, but here goes it. It was around 1991 and they were playing a show at the San Diego Sports Arena with Primus (who are GREAT about signing autographs, and Les Claypool is one of the best bassists in rock history).
Anyway, the radio station I worked at was going to be doing a backstage interview. I asked the DJ doing the interview if I could tag along (with the sole purpose of getting autographs after she interviewed them). As I walked backstage, with my drum symbol in hand – a female tour manager stopped us. She said, “Who the hell is he, and what is he doing with that?”
She laughed and said, “He’s a co-worker of mine. He just wants the band to sign it.”
The woman sternly said, “Absolutely not! You are here to do an interview, not ask for autographs.”
We told her we wouldn’t ask for the autograph, and as we opened the door, the trio of rockers were sitting there smiling. Just as we were about to sit down, the woman asked me to leave the room. So….I didn’t even get to meet them!
Now, a few of my friends are nuts over Rush. One of them called me a year ago, because a photographer that has worked with the band for years, has cancer. He is selling limited, signed prints of the band on his website (I believe his name is Andrew MacNaughton, if you’re interested). My buddy bought a signed program for $150, and a signed picture for another $100. Perhaps that seems steep for some, but I believe the money was to help with medical expenses, which makes it really cool of the band to do.
I won’t go into all the music things covered in the documentary. If you’re a fan of the band, you either already know it, or you can watch the movie. I was a bit disturbed by something Neil Peart was saying. He said he doesn’t go to the “meet-and-greets” the band does, because he doesn’t like signing autographs, or having fans gush over him. Now really…if that isn’t the stupidest thing ever. If you feel awkward about that, you can just change the subject, or ask them about themselves, while thanking them and signing things.
There was a funny scene where a waitress asked singer Geddy Lee for his autograph. She said it was for her boyfriend, who was a big fan. Lee then asked if she wanted “his autograph,” pointing to guitarist Alex Lifeson, sitting right beside him. She said no. Awesome. Can’t wait until her boyfriend sees this clip of the movie. Nothing more humorous than an autograph seeker that misses out because they didn’t know the celebrities around the person they were focused on. It’s true, Lifeson does look “normal” and not as much like Ozzy, but…the least she could’ve done was said, “Are you in the band, too?”
Anyway, when Peart was talking about how he doesn’t sign autographs, it got me thinking about the band Journey. They said they were bothered when singer Steve Perry would leave before doing the meet-and-greets with fans, mostly because he was quickly flying out to see his girlfriend. They felt that was disrespectful to the fans (now that’s the attitude to have).
There were clips of other musicians talking about Rush -- Gene Simmons of Kiss, perplexed by the fact that they didn’t have groupies in their room. And, when the Foo Fighters drummer talked about how much he was praising Peart, he said it was awkward, and he got nothing from him.
If Neil Peart has such issues with fans, even fans…and some awkward shyness issues…it wouldn’t be hard to have the tour manager or somebody stand near him, and if the conversation just kept going, they could step in and say, “Let others get their things signed,” or…”Okay, Neil has to go now.”
You don’t just refuse to show up. It’s disrespectful to the fans. And if there’s any band that should be thankful of their fans, it’s Rush. The critics certainly haven’t been kind, so the fact that they have sold out stadiums and sports arenas…even when they do lame albums like Vapor Trails and Counterparts…[runs from thread with hands over head, as Rush fans throw stuff at me, while naming songs of these albums they love]…