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How the Individual Triumphed for Rush with 2112

For the Canadian power trio Rush, you could say their landmark album 2112 was not only the record that saved them from rock ‘n roll oblivion, but it was also a testament to what a band can do when they stick to their guns.

It all starts back in late 1975-early 1976, following the disappointing sales of Caress of Steel, Rush’s meandering, conceptual predecessor to 2112. Because it was a veritable commercial flop, drummer Neil Peart, bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson were given an ultimatum from their record company back then, Mercury Records: Produce a hit album, or find another career path.

“There was a great deal of pressure on the band at that time from the record company, from management, to maybe take a couple of steps back and think about where (we’re) going,” said Lifeson.

In fact, the band’s then-manager, Ray Daniels, and producer Terry Brown, had a meeting with the label, which had Cliff Burnstein (who now helps manage Metallica under his company Q Prime) working in marketing. They wanted to drop Rush from the label, but Daniels assured Mercury Records the Caress of Steel follow up would be more commercial and less of a concept album.

“We got out of Chicago with the deal intact for one more record, breathed a sigh of relief, and then it was up to Terry and the band what they were going to deliver,” said Daniels, who later managed Van Halen and Extreme.

As for the members of Rush themselves, when they heard what was going down with the ultimatum from their label, they didn’t cave. In fact, their reaction was to do what any self-respecting rock band would do.

“We got mad, you know. We got angry. We thought ‘screw it. If this is our last shot, we’re gonna do it. We’re gonna do it our way’,” said Peart. “I felt this great sense of injustice that this mass was coming down on us and telling us to compromise. Compromise was a word that I couldn’t deal with. I was a child of the 60s…. an individualist.”

This time they got it right with the concept about individualism vs collectivism in the epic title track, which filled the entire first side of the 2112 album. The second side is a collection of separate, but great, songs.

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Many at Mercury Records Didn’t Like 2112

However, when it was time for the record execs at Mercury to hear the album for the first time, they were less than impressed.

“Ray Daniels actually brought the record into Mercury and we all sat in the conference room and listened to it,” recalled Burnstein. “The general feeling in the office was ‘we’re in trouble. This is exactly what we don’t need’.”

But for the band, it was very well-received by fans and music listeners, and, despite an ignorant backlash from mainstream media at the time regarding the idea of 2112, the album was a major hit, going multi platinum in both the U.S. and Canada.

2112 was the seminal album for Rush. It helped define their sound and it helped them move forward as musicians to build on their legacy which includes so many amazing albums like HemispheresMoving Pictures and Permanent Waves.

“2112 was the beginning of everything for us and, without which, nothing,” said Peart.

The album is listed as the No. 22 greatest progressive rock album of all time according to a Rolling Stone Magazine list.

Check out more of Cam Maxwell’s Rock ‘N Roll Insight.

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