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.