Lost John Rutsey Material: Now Released by Rush

Written by Brant David

Rush existed before Neil Peart. Some vaulted material featuring drummer John Rutsey is now available, in preparation for their upcoming Collectors Box Set.

Rush R40 Album

Image courtesy of RUSH

aNewDomain.net — On November 11th, 2014, renowned progressive hard rockers Rush will release its six Blu-ray disc compendium R40 40th Anniversary Collectors Box Set. July 29th, 2014, marked the 40th anniversary of the date when the band’s mind-boggling drummer and lyricist, Neil Peart, joined the band.

Since that date, Rush has never added, subtracted or replaced any band members. Furthermore, the band has never used session musicians, either live or in the studio, in order to create its signature sound, even though it has collaborated here and there with some “special guest musicians.”

Rush Before Peart

Unbelievable as it may be to many (including some of Rush’s fervent fans), there was an incarnation of the Cream-like power trio that preceded the days of living legend Peart. Those days saw the band’s rhythm section nailed down by another drummer, who also happened to write most of the band’s lyrics, although both his playing and writing style were far different than Peart’s.

That drummer was the late John Rutsey. Rutsey did the drumming for Rush’s first official shows, and sat behind the cymbals on the band’s very first and eponymously titled studio album, released in 1974. In a fit of self-doubt, Rutsey threw away all the lyrics to all of the songs for that album the day before the band was going into the studio to record them, forcing singer Geddy Lee to hastily write lyrics to every song. Shortly after that album was finished being recorded, Rutsey left Rush, for both creative and health-related reasons.

Rush with John Rutsey

John Rutsey is on the left. Courtesy of Drummertalk.org

Long, Long Ago

Many Rush fans today regard the band’s first studio album with Neil Peart, 1975’s Fly By Night, as first “real” Rush album. Who can blame them? However, with the release of the Collectors Box Set, die-hard fans and everyone else have the chance to hear the band’s long lost song “I’ve Been Runnin’,” with lyrics written by and drumming performed by Rutsey. The song was not on the 1974 Rush studio album.

Below, you can see and hear the band performing it live in ‘74 at the Laura Secord Secondary School in St. Catharines, Ontario (where Neil Peart grew up). Courtesy of the Rush Archives. Ah, the glory days!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yxiw7kfp9Tw]

Video: Rush – “I’ve Been Runnin'” – St. Catharines 1974

Founding band members Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson have always maintained that Rutsey was a good drummer and good to work with, but he didn’t share their progressive rock tendencies. Rutsey wanted to create a straight-on, bluesy hard rock sound in the style of bands like Free or Trapeze. Lee, also the band’s bass player, knew that Peart was the man he wanted the moment he first heard him.

What’s more, Rutsey was never going to write lyrics that said anything like: “The shifting shafts of shining/Weave the fabric of their dreams.”

Concerning the long-lost song, the new disc set and the late Rutsey, guitar player Lifeson spoke to Radio.com on October 30th, 2014. He said:

“Oh my god, that was such a long time ago. I can vaguely remember it, I remember being on the stage in that auditorium in that school, and how all of the kids were sitting in their seats — no one was standing! — and it was a little uncomfortable. But it’s a good example of the band we were at that time playing bars and high schools … [John Rutsey] had a very witty sense of humor, and he had such balls. He would talk to the audience and say stuff; sometimes, I thought he’d get us killed. He was comfortable talking to people, and being that guy, whereas Geddy really wasn’t, and I’m not even sure he is that comfortable with it today. But John, he would tell stories, and tell jokes, he would pick someone from the audience and do running jokes with that person all night. He was really great at that. It was fun: those days were really fun with him. We were with him for six years. You know, John sang one or two songs … I think. He really didn’t have a singing voice … But there were a couple of songs that he sang, and he and I also did some backing vocals. His on-stage mic wasn’t just reserved for talking.”

Today, it’s Lifeson who is known as the band’s comedian. Neil Peart calls him The Funniest Man in the World. Perhaps he takes his inspiration from his drummer and friend from a long time ago.

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Brant David McLaughlin — aka Brant David — is a Milford, NJ-based senior writer for us here at aNewDomain. Follow him at his +BrantDavid Google+ page. Email him at Brant@aNewDomain.net.

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