Alex Lifeson talks about Rush's first single

Lifeson channeled his inner Buddy Holly on Rush's first single
Lifeson channeled his inner Buddy Holly on Rush's first single (Image credit: Sayre Berman/Corbis)

On 8 November, Rush will release Time Machine 2011: Live In Cleveland, a 2-CD set with an accompanying video on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as Moving Pictures: Live 2011, on vinyl and digital formats. We've seen and heard them all, and can tell you they're amazing in every possible way.

With such kick-ass holiday packages looming, we decided it was the perfect time to speak with guitarist Alex Lifeson about Rush's first recorded work...some 38 years ago.

Back in 1973, way before they were full-time, totally awesome stadium and arena-fillers, Rush, then comprised of Lifeson, Geddy Lee and the band's original drummer, John Rutsey (Neil Peart joined in 1974), issued a single on their own Moon Records label. The A side was a cover of Buddy Holly's Not Fade Away and the B side was a Lee/Rutsey original called You Can't Fight It.

As you might expect, the 45 was raw, loose, rocking and bursting with youthful charm. Alex Lifeson picks up the story:

Not Fade Away

"Man, we were very young when we did this! We were playing the clubs and didn't know better. Because we were having such a hard time getting a deal, our management thought that maybe something a little more accessible, possibly something already known, would be the way to go.

"Not Fade Away is something we'd been playing live, but we did it really heavy. We rocked it out, sort of the way Led Zeppelin might have. It was powerful and very full. We had a good time with it.

"By the time we recorded it, though, we lightened it up a little to make it more palatable for radio. This is the version that was to be our debut album, but we ended up dropping it and it rerecorded some of the other songs.

"Everything was done so quickly, and it didn't really come out the way we wanted it to. But you know, we were 18, 19 years old. In our minds, we'd arrived. We'd made a record, which meant...we were recording artists."

You Can't Fight It

"Geddy and John Rutsey wrote this one. I think it came about in 1971, something like that. It was also supposed to be on our first album, but we dropped it, too. I think we took off three or four songs that were going to be on the album.

"You Can't Fight It was a fun tune to play, though, especially in the bars late at night. We would never play it early in our show; we'd always do it in the second set or the last set when everybody was feeling pretty spirited, in both senses of the word. [laughs]

"As to why we picked this song over some of our other originals, I think the reason was because it was short. You had to be under three minutes to get on the radio in 1973, and You Can't Fight It fit. Like Not Fade Away, I thought this recording was a little tame. I thought so then, and I've always thought so. But it's what we did at the time."

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.