Cover Image: Anthem: Rush in the 1970s

Anthem: Rush in the 1970s

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This is very much a book for the Rush Fan rather than a casual reader. It goes into a lot of depth about the band and their beginnings. Personally I didnt care as much for the parts devoted to their early years as I did for the parts devoted to the music.Still, for the fans this should be invaluable,
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As a Rush fan(atic) [and person in mourning for Neil Peart], you'd expect this one to resonate with me, right? The truth is that I've read all of Popoff's work on Rush and while I respect his writing, I feel that, in past titles, he's gotten in his own way. That is, I sometimes feel his opinions have gotten in the way of a general discussion of the band and its catalogue. He gets this one just right, stepping out of his own way and creating a sort of oral history. And when he does insert himself into the narrative, he wins the reader over with his obvious affection for these music makers. For instance, he writes: "Rush was our rarefied, mystical music textbook... Rush made you want to excel on a bunch of levels at once..." The band's integrity still makes its fans feel that way, and we're lucky to have writers like Popoff to put those feelings into words for us. I am very much looking forward to the next entry in this series!
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ANTHEM: RUSH IN THE ‘70s by author Martin Popoff is an in depth biography and analysis of the band Rush covering the period of time from the band’s inception, on to the change in drummers from John Rutsey to Neil Peart, the story of the band struggling in their native Ontario to becoming successful on a small scale, and their hard work touring the “Rust Belt” states in the U.S.  along with help from a radio programmer in the Cleveland area who recognized the quality of the music from the band’s first album; which was unknown and unavailable in the U.S. being an import with only minor distribution at the time.

Rush has always been regarded as one of the hardest working bands in rock over their lengthy career, also earning the respect of fellow musicians being the antithesis of the typical stereotype of rock stars in that time period, they were often praised for their professionalism and respect towards the bands that they spent time with on the road for the first several years of their existence.

Since that time, Rush has become one of the most highly regarded progressive rock bands over the years with success that was elusive (to the frustration of their record label) finally arriving after the overwhelming acceptance of the “2112” album, and they never looked back from that point on.

Martin Popoff has written more on rock bands in both books and record reviews than anyone else I can compare him to, and recently I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing his biography of Pink Floyd (Pink Floyd: Album by Album) that is an excellent in-depth analysis of everything recorded by the band.

ANTHEM: RUSH IN THE ‘70s covers the decade of the band that is my favorite part of the band’s career, beginning with my first exposure to the backing up the band Kiss at the Michigan Palace in Detroit in 1974, which was the first rock concert at age 14 for the price of a $4 ticket & seated in the tenth row, such a memorable experience with both bands being on their way up, and each playing songs from their soon to be released second albums.

Obsessed with them from that point going forward, I was able to see them a total of six times between that show and a concert with Blue Oyster Cult at Cobo Hall with a heavy emphasis on the 2112 album in the late ‘70s, which is in my mind one of the best progressive rock albums ever recorded.

Martin Popoff does a great job of focusing on the strengths of the band, and documents their struggles and poor treatment by the rock fanzines that wrote them off as Led Zeppelin wannabes, an incredibly short-sighted and clichéd approach to describing the band and their output.

Rush was never a band that could be glamorous in the tabloids, and escaped the trappings of stardom that had brought about the downfall of so many of their contemporaries, so they were always somewhat unique in that aspect; something the author highlights in his description of the band members, with a heavy focus on the late Neil Peart and his importance in their development.

Highly recommended to all fans of the band; especially those who wish to know more of the band from this time period, as well as fans of progressive rock interested in the development and recorded output of the band.

5 stars.
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Martin Popoff is one of my favourite music writers, I love his videos on the Banger YouTube channel - he really knows his subjects. Rush aren't one of my *favourite* bands, but I appreciate their influence and importance - my boyfriend and his dad are HUGE fans, so I wanted to give this book a go so I could at least have more to contribute than "The Trees is mint".

Well written, researched, and I hope there's an 80s and beyond edition coming! A really good companion to the Rush 'Beyond the Lighted Stage' documentary from a few years ago.
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Anthem: Rush in the ‘70s offers an interesting look at Rush’s formative years but is not a particularly well-written read. Author and music critic Martin Popoff doesn’t necessarily write this book, rather transcribes unused dialogue from the magnificent 2010 Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage documentary as well as reprints interviews gleaned across the years. The end result is bad grammar, run-on sentences, and more repetition than Neil Peart has hi-hat fills. Through all those massive shortcomings, the book is about Rush – one that arrives all too soon following Neil’s heartbreaking death – and does offer insight to their early touring days. Popoff’s opinionated liner notes makes up for the pasted-together narrative.

Martin Popoff’s Anthem doesn’t make it to Moving Pictures (1981) abruptly cutting off like a Spinal Tap show following Hemispheres (1978). The subtitle for the book is Rush in the ‘70s after all. And there is some meat on those bones after the fat is sliced away. Drummer Neil Peart, bass player Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson all have keen insight and fun stories to share. Those same stories are then retold - over and over - by their management, their parents, their roadies, other bands, By-Tor, Snow Dog, and the entire Solar Federation. Gene Simmons, bass player for KISS, breaks the repetition with his own style of amusing tales. His introduction to the band. His memories. Funny asides. As usual, Simmons’ antics are worth the price of admission. 

The one thing Martin Popoff perfectly gets right is breaking down Rush's relation to their music. Rush are consummate professionals who feed off doing their brand of music their way. Coming off Fly By Night, perhaps Rush’s last true foray into pure hard rock/metal they began to do their own thing… and continued doing that for the next 40 years. Popoff might be far from the world’s greatest music journalist but he does display his geek cred in hyperbolic zeal. 

Popoff’s scribed interviews truly accomplish the innate friendship of the band. The passions they shared. The stories they told. Even though Anthem is a slog of read at times, the magic of the band vibrates out of those pages. 

This has inspired me to revisit Rush’s early releases. In their entirety. For the first time in years. If anything this is my personal tribute to Neil who tragically died from brain cancer in January. 

Anthem is truly for diehard and completists, which is ironic considering the openness of Rush’s music. Their legacy is a binding force that has certainly contributed to keeping my sanity intact over the years. Sadly, their previously-announced retirement now appears concrete without the Professor behind the drum kit. Their collected music will continue. 

“All the world’s a stage and we are merely players,” someone once sang. Probably heard on a boombox. A snare drum popping in the background. Somewhere a boy lies in the grass, unmoving, staring at the sky. Listening to the words. Feeling the music. Moving. Grooving. Don’t know what I’m hoping to find. Totally knowing what it is Neil has left behind.
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Well-written, interesting and fun read for any fan of classic rock, not just Rush. Highly recommended!
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I liked this but I've also been a fan (though not a die-hard) since 1980. I'm not sure how much a non-Rush fan will enjoy this, although there are some episodes which could be interesting with no knowledge of the group. One of the best things about this book is the author's deep knowledge of the subject long before writing this. I told a friend that this is probably the most detailed and complete bio of the group in existence (not that I've read much else about them). I'm sure some will find faults with this but I couldn't. Recommended, obviously.

I really appreciate the ARC for review.
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Any time I see a new book by Martin Popoff, I grab it.  Popoff claims he has written more rock reviews, nearly 8,000, than anyone else in the business.  His focus is classic rock and, often his books trace a band's history album by album.  For the kings of Canadian rock, the trio known as Rush, there's apparently so much to tell, that only three volumes will do.  

Anthem only traces the band from its infancy in the suburbs of Toronto when Gary Lee Weinrib (whose parents somehow survived Aushwitz and Dachau and emigrated to Canada) Alex Zivojinovich, and the original CEO of the band, John Rutsey met through the late seventies when Hemispheres came out.  Later Gary Lee became Geddy Lee and Alex became Alex Lifeson and Neal became the drummer and lyricist.  

This is only the first of three books and it doesn't address the Spirit of Radio: 
"One likes to believe
In the freedom of music
But glittering prizes
And endless compromises
Shatter the illusion
Of integrity,…"
It also doesn't talk about today's Tom Sawyer: 
"No, his mind is not for rent
To any god or government
Always hopeful, yet discontent
He knows changes aren't permanent
But change is
And what you say about his company
Is what…"

Rather, it takes us back to early Rush with Geddy Lee's unique voicing and the hard rocking Working Man of the first album, the prog-rock anthems of 2112 and Hemispheres.  The kind of music that blasted from boomboxes and was just something more than just hard rock.  

The first half tracks their childhoods and the early days of running from club to club and hoping for their first break.  Later, the book tracks each album and tour and the band's development.  This is a fascinating read for those intimately familiar with the music.  And, even for the casual fan, it can be quite interesting.  This is about the music, not about any crazy rock band excesses.
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