Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant is humbled by the lunacy of the Tiswas set but handles it very well. Name check for new wave band Landscape at the top of the programme as well as heavy metal die hard Ian Gillan (ex of Deep Purple) and The Cure. There was a bit of a heavy metal revival going on at the start of the 80s – the so-called New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) – hence Plant’s appearance I suppose.
Rush mixed lyrics of a ponderously Canadian nature with English whimsical prog rock and never looked back. Their early stuff – ‘Anthem’ and ‘Caress of Steel’ – were horribly thudding metal. But then the trio relocated from their native Canada to Wales and got influenced by the likes of Van Der Graaf Generator.
Drummer Neil Peart was the band’s lyricist and claimed to be influenced by the ‘genius of Ayn Rand’. This political writer was a huge influence on some right wing Americans with a mix of unashamed elitism, worship of capitalism, belief in selfishness, an aggressive individualism and, unusual for American right wingers, atheism. Peart has denied being right wing himself and I believe has even called himself left wing and libertarian. So there you go.
Their middle era albums like ‘Hemispheres’ were very prog rock in their pretentiousness and 2112 had a classic concept story that gobbled up one half of the vinyl. A complete heap of Rand infused guff about a young man trying to rebel against evil communistic priests….oh God, I can’t be bothered to describe the rest of this plot.
But in 1980, Rush decided they’d rather like some pop success. And so out came ‘Permanent Waves’. Short songs like ‘Spirit of Radio’ saw them climb the charts and I nearly fell off the family sofa when they appeared on Top Of The Pops.
During a brief flirtation with NWOBHM – I joined my school mates and went to see them in Hammersmith. Dare I say – I enjoyed the experience. But I’m still kind of ashamed. If people ask which bands I went to see in 1980, I’ll say the Dead Kennedys or The Specials before I say…..Rush.
Who could forget the spring of 1980 – May to be exact – when prog rockers Yes announced that they were to merge with electro-poppers, Buggles. Geoff Downes would take over Rick Wakeman’s role on keyboards while Trevor Horn would be lead vocalist instead of Jon Anderson.
I saw this musical calamity at Hammersmith Odeon, as the venue was called in 1980, and from the start – the mood in the audience was ugly as hell. The lights went up and the boys waved – goodbye might have been an idea.
I’ve never been to a gig where people shouted “Bring back Rick Wakeman!” but this was the one. Then my poor ears had to endure Trevor Horn struggling manfully – or not so manfully – to reach the falsetto highs of Jon Anderson.
The ‘Drama’ album wasn’t that bad. Tempus Fugit had a good bass line. But little wonder that when Anderson re-joined the band he didn’t perform the numbers from that LP.
The only good thing about this whole episode was that it finally killed off any warm residual feelings I had towards prog rock. Suddenly, they really were the sad and tragic dinosaurs that the NME had warned us they were since the dawn of punk.