5. 1970s influences

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On July 29, 1974, Neil Peart joined Rush. From the start, his drumming supercharged the band on the live stage, as Rush opened for bands like KISS, Uriah Heep, and Blue Oyster Cult. In the studio, Peart helped Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee forge a more progressive, heavy metal sound with his rhythmic approach and lyric writing. Fly by Night won Rush a Juno for "Most promising group of the year" (1975). But the road ahead wouldn't be as smooth, as they had to fight through disappointing reactions to Caress of Steel followed by record company pressure to be more commercial. It was in that crucible that the band created 2112, the album that won Rush their creative freedom.

In those early days of touring, Peart had a backstage seat to watch the headliner acts and their drummers. Later, as bands opened for Rush, Peart would continue to learn from many of them. See this list of bands that toured with Rush in the 1970s.

Here are some of the drummers Peart has mentioned in interviews.

Tommy Aldridge - Pat Travers Band

Many drummers say anything you can do with two feet, can be achieved with one. That just isn't true. I can anticipate a beat with both bass drums. That is something I learned from Tommy Aldridge of the Pat Travers Band. He has a really neat style with the bass drums. Instead of doing triplets with his tom toms first and then the bass drums, which is the conventional way, he learned how to do it the other way, so that the bass drums are anticipated. (Modern Drummer, April/May 1980)

Photo by of Tommy Aldridge with Thin Lizzy in 2007 by HeavyMezza89.

The double bass drum triplets which anticipate the flams off the top (of "Limelight") are inspired by something I learned from Tommy Aldridge a few years ago. I used to watch him anticipate his flams and downbeats with a quick two beats on the bass drums. I simply made it into three beats. ("Notes on the Making of Moving Pictures, Part II" in Modern Drummer)

Kevin Ellman - Utopia (Todd Rundgren)

There's a guy named Kevin Ellman who played with Todd Rundgren's Utopia for a while... He was the first guy I heard lean into the concert toms. (Modern Drummer, April/May 1980)

Kevin Ellman

Nick Mason - Pink Floyd

"Nicky" Mason from Pink Floyd has a different style. Very simplistic yet ultra tasteful. Always the right thing in the right place. I heard concert toms from Mason first, then I heard Kevin Ellman who put all his arms into it. You learn so many things here and there. (Modern Drummer, April/May 1980)

Nick Mason
In an article entitled "Ten Influential Canadian Drummers" for the book The Top 100 Canadian Albums, Peart wrote:

Later on, in the seventies, I was impressed by Martin Deller's fluid technique and resonant touch with FM, the solid timekeeping and dramatic fills of Gary McCracken with Max Webster, and the tasteful economy of Johnny Fay with The Tragically Hip. (Editor's note: Peart first listened to the Tragically Hip in 1989, per his comment in Traveling Music, so we've included Johnny Fay in that section.)

Mark Craney - Gino Vannelli, Jethro Tull, Tommy Bolin, Jean-Luc Ponty

I first heard Mark Craney plan with Gino Vannelli, and my jaw dropped. Such speed, such precision, such power and excitement in his playing. And what a beautiful touch and sound. I was awed and humbled, yet because of that I was inspired to work harder on my own playing.

Bob Dylan once said, "The highest purpose of art is to inspire. What else can you do? What else can you do for anyone but inspire them?"

Mark Craney inspired me. (Modern Drummer, May 2006)

Mark Craney, circa 1983. Photo courtesy of Dan Jensen and Al Berven via http://markcraney.org

Martin Deller - FM

Martin Deller's band, FM, opened for Rush on the Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures, and Power Windows tours. In 1981, Deller interviewed Peart for Canadian Musician. Ben Mink, violinist in FM, would also go on to play on Rush's much-loved song from Signals, "Losing It." Later, Mink would co-write the songs on Geddy Lee's solo album My Favorite Headache.

Listen to this drum solo by Deller, and you'll hear why Peart enjoyed his playing so much.

Gary McCracken - Max Webster

In addition to both bands hailing from Canadian, and Peart admiring McCracken's drumming, the connections between Rush and Max Webster are many:

  • Max Webster opened for Rush on every Rush tour from Caress of Steel through Moving Pictures.
  • In 1980, Rush recorded "Battlescar" with Max Webster for the album Universal Juveniles. Both bands would perform it when they toured together.
  • Max Webster lyricist Pye Dubois co-wrote the lyrics for four Rush songs with Peart, "Tom Sawyer," "Force 10," and "Between Sun & Moon," and "Test for Echo." (Only one other lyricist, Peter Talbot who co-wrote "Closer to the Heart" with Peart, has co-written Rush lyrics.)
  • Neil Peart's long-time drum tech Lorne Wheaton also worked for McCracken.



Carmen Appice (Beck, Bogert, and Appice)

At the Modern Drummer 2020 Festival, which included a tribute to Neil Peart, Carmen Appice was a featured drummer. He spoke about how, when meeting Neil, Carmen told him about how much he liked "Tom Sawyer." Neil told Carmen that he really liked his performance on the song "Lady," by Beck, Bogert, and Appice. In particular, Neil liked how Carmen used the hi-hat to accent. In listening to this song, you can hear how this approach influenced Neil's playing in two ways. First, Neil adopted Carmen's quick hi-hat "barks." Second, you can also hear the inspiration for Neil's signature ride pattern. Carmen goes on to say this groove is based on Stick Control #6, with the sticking RLLRLRRL.The first part of Neil's version is based on the paradiddle rudiment: RLRRLRLL. Written as sixteenth notes between the cymbal bell and the snare, it would look like: RLRRL(X)RLRLRRLRR(X), with the X's noting a sixteenth-note rest. 

Bands that toured with Rush - 1970s

Drummers are listed in parenthesis (if known). Drummers whom Peart has specifically listed as an influence are in bold.

Rush (debut):

Opened for: Uriah Heep (Lee Kerslake), KISS (Peter Criss), Manfred Mann, Rory Gallagher (Rod de'Ath), Hawkwind (Alan Powell), Blue Oyster Cult (Albert Bouchard), Nazareth (Darrell Sweet), ZZ Top (Frank Beard)

Fly By Night:

Opened for: KISS (Peter Criss), The Tubes (Prairie Prince), Aerosmith (Joey Kramer), Blue Oyster Cult (Albert Bouchard)

Caress of Steel:

Opened for: KISS (Peter Criss), Mott [Some members from Mott the Hoople] (Pete Overend Watts), Nazareth (Darrell Sweet)

Opening Bands: Ted Nugent (Cliff Davies), Artful Dodger (percussion: Steve Brigida), Mainline [AKA McKenna Mendelson Mainline] (Tony Nolasco), Heyoka (Gerardo Ramirez), Max Webster (Gary McCracken)


Opened for: Blue Oyster Cult (Albert Bouchard), Aerosmith (Joey Kramer), Kansas (Phil Ehart), ELO (Bev Bevan)

Opening Bands: Styx (John Panozzo), Sutherland Brothers & Quiver (Willie Wilson), Artful Dodger (Steve Brigida), Starcastle (Steve Tassler), Thin Lizzy (Brian Downey), Max Webster (Gary McCracken), Stu Daye (Steve Missal and Tommy Thomson)

All The World's a Stage tour:

Opened for: Ted Nugent (Cliff Davies), Blue Oyster Cult (Albert Bouchard), Aerosmith (Joey Kramer), Lynyrd Skynyrd (Rickey Medlocke), Montrose (Denny Carmassi), Foghat (Roger Earl), Kansas (Phil Ehart)

Opening Bands: Styx (John Panozzo), Tommy Bolin (Bobby Berge), Cheap Trick (Bun E. Carlos), Stray (Richard "Ritchie" Cole), Head East (Steve Huston), Be-Bop Deluxe (Simon Fox), Artful Dodger (percussion: Steve Brigida), Starcastle (Steve Tassler), Max Webster (Gary McCracken), Angel (Barry Brandt), T Rex (Davy Lutton), Rick Derringer

A Farewell to Kings:

Opened For: Blue Oyster Cult (Albert Bouchard)

Opening Bands: UFO (Andy Parker), Max Webster (Gary McCracken), AC/DC (Phil Rudd), Cheap Trick (Bun E. Carlos), Pat Travers (Tommy Aldridge), The Babys (Tony Brock), Hush (Chris Pailthorpe), Grinderswitch (Rick Burnett), Crawler (Tony Braunagel)


Opening Bands: Max Webster (Gary McCracken), Ambrosia (Burleigh Drummond), April Wine (Jerry Mercer: see Drum Solo Influences), Golden Earring (Cesar Zuiderwijk), The Good Rats (Joe Franco), Head East (Steve Huston), Molly Hatchet (Bruce Crump), Pat Travers (Tommy Aldridge), Starz, Saxon, Wild Horses, UFO (Andy Parker), Streetheart (most likely Herb Ego)

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