After filling arenas for over 40 years with Canadian prog-rockers Rush, frontman Geddy Lee is now filling the page, with his recent ode to the instrument of his choice in the Big Beautiful Book Of Bass.
“Though I’ve held the bass in my hands for over 40 years, I really had not given any thought to its invention and its early evolution,” Lee says in an interview with uDiscover Music.
As one of the most legendary bassists in rock, Lee wields the instrument like few others can, and alongside his bandmates guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart, Rush became the biggest cult band in North America.
While the band confirmed they have no plans on touring back in October, they recently celebrated 45th anniversary of their self-titled debut album, and their storied career is being chronicled in another upcoming book, titled Rush: Wandering The Face Of The Earth – The Official Touring History, that traces their evolution from Toronto-area bar band to electrifying arena act.
Rather than rest on his laurels during early retirement, Lee turned his passion for collecting vintage instruments into a definitive tome. From the Fender bass to Gibson and the early Rickenbackers, Lee was on a mission to find the perfect bass tone and got a history lesson in American manufacturing in the process.
“An education on so many levels”
“When you look at Leo Fender and what was happening in the Fender factory, it was a prime example of American ingenuity and cutting-edge technology to make a product on a mass-produced level,” Lee says.
Just like all musicians, he’s passionate about his instrument of choice, and Lee admits his editor didn’t share his enthusiasm for 845 pages of bass examination. His fascination with tracking down photos of Jack Bruce’s original Gibson EB-3 bass was “a bit too nerdy, even for me” Lee says.
“These guys were my heroes”
“Going into nerd territory” is, however, exactly what Rush fans would appreciate, and Lee uses the opportunity to interview all of his favourite musicians for the book. He talks bass with all of the titans of the instrument like Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, U2’s Adam Clayton, Metallica’s Robert Trujillo and The Rolling Stones’ Bill Wyman.
When it comes to his personal idols, Lee says you have to consider the genre. The greatest jazz-bassist player of all time? “Jaco Pastorius, of course”. Jack Bruce, John Paul Jones, Jack Cassidy and Chris Squire – he “would have loved to play with any of them”. But did he think he could jam with them? “F__ck no, but I would have loved to have given it a shot,” Lee says.
“The single most satisfying for me”
With a discography that stretches over 40 years, picking a favourite Rush song is a near impossible task. Lee reflects on the single most satisfying moment for him as a bass player in the band.
“A lot of the material on the Clockwork Angels album to me was sort of a sweet spot,” Lee explains. “A song like ‘The Garden’ is one of my favourite bass parts even though it’s not complicated. I think back to songs like ‘YYZ’, or any of the crazy instrumentals we’ve done over the years, and I’m very proud of that work.”
“Rush’s music lent itself to theatrical reproduction”
As for what’s on the horizon, Lee suggests maybe it’s time for a Rush stage show.
“I’ve always thought that Rush’s music lent itself to theatrical reproduction, especially the concept albums such as 2112, or Clockwork Angels,” Lee points out.
“The stories have a lot of potential, in terms of staging and imaginative scenery, and they’re really tailor-made for that, so I’d love to see that happen sometime.”