The first band Geddy Lee was in awe of

Geddy Lee

Rush members could not claim to be music snobs. Pioneering progressive rock in the 1970s, the Canadian power trio drew inspiration from diverse genres. They embraced reggae, much like The Police, and harnessed the sonic force of groups like Black Sabbath. While Geddy Lee maintained a diverse range of influences, he admitted that one band stunned him when he heard them for the first time.

Lee grew up listening to the sounds of the British Invasion while Rush was still forming as a band. Many of Rush’s clearest influences could be found in the sounds of bands like Yes and Genesis. However, Lee first learned about a walking bass progression while listening to The Rolling Stones.

While Lee praised the foundational aspects of his bass tone, the blues were about to take over the airwaves. Coming from the American blues scene, many aspiring British musicians were creating songs about the heavier side of rock. Among them, Cream was the most visible example of where the genre could go.

Cream found its footing in bands like The Yardbirds, but it paved the way for another rock legend when guitarist Jimmy Page left the band to form Led Zeppelin. Taking the essence of the blues he had learned years before, Page would incorporate various unconventional sounds into his arsenal. He created doom hymns on songs such as ‘Good Times Bad Times’ and ‘Dazed and Confused’.

While they were volcanic on record, it wasn’t until they took the stage that fans truly felt their power. Despite their restraint throughout the album, the band had the energy of a goods train when they began performing together. It caused the crowds to become unruly as they ploughed through old blues standards and original songs.

When Lee first heard Zeppelin, he was taken aback by how powerful they were on record. In his biography he stated, “We grabbed one, headed home, and laid it on my turntable”. I recall the three of us sitting on the bed in complete awe, listening to the heaviness of ‘Good Times Bad Times’. The fire of ‘Communication Breakdown’, and oh, that drum sound!”

When the group formed their own band with original drummer John Rutsey, many of their original compositions sounded like Led Zeppelin. Rush’s self-titled debut had more than a few songs indebted to Zeppelin’s playbook, from odes to the rock and roll lifestyle like ‘Need Some Love’ to Alex Lifeson’s punishing guitar solo on ‘Working Man’.

However, this was only the beginning of Rush’s transformation into a sonic tour de force. It was evident in albums such as Hemispheres and Fly By Night. While artists such as Yes may have had a greater impact on Rush’s sound, it was Zeppelin who inspired the band to experiment.

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