The Projection, RUSH, and Hadrian Edit
Influenced by the likes of Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, and Jimi Hendrix, Lifeson formed The Projection with friend John Rutsey on drums in 1967/68. Rutsey and Lifeson where joined briefly by bassist/ vocalist Jeff Jones in June 1968 to form Rush. On the evening before a gig in August 1968, Jones called in unable to make it, and in need of a vocalist and bassist for a gig, Lifeson called friend and classmate Geddy Lee and invited him in to the band, as described in the official biography Visions: "Often I would call Ged up to borrow his amp. When I called him up this time, right away he thought, 'Oh, he's going to want my amp', and I said, 'Do you think you could come and play with us, because Jeff isn't coming, we don't have a bass player, and we have this gig tonight. We'll just play the songs'."
Accepting the offer, Lee, Lifeson and Rutsey played at the Coff-In, a local teenage hang out in the basement of an Anglican Church, covering Cream songs for 10$. After the gig, they split the money and went out for dinner. Jones quit because of other commitments, and Lee was made a permanent member that evening. Lifeson, Lee and Rutsey continued to play the Coff-In, steadily developing a group of followers. On Christmas Day, 1968, Lindy Young was asked to join the band as a keyboard player, greatly evolving the band's sound. As time went on, Young began to play Rhythym guitar and sang the lead vocals on multiple songs. In May 1968, Lee was kicked out of the band, replaced buy bassist Joe Perna, and they changed their name to Hadrian. Lee, who formed his own band called Ogilvie, continued to go to see Hadrian's gigs, helping Young with his numerous responsibilities on stage, and even missing the last performance of The Jimi Hendrix Experience to go to the see Hadrian play at Willowdale United Church.
Hadrian. In July, Lee's successful band Ogilvie changed it's name to Judd, and began attracting the attention of Ray Danniels, a manager who had previously shown intrest in Rush. That month, Young quit to join Judd, and Hadrian fell apart, followed by Judd's disbandment in September. It was not long before Lifeson, Lee and Rutsey got together again to reform Rush, now more experienced and more serious then ever about their music. Resuming their weekly circuit of local Churches, High School Dances, and drop in centres, Lifeson and the reformed RUSH began to draw impressive crowds playing their cover tunes. It was at this time that they discovered Led Zeppelin, inspiring their compositions and playing style to take a turn from their previous Rock and Roll/Blues style to a more Hard Rock feel. This is also the time in which Lee began to sing in high registers. But only weeks after RUSH reformation, Coff-In was shut down because of how many people where coming to see Rush, and the adult felt it was getting out of control. With their biggest attracting show canceled, sixteen year old Ray Danniels had to find them more gigs, many of them out of town. Lifeson and Lee began to compose more original compositions, but struggled with the pressure of aggressive audiences who only wanted to hear the hits. Never the less, they still continued to play more of their own songs, causing their popularity to go down hugely and even starting the occasional riot. With Lifeson and Lee still in school, things began to really get crazy. Meanwhile, parents of the band began to think that music was becoming more then just a harmless hobby, but maybe a career. In an interview, Lee talks about how his mother at one point told him just to be a doctor, and in "Come On Children" Lifeson is shown arguing with his parents over his choice not to go to college. Taken from Visions: "Ray's efforts at getting them gigs began to get more successful, but these shows would sometimes be some distance from home. "They'd get out of school at three o'clock," says Ray, "and drive like hell to get where they were going. They would play high schools in Sudbury, North Bay, Cochrane, Kirkland Lake, London, Deep River and Windsor, Ontario. These cities and towns are anywhere from 200 to 500 miles from Toronto, so it was a pretty hectic schedule for kids who were going to school." But for the guys in the band it was anything but a chore. Alex couldn't wait for the school bell to ring on the days when they were going to play. "I remember it being great!" says Alex. "We'd finish school and everyone would make their way to where the band was leaving. Doc Cooper lived across the street and most of the time he would drive us to gigs in these old beat-up limousines. We also had another guy, Larry Bach, who drove his car, and we'd put a U-haul trailer on the back with all the gear in it. We played all over Ontario and we loved it." The turn of the decade only brought more changes, when the provincial drinking age was dropped from 21 to 18, opening up the bar circuit and hundreds of new gig opportunities, and Lifeson moved out of his parents and in with his girlfriend, Charlene, at age 17. Charlene gave birth to their son, Justin, soon after. In need of ways to support themselves, the band members where forced to take up jobs on the side, Lifeson working as a Plumber's mate with his father. It was also sometime in 1970/71 that Lifeson was apart of the documentary Come On Children, aired in 1972, it was a film in which a group of troubled teens where left to live on a farm house, similar to reality shows today. The documentrary never picked up much intrest, but it contains the earliest known footage of Lifeson playing guitar, a clip in which he plays a RUSH composition called "Run Willie Run." for the other kids. Lifeson began taking classical guitar lessons from classmate Eliot Goldner, but they where brought to a untimley end when Goldner was landed in the hospital from a motorcycle crash. After a slow summer with only three gigs, RUSH was able to book a place to record in the Fall of 1972, st Rochdale Collage. The tapes of these recording sessions where later lost. In the fall of 1973, RUSH again went into studio, this time to record their first single. Featuring the band covering Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" and one on of their own originals, "Can't Fight It", the record was turned down by every label in Canada twice. Taken from the biography Success Under Pressure:
Towards the end of 1973, Rush played their biggest gig so far, opening up for the New York Dolls at a Toronto concert hall. Having garnered a strong following on the local club circuit, the group had little difficulty in blowing the headliners off stage. Yet, despite their ever-increasing popularity and the fact that they had earned enough money to make an album, Rush faced one major problem -- a total lack of record company interest.
"It was extremely hard for us to get a deal," reflects Alex. "Nobody wanted to sign us because we just weren't considered 'sellable' at the time. In Canada, if you were the Guess Who, then you had a much better chance because you had something that was very commercial, which could be heard on the radio. We always had a strange reputation in the Canadian music industry. Nobody wanted to know us because we were labeled as being too heavy, with a singer who had a crazy voice."
Consequently, Rush were forced to enter the studios without the support of a record label. The band was aided by longtime manager Ray Danniels and his partner Vic Wilson. Danniels had initially become involved with the trio after promoting a South Ontario high school concert several years earlier. However, allocating recording time was extremely difficult, since the group had to keep gigging in order to sustain their cash-flow.
"We had to start work after playing in a club and record through the night," Alex explains. "We'd tear down the gear and go in at two in the morning until eight, when we had to get out. You'd do that one week, but then you couldn't get back in the studios for another three weeks, which was very frustrating. But we had no other options. Without a proper record company behind us, we had to make do the best we could. Finally, in early 1974, their debut self titled Lp was realesed on Moon Records, a independent Label started by Danniels, Wilson and RUSH. The cover featured the band's name printed in red (later reprinted as pink by Anthem Records) exploding from a back drop of white.