The first Rush single from 1973

Neil Peart, the long-time drummer and lyricist of the Canadian rock band Rush, died in January 2020 after a long battle with brain cancer. Peart had announced his retirement due to health issues in late 2015, and Rush has since been declared defunct. Peart is widely regarded as one of rock’s greatest drummers, by his peers as well as his fans, and his lyrics had a literary intelligence that matched his musical virtuosity.

All of the official albums from Rush’s catalogue are currently available, but their very first single from 1973 has remained in obscurity. This rare single was recorded before Peart joined Rush in 1974 in time to record their second album. The band’s original drummer was John Rutsey, who rounded out the 1973 lineup with usual singer/bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson. Rutsey also played on Rush’s self-titled 1974 debut album before leaving the band due to health issues related to diabetes. Sadly, Rutsey died in 2008 from apparent diabetes complications.

The A-side of the debut single was a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”. The B-side was an original song called “You Can’t Fight It”, co-written by Geddy Lee and John Rutsey. The single was issued only in Canada, with an approximate print run of 500 copies. A legitimate copy typically fetches big bucks on eBay.

The cover of “Not Fade Away” is instrumentally interesting. Alex Lifeson updated the guitar sound from the ‘50’s rockabilly original in much the same way that George Thorogood would soon interpret similar early rock and roll sounds later in the ‘70’s. Rutsey was an admirable drummer, though he was not on the same level as Peart. The problem with the track is Geddy Lee’s lead vocal, which is high-pitched to almost chipmunk-like proportions, and is not a great fit for the song. Still, you can’t accuse this rendition of the song of sounding too much like the other versions you’ve heard, especially when more spacey guitar effects suddenly kick in towards the end.

The Lee-and-Rutsey-penned B-side “You Can’t Fight It” has a surprisingly rambunctious Southern rock vibe. It offers almost no hint of the Canadian band’s prog-rock future, although it might have fit on well on the first album. The instrumentation here has an unexpected Lynyrd Skynyrd feel, although the Southern rock types would probably think that Lee’s high-pitched vocals sounded too wimpy. In any event, the trio was in good rocking form on this track, even though they seemingly had not yet found their true musical selves – something that they perhaps needed Peart’s help to achieve. This song now serves as a decent showcase for Rutsey’s drumming abilities.

Rush - Not Fade Away / You Can't Fight It

Rush “Not Fade Away” b/w “You Can’t Fight It” (Moon MN 001) 1973

Track Listing:

a. Not Fade Away – (Petty/Hardin)
b. You Can’t Fight It – (Lee/Rutsey)