Saying their favorite band has become too commercial since it was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last April, fans of Canadian power trio Rush say it's time to make a push for their removal.
"We were instrumental in getting the band inducted into the Hall of Fame in the first place, thanks to our years of persistence, but now we see we made a mistake," says Randy Powers, a fan from Pittsburgh who has launched a petition drive calling for Rush's removal from the Cleveland institution. "Bobbleheads, T-shirts, refrigerators---it's just all too much. We don't mind the band trying to make a buck. It's hard to do that now with people so easily downloading or streaming music on the Internet. But enough is enough."
Rush was eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame in 1999 but despite their global popularity among a core group of fans that have bought tens of millions of albums and CDs since the band released its debut album in 1974, the Rock Hall induction committee steadfastly refused to take them seriously.
What's more, Rock Hall founder and chairman Jann Wenner, publisher of Rolling Stone Magazine, was said not to like the band, describing the voice of Rush vocalist Geddy Lee as Donald Duck-like and dismissing the lyrics of Neil Peart as bad science fiction and fantasy.
But even Wenner acknowledged that the band had a formidable fan base, and each year that Rush wasn't nominated, the outcry from fans grew louder and louder.
"The problem was, few music critics and writers liked the band's music but as Rush's fans got older, they basically commandeered the Internet to get the band inducted," said one Rock Hall insider who asked not to be named. "They could do this because these guys are the ones who rule the world now. They're the scientists who helped put NASA in space, the misfits who helped create the world's most successful technology companies, and the politicians and pundits who have helped polarize our country. So, you ask yourself as a committee, 'Do we want to stand in the way of this juggernaut?' and the answer, of course, was no. Plus, after really listening to the band, I and others started to realize they really are good. The music is a symphony of nuance and the lyrics are endlessly thought-provoking, but that's not what we're talking about."
Powers says he and other fans first started talking about getting Rush removed from the Rock Hall after the London Symphony Orchestra released a tribute album of the band's radio hits. "Listening to 'Tom Sawyer' played with French horns, oboes, and clarinets was just too much for me," he said. Others complained about the avalanche of Rush-branded merchandise, like bar stools, refrigerators, and dog accessories. "Where will it all end? Pretty soon people will be trying to get Rush commemorated with a Google Doodle. The outrageousness is endless."
Nigel Porter, a respected U.K. academic who has written widely on the band, says fans are trying to have their cake and eat it too. "Rush has always been about striving for success and not apologizing for that," he said. "Let's not forget that famous cover-story interview they did for Maclean's magazine in 1978. They very forthrightly said they're capitalists and proud of it."
Of course, the band's flirtation with uber-capitalist Ayn Rand has long been part of its appeal. Although lyricist Peart says the Rand thing was just a dalliance, it's clear through his lyrics over the years that, as long as the capitalist relationship is mutual and consensual, the capitalist relationship benefits everyone.
"Fans are just going to have to live with their success," says Porter.
But Powers says getting Rush removed from the Rock Hall is for the band's own good---plus, it gives fans something to do with the awesome infrastructure they've created over the years to get the band inducted. "We built this incredible system in which, anytime a magazine or radio show was talking about the Rock Hall, we could get fans from all over the world to flood the discussion with calls for Rush's induction. Well, those days are gone, but we still have this awesome ability to move the dial one way or the other. So, we moved the dial toward the Rock Hall last year. Now it's time to move the dial in the other direction."