While promoting his new autobiographical book called “My Effin’ Life,” Rush bassist and frontman Geddy Lee looked back on the time when his band opened for Kiss. Appearing on “The National” on the CBC News channel, Lee pointed out that the prog rock trio had a lot to learn from Kiss, a band that was slowly conquering the US and the rest of the world with their live performances.
“We were so green when we crossed the border into the US of A for the first time in 1974,” recalled Geddy (transcript via Ultimate Guitar). “When we were opening shows, we were so wide-eyed, and we barely had professional cases. We were still carrying some of our cabling in empty Coke crates.”
“So, we had a lot to learn. And we’d sit night after night at the side of the stage after our short set and watched all the bands.”
And there was definitely a lot to learn from a band like Kiss at the time. After playing one show opening for them in 1974, Rush was tapped to go on tour with Kiss. They had one album out, and this opening slot for Kiss was the final performance with drummer John Rutsey. So they jumped right in that US tour with Neil Peart in the lineup.
The prog rock trio joined Kiss for four more shows in September and October 1974. As for the other acts that Geddy mentioned, there were Blue Öyster Cult, Fat Chance, Outlaws, Billy Preston, and a few others warming up the audience for Kiss on different nights.
But a really impressive part, as Geddy recalls, is how Kiss and their crew were all supportive of Rush.
“And Kiss was really impressive because not only was their road crew incredibly kind to us,” the bassist added. “And the guys in the band were very supportive of us, but they were putting on this literally explosive pyrotechnic display. And they worked so hard and everything had to be choreographed and everything was split-second timing.”
As Geddy further added, the guys from Rush weren’t necessarily interested in Kiss from the musical perspective. Obviously, there is no disrespect there. But what they really found to be so interesting is the professional side of things. Geddy concluded:
“So there was a lot to learn, there was a lot to take in. And it wasn’t really about their music for us. We liked some of their songs, of course. And some of them we didn’t care for. But the way they went about their business was really instructive.”
With one studio album behind them and a new drummer in the lineup, Rush were ready to conquer new musical territories. Their tour with Kiss only included four shows. However, this was enough to give Rush a career boost. Incredible albums kept lining up, including 1976’s “2112,” which was such a risky move that potentially cost them their careers.
But speaking of Kiss, it was revealed earlier this year that the band’s bassist Gene Simmons claimed that he, apparently, gave a lesson to young Geddy Lee during the 1974 tour. The statement came from an interview segment with Ultimate Guitar, which was published about a year after being conducted.
“And I’ll tell you a telling story,” recalled Gene Simmons. “Kiss took out Rush on their first tour. They came out to support us, you know, because we liked what they did. And this was in the, in their ‘Working Man’ period, when they sounded kind of like a Canadian Zeppelin, which I still prefer, sound-wise, but obviously, they’ve done very well, and we used to hang out with the guys and joke around everything.”
Going more into the matter, the Kiss bassist offered:
“One night back at the hotel or backstage someplace, Geddy and I were sitting down, trading licks, and I said, ‘Do you want to do a blues scale? You go first, and then I’ll continue the chord pattern,’ and he said, ‘I don’t know what you mean.'”
So, according to Gene, it seems that, at that point, Geddy wasn’t familiar with some of these basic concepts. He continued:
“At least from what I recall, Geddy didn’t understand what a blues scale was or what ‘1,4,5’ meant. That also bears noting that when you go ‘1,4,5’ to a musician, that means something. It’s a relationship of notes or chords.”
“And so I go, ‘Well, okay then, you hit a G, either octave or low,’ and he said, ‘Which one is that?’ Geddy played purely by ear. Now of course later on, he learned what the notes were and stuff like that, but it’s the same thing with The Edge.”
“The reason you heard ‘jingle jangle jingle jangle,’ kind of thing — that became the style of U2’s guitar sound is when The Edge started playing guitar in a band, he couldn’t play chords. He just strummed various notes so, it’s all open to… Music is an interesting thing. You don’t have to get complex about it, just start.”