By Brian Ives
“I’ve Been Runnin'” is a rare gem in the Rush catalog. The band has famously only written and recorded exactly what they need for albums, with nothing left over. That explains why they were one of the few bands during the ’90s box-set boom to never release one of those packages. There was almost no material that fans didn’t already have from one of their live albums.
But in November, Rush are finally are releasing a box set. It’s a six-BluRay disc compendium called R40 , compiling of all of their live concert films from the past few years. There’s 2003’s Rush In Rio, 2005’s R30, 2008’s Snakes and Arrows Live, Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland and last year’s Clockwork Angels Tour.
You can pre-order R40 here.
The box set also includes the complete eight-song set recorded at the Laura Secord Secondary School in Ontario in 1974, featuring their original drummer, the late John Rutsey. That set included “I’ve Been Runnin’” and another “lost” Rush original “The Loser.” Neither of those songs ever made it to an album. Above, check out the band’s performance of the blusey”I’ve Been Runnin’.”
Radio.com spoke to guitarist Alex Lifeson about those songs. However, he could barely remember them (this was back when the band was still in high school). But he recalled some fond memories of Rutsey, who used to do all the writing and talking for the band in the early days. Before Neil Peart joined the band, they were really pulling from Rutsey’s passions: straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll.
The thing that Rush fans are probably going to be most excited about is the footage from the 1974 show at the Laura Secord Secondary School. What do you remember about that performance?
Oh my god, that was such a long time ago. I can vaguely remember it, I remember being on the stage in that auditorium in that school, and how all of the kids were sitting in their seats — no one was standing! — and it was a little uncomfortable. But it’s a good example of the band we were at that time playing bars and high schools.
What goes through your mind when you watch the footage of you and Geddy performing with John Rutsey?
Um, it’s funny. The things that I really noticed about it — this might be odd — is that we played so fast, all the time. I do recall playing everything quickly. We used to have a mono tape recorder that we used to record some shows. In fact, I might even have some of those old tapes lying around somewhere, from earlier in the ’70s.
Great! Stuff for the next box set!
[Laughs] Of course! But we were 19 years old, 20 years old: how quickly it all goes by.
For decades, Geddy has been the guy to speak to the audience at your shows, but he doesn’t do it a lot. After watching some of the footage from that performance, I realized that addressing the crowd used to be John’s role, and he seemed to enjoy it.
Yeah, very much so. He had a very witty sense of humor, and he had such balls. He would talk to the audience and say stuff; sometimes, I thought he’d get us killed. He was comfortable talking to people, and being that guy, whereas Geddy really wasn’t, and I’m not even sure he is that comfortable with it today. But John, he would tell stories, and tell jokes, he would pick someone from the audience and do running jokes with that person all night. He was really great at that. It was fun: those days were really fun with him. We were with him for six years. You know, John sang one or two songs… I think. He really didn’t have a singing voice, it was like a Bob Dylan-ish monotone. But there were a couple of songs that he sang, and he and I also did some backing vocals. His on-stage mic wasn’t just reserved for talking.
Tell me about the song “I’ve Been Runnin'”; not only had I never heard it, I’d never heard of it.
John wrote the lyrics back then. Geddy and I would generally write the music. Sometimes we would have band rehearsals and it would be all three of us, but it was always difficult to work out songs like that. It was easier for us to work on the music together and then teach it to John and go from there. We still do that with Neil [Peart], in fact. John did write the lyrics in those days for the most part. It was so weird when he didn’t want us to use his lyrics on the first album when we started to record it. It was a very strange time for us, just before he left the band. But to be honest with you, I’d totally forgotten about “I’ve Been Runnin'” until I saw it come up for this box set. That one was really lost to me. But it was a shuffle-y, Delta bluesy kind of song that we were inspired by via Led Zeppelin.
A lot of people think of Rush as a hard rock/progressive rock hybrid. But at that point, Rush was a garage rock band.
I don’t think that our quote-unquote “progressive” influences came in until Neil joined the band. Geddy and I were both leaning towards that kind of music, we loved what Yes was doing, and Jethro Tull, and of course we were big Pink Floyd fans. But John was a strong influence in the band and he was a real basic rocker. That was part of the reason for him leaving. There were other reasons: his health. But really when it came right down to it, he was a sort of Bad Company kind of rocker, and Ged and I want to move into something that was a bit meatier in terms of arrangements and performance.
Do you remember anything about “The Loser”? That’s the other original song from that set that never made it to an album.
I’d have to listen to it again! We did have a song… it was one of the first songs we wrote. It could be that song. If it is that song, we would have wrote it back in 1968. Again, it was very basic and very straight ahead rock.
You guys never really did “box sets,” because you never really had any “unreleased material.” But is there the potential for a collection of early unreleased stuff from the John Rutsey era?
There’s never any extra stuff, we only record what we need for the album. From that early period, there might be some tapes lying around, but I can’t imagine what sort of shape they’re in, 40 plus years later. Now I have them in storage, and I want to review them, but in the past there weren’t any kind of live performances. Actually, there was one from a high school, we recorded on both sides of the reel. Well, y’know, it was mono! And it was basically one mic in the middle of the stage. I remember listening to that over and over; it was probably recorded in 1971. But unfortunately, I don’t know what happened to that tape. We never thought about hanging on to that stuff back then. You think of something new and you say, “Forget about that old crap.”
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