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What a Rush

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Getting an album autographed by rock legends Rush proves more difficult than anticipated.

As a freshman in high school, the very first song I learned to play in guitar class was a rocking riff-fest called “Bastille Day.” I wasn’t yet familiar with Rush’s music, but after a few months of intensive, weed-drenched vinyl sessions at my best friend Paul’s place, they fast became one of my favorite bands of all time.

So when my colleague David “Bean” Bienenstock announced at an editorial meeting early last year that he’d lined up an interview with Rush’s guitarist, Alex Lifeson, I asked him to do me a solid by requesting that Lifeson autograph two of my original albums (2112 and Hemispheres)—one for me and one as a birthday gift for Paul. I sent Bean the albums, he got them signed and he FedExed them right back to me. Awesome—except that I’d left for LA the day the package shipped, and when I returned to the office, it was nowhere to be found.

I searched high and low, interrogated the entire staff and a slew of FedEx employees, but it was no use. I was heartbroken, and Bean seemed almost as bummed as me. So when he learned that Rush’s Clockwork Angels tour would be rolling through my area in October, he called Alex and arranged a pair of 10th-row tickets for me, as well as passes to the pre-show meet-and-greet. Obviously, I invited Paul as my plus-one.

We arrived at Newark’s Prudential Center an hour before showtime and waited patiently with the other VIPs until summoned. Security led us through several sets of doors, then lined us up along a hallway next to a Clockwork Angels backdrop and laid down the rules.

“When the band comes out, each group will have two minutes,” decreed the security guard. “You will step up, shake hands and pose for your photo. If you have a gift for the band, give it to them and move on. We will take two shots that will be sent to you afterward. There are no photos allowed with personal cameras, and the band will not be signing anything.”

Wait, what? Not signing anything?!? I’d ordered two new vinyls on eBay and waited all year … hell, all my life … for this moment, and now we were being rushed (pardon the pun) through it? This would not do. I flashed the guard my business card and explained my situation. His suggestion was to go to the back of the line while he spoke with the band’s road manager. No sooner had we done so than the doors swung open and out strolled Lifeson and singer/bassist Geddy Lee; drummer Neil Peart, they informed us, wasn’t feeling well, but we were stoked regardless. As the line began to move, the road manager came over and I once again related my story. Unfortunately, it had no impact—he still insisted the band wouldn’t sign the albums.

Finally, our turn arrived. I introduced myself to Alex, who appeared to be in a jolly mood and proved far more sympathetic to my tale.

“I know you can’t sign these now,” I implored him, exploiting security’s “gift” loophole, “but if I give them to you, could you maybe send them to me later?”

“Absolutely!” he replied, taking the records from me. “In fact, you can pick them up tomorrow at our hotel.”

We thanked him profusely, then walked past the scowling road manager into the arena to await their performance. And what a performance! Of the dozen-plus times Paul and I had gone to see Rush in the last two decades, we’d never seen them play like that. It was an evening neither of us will ever forget.

The next day, I rushed over to the Ritz Carlton, where my albums were waiting at the concierge desk as promised, signed not just by Lifeson but the entire band. So to Geddy, Neil and Alex: Thank you, and congrats on that whole Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thing. And to Paul: Happy belated birthday, old friend.

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