Recently, while setting up for a show that our band was about to play, the venue’s house music was cranking out Rush’s “The Temples of Syrinx” from 2112. Our drummer and I started conversing about Rush’s early progressive rock albums and inevitably, the dialogue turned humorous with the question, “Why don’t women like Rush?” To be fair, I’ll state up front that this is a stereotype. Some women (my wife, Char, for example) enjoy Rush. But for the most part, they are a man’s band. And if anyone questions this assertion, I’d ask him to watch one of their concert videos or, better yet, attend a live show and see for himself. There are no women to be found. None in the front row lifting their shirts up as they try to get invited backstage, none alongside their boyfriends who are rocking out to their idols, and no, not even one female cop getting overtime hours by working security during the show. No estrogen anywhere. Not at a Rush show. Do you know what I learned is the most rarely spoken sentence is at a marriage counseling session? “I met my wife at a Rush concert.” It just doesn’t happen. But the question remains: why?
I remember popping Rush’s Moving Pictures cassette in my tape deck when I was first learning to play the bass and going over the bass line to “Tom Sawyer.” Around the same time, I was popping in Reggatta de Blanc by The Police and learning “Message in a Bottle.” As I played “Message in a Bottle” I had 12-year-old-boy fantasies of 1,000 screaming girls throwing themselves at me as if I were Sting himself. Or even Paul McCartney in 1963. As I played “Tom Sawyer,” however, I just fancied myself becoming the coolest bass player around. I knew plenty of “rocker chicks” (that’s what we called them in the days before political correctness made it a crime to use that term) back in my school days who were into hard rock, glam rock, and metal bands. They wore T-shirts from groups such as Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Guns n’ Roses, and even Iron Maiden. But I don’t recall a single girl boasting a “Fly By Night” or “Hemispheres” T-shirt.
I have a great friend who is a fellow music fanatic and whom I’ve known for more than two and a half decades. She was my first boss when I was a teenager working at her video store and she has wonderful taste in music. Just the other day, she casually mentioned that she doesn’t understand what the big deal is about Rush and said that she has never gotten into them.
I’ve looked up the topic online and found dozens of webpages devoted to this very question: why don’t women like Rush? One blogger even posted a picture of the men’s and women’s bathrooms at a Rush concert he attended. The men’s room had a line longer than John Belushi could have handled (sorry, tacky reference – I actually LOVE John Belushi). The women’s room appeared to be empty. At least, there was no wait to get in. Isn’t that opposite from what you find at most shows? Several of these websites offered possible explanations as to why women don’t like Rush. Here are a few of the hypotheses with my commentary.
- Rush doesn’t have the sex appeal of, say, Led Zeppelin. True. I’ll give you that. Even as a heterosexual male, I know Robert Plant has more sex appeal than Geddy Lee. And let’s not even talk about The Lizard King. But come on… women also show up at Marilyn Manson shows, right? The defense rests.
- Rush’s lyrics are too intelligent. Before you start typing out your hate mail, let me clarify. I personally never said their lyrics are too intelligent for women. I merely said that I found this rationale listed as a hypothesis from other journalists and bloggers. But not me. I’m the guy who somewhat famously was beaten at a game of chess by my wife on her very first game she ever played while I was teaching her how to play the game! I would never state that women aren’t intelligent enough to appreciate Rush’s lyrics. I’m also not stupid enough to say such a thing, even as a joke. My wife also happens to be the woman who – quite famously – kicked my ass in a televised wrestling match. Now… that disclaimer out of the way… my position is that Rush’s subjects and lyrics (while many of them are, indeed, very intelligent) are no more intelligent than, say, that of Tool, Radiohead, or Pink Floyd. All of which have no shortage of female fans.
- Rush’s music is too complex in its progressive style. Women just want a catchy chorus to dance and sing to, not complex arrangements, interesting chords, and clever progressions. See #2 above. And by the way, there’s a big difference between “just dancing along to a beat” and really appreciating good music. Anyone, male or female, who just wants to dance along to a beat can do so. We’re talking about appreciating music here… and music appreciation is not gender restrictive.
I don’t believe any of these hypotheses explain why women don’t like Rush. But there must be a reason. If I ever find it, I’ll be sure to let you know. And if you think you know the reason, share it with me in the comments section below. In the meantime, I’m going to go listen to “Red Barchetta” with a happy smile on my face. I’m allowed. I’m a guy, after all.