On February 15, 1975, "Rush" released their second album, "Fly By Night".
Neil pulled the band forward and forced Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson to experiment, explore, think outside the box and challenge themselves musically. It is possible that without Peart, "Rush" would remain around the roots of the Blues-Rock and Hard Rock, which characterized them at their early days, for a long time. This change that Neil brought with him was of course rooted in his drumming style, dominant in power, smart and intelligent. But it was not only that. The change is mainly attributed to Neil's writing abilities and the lyrics he wrote for the band.
There will be those of you who would wonder how does words affect the musical style. So we'll explain: when you write songs influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien or Ayn Rand's, when your lyrics are based on Greek mythology or poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, it's clear that the music you compose for these lyrics can not remain within the fixed framework of a Verse, a chorus, a bridge. When you write in high language, on philosophical and epic topics you can no longer accompany it in a simple 4/4 monotonous rhythm.
The buds for these changes Peart had brought with him, can be heard already on this album. But before we dive in to the wonderful material that is in it, let's say something about the way Neil Peart found himself in the band.
So, at the age of 18 Neil Peart flew to London and hoped to find his future there and succeed musically. This was the country from which all his musical heroes came: "The Who", "Led Zeppelin", Jimi Hendrix and more. During his stay in England he was exposed, among other things, to the writing of the writer Ayn Rand, whose philosophy greatly influenced him.
After 18 months without success, he returns to Canada and starts working with his dad, selling tractor parts. At the same time he joins a local band called "Hush".
At that time John Rutsey, Rush' original drummer, left the band due to medical conditions related to diabetes. Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson auditioned for a replacement drummer and were about to give up, until one day they were approached by a skinny guy with shorts and a short haircut, that seemed unrelated to the Rock style they were playing. The skinny guy - Neil Peart came to the audition in a shredded private car - a Ford Pinto. He took out of the car a tiny set of drums and assembled it slowly and comfortably into the amazed eyes of Geddy and Alex who were sure he was an amateur. But when Peart started playing, the jaws of the two standing in front of him fell to the ground. It was immediately clear to them that Peart was their next drummer. But Geddy and Alex's big surprise was when they discovered that Neil is actually a "bookworm" and that he also writes lyrics. At that moment it was decided that Neil would be in charge of writing the lyrics for the band, while Geddy and Alex would be in charge of writing the music. This suited very well for Geddy and Alex who preferred to focus on music.
The exact date Peart joined the band was 29/7/1974, it was Geddy Lee's birthday and Neil Peart's was then only 21 years old. It was exactly two weeks before the band's tour in the US and Peart had to learn the songs and synchronize with Geddy and Alex as soon as possible. The band's first show with Neil Peart was in Pittsburgh on August 14, 1974. "Rush" then warmed up "Uriah Heep" in front of an audience of 11,000 people.
The tour helped the band to tighten up and Peart to fit in with Geddy and Alex. They were confident enough to start writing material together, for their next album. The writing was done during a tour, between performances, when the only decision they made was to try to diversify the musical styles as much as possible, in order to show their potential and abilities. By the end of 1974, the three had finished writing all the material for the album, and the band took advantage of the five-day break they had during the tour to enter the studio and record. The only songs written before Neil Peart's arrival were "Best I Can" and "In the End" and Geddy Lee was the one who wrote the lyrics to these songs.
The tremendous change in the band's sound can already be heard in the opening track "Anthem". Neil Peart's crazy drumming, influenced by Keith Moon and Ginger Baker who just makes the song gallop after him pulling Geddy and Alex after him, the syncopated breaks, the rhythm changes, the cowbell, the precise rollers on the tam-tams, all the familiar features of Neil Peart are already here, right at the first song of his first album with the band. And one cannot mention the great guitar-bass work Alex and Gaddy performers, without a doubt an excellent opening song that showcases the high virtuosic abilities of each of the band members. The title of the track is based on a science fiction book of the same name published by Ayn Rand in 1938, but its content is unrelated to the book. However, a year later Neil Peart would base the entire work "2112" on the same book.
"Best I Can" is reminiscent of the musical style from the first album, and was indeed written by Geddy and Alex before Neil Peart joined the band. It is interesting to note that this is one of two songs by "Rush" that include the words "Rock and Roll", the other is "In The Mood" from the first album. The lyrics to both songs were written by Geddy Lee.
"Beneath, Between and Behind" is the first song to be written by all three members in the same way it will be in next 40 years, with Neil Peart on the lyrics and Geddy and Alex on the music. The song talks about the birth of America and the American dream and population growth, wars, and immigration.
The first side of the album ends up with the musical piece "By-Tor and the Snow Dog". Yes, already on the band's first album with Neil Peart we are witnessing an 8-part mini-epic (the song is divided into four parts, but the third part is divided into four sub-parts). True, this is not "2112", or one of the parts of "Cygnus", but it is still a complex piece that will later become the band's hallmark. The name of the song came from the band's road manager Howard Ungerleider. He saw two dogs that belonged to the band's manager Ray Danniels, at the party. One was a German Shepherd and the other a small, nervous white dog. Howard called the German Shepherd "Biter" as he tried to bite anyone who entered the party. He called the nervous little dog "Snow Dog". An interesting fact is that on the back cover, Alex Lifeson is called "Snow Dog" and Geddy Lee is called "By-Tor". Another interesting fact is that the character, "By-Tor" also appears in the song "The Necromancer" from the band's next album "Caress Of Steel".
The other side of the album opens up with the theme song "Fly by Night", based on the life story of Neil Peart and the move from Canada to London to try his luck there, before joining "Rush". It was also the only single released from the album.
The music for the track "Making Memories", which was apparently influenced by "Led Zeppelin", was written by Alex Lifeson, while the band was on the road on the tour. Neil Peart wrote the words influenced by the situation. The song expresses the feelings that the band members had during the tour. They were exhausted from the many miles and attempts to promote their album on the demanding tour. They spent a lot of time on the road, away from home, family, and friends and this song was meant to keep a positive mood throughout the tour.
"Rivendell" is a quiet and minimalist song influenced by the book "Lord of the Rings" by J. R. R. Tolkien. "Rivendell" is the home residence of the "Elves". It is also interesting to note that the song "Ramble On" and others by "Led Zeppelin" were influenced by the same series of books.
The album ends symbolically with the song "In The End", a slow-paced song influenced by blues. The song opens up with acoustic guitar by Alex Lifeson who in the 1:44 area switches to electric, almost like the song "The Trees" from the album "Hemispheres".
The album cover with the owl picture looks simple but is just mesmerizing. The one who brought the idea for the picture is none other than Neil Peart. He liked birds and saw in his vision this snowy owl that best describes the name of the album. He described it to the painter Eraldo Carugati (who later also painted album covers for "Kiss"), and the same Eraldo painted the cover based on Neil Peart's meticulous description. Neil referred to the matter in one of his interviews as follows:
"One of the first lyrics I submitted to Alex and Geddy was 'Fly By Night,' and when the time came to make our first album together, we decided that was a good title. (Our other candidate was Aurora Borealis, so we probably made the better choice.) As a bird lover since childhood, I remembered an illustration of a snowy owl swooping down toward the viewer with fierce eyes, and I suggested an image like that for the cover, maybe with the northern lights in the background. It fell to me to talk on the phone to the record company artist in Chicago, and try to describe this picture in words. In the same way that writing those few lyrics for the band would lead to me becoming the band,s chief wordsmith, that phone conversation led to me becoming the 'graphic arts supervisor.'"
So this album was a very excellent starting point for "Rush". An impressive purposeful display that showcases the amazing abilities of each and every one of the band members. The Canadian trio will continue to challenge themselves, evolve, and most importantly do what their heart says, without minding the various critics and without succumbing to the dictates of the record companies and thus the secret of its success.