Backbeat Books has a noteworthy non-fiction franchise in its “FAQ” series, a string of books that covers all manner of pop culture topics like films, filmmakers, t.v. shows and especially bands and singers. These books are often subtitled “All That’s Left To Know About… ” and act as next-level texts designed to accompany a conventional biography or historical overview via essays, interviews and other features that allow fan to go deeper into knowledge and conjecture on their pop culture topic of choice.
Rush FAQ offers an effective example of how this supplemental approach can work. Author Max Mobley, a veteran rock journalist with a longtime interest in Rush, has taken the “all that’s left to know” mandate to heart and produced a book of essays that touch on topics that might be considered too personal or esoteric for the conventional ‘Rush 101’ tome. If you’re already up to speed on the basics about the band, it’s a frequently rewarding read.
The opening chapters start off simply enough: Mobley pens a piece that pays tribute to early Rush drummer John Rutsey, breaks down the different types of Rush fan and analyzes three albums that represented pivotal moments for the band’s career. The most rewarding chapter in this early section is an 18-page essay that goes in-depth on the evolution of how keyboards and synthesizers were incorporated into the Rush sound by Geddy Lee. It delves into granular detail about the types of gear he used over the years, the motivations behind their use and how the evolution of keyboard and programming technology interacted with Lee’s ambitions for fleshing out the group’s sound. It’s a real piece of scholarship and worth the price of the book alone.
But that’s not all Rush FAQ has to offer. As great as the keyboard analysis is, the true heart of this book and the greatest value it offers to the Rush fanbase is a lengthy string of chapters that explore Rush’s live albums and concert videos, starting with All The World’s A Stage in 1976 and continuing all the way to the Clockwork Angels Tour in 2013.
Mobley contextualizes each release within the arc of the band’s touring career, assesses their strengths and weaknesses, goes into specific detail on the gear each band member used for the tour in question and discusses unique elements of the setlist, including if a rare number was revived for a tour or how material was reinterpreted over time. Live albums usually get cursory discussion in band books so this aspect of Rush FAQ makes it of special interest to the band’s fanbase, offering a worthy supplement to the extensive exploration of the band’s studio albums in other books.
The final pages of Rush FAQ cover a few more areas of interest for the band’s fans. There’s an interesting chapter on Peart’s lyrical style, including a few examples of how they are sometimes misinterpreted, and a good piece exploring the Vapor Trails album and the factors behind its odd, overdriven sound as well as a defense of why it needed remixing. There’s also a nifty look at Le Studio, the now-shuttered Canadian live-in studio where the band recorded several key albums. The book was written around the time Rush was invited to join the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, so there’s a chapter exploring the different angles of that moment, including (of course) Alex Lifeson’s controversial acceptance speech.
In short, Rush FAQ lives up to its subtitle for the group’s fanbase. Consider it advanced reading, the kind of book that allows you to take your Rush studies into the obsessive territory that a fan already acclimated to the band and their work will want to explore.