It didn’t take long for the trio to lock into a form of songwriting they all enjoyed, but when Peart arrived there was a requirement to deliver new music quickly.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of time,” Lee told Rolling Stone in a new interview. “Neil joined the band, and two weeks later we were doing our first gig, opening for Uriah Heep, so we had to learn as many songs as we could and head out. So it was through that whole first tour that we were getting to know each other musically. We had a lot of dead time but not dead time where we actually had our instruments in our hands. So we couldn’t jam, really. Our whole day was leading up to 26 minutes onstage and then you’re off.”
He said by the time they were opening for Kiss they had started to “investigate certain things” about their musical relationship. “Subtle things would start to change night to night as Neil got to know the songs better and as we got to understand each other better as players,” Lee explained. “That kind of chemistry started to develop. By the time we hit [Rush’s 1975 album] Fly by Night, we were just so amped to do something new.”
That was the point, Lee said, where Peart had managed to “fit like a glove.” “When we started writing, even in our hotel rooms, in the back of our minds we had an idea of where that could go,” he noted. “But it really wasn’t until we got into the recording session, and started doing stuff like ‘By-Tor and the Snow Dog’ — which really developed in the studio — that a whole other side of our nature was formed. That was a real getting-to-know-each-other album, but at the same time it was surprising how quickly it all came together. I mean, we recorded that album in 10 days.”
He recalled it was a challenge to sing Peart’s lyrics but they chose to let the drummer write them. “At first it was a huge leap of faith for us to just accept that,” Lee said. “It wasn’t his idea to write the lyrics. Alex and I sort of said, ‘Make him do it. He reads a lot of books. Let him do it.’” He noted that, after spending time on the road again, “we got a better understanding of Neil and he got a better understanding of us.”
Lee added that “a lot of times he would inspire us to read something that was a little out of our comfort zone. … It was definitely night and day when that album came out. As much as some people loved it, other people were disturbed by it, because that was not the Rush they had invested in from the previous record. It was definitely a new band.”