Alex Lifeson Shares The Real Story Behind “Limelight” Solo
via Premier Guitar / Youtube
In the pilot episode of the fresh podcast series Shred With Shifty, Chris Shiflett, the host and guitarist for the Foo Fighters, delves into the intricacies of the iconic solo in Rush’s “Limelight.” Guided by none other than Alex Lifeson, the mastermind behind the solo, Shiflett gains insights into the creative process and emotional nuances embedded in the lead guitar work.
According to Shiflett, Lifeson’s solo in “Limelight” perfectly encapsulates the essence of a remarkable guitar solo. It serves as a dynamic shift in the musical narrative, evoking emotions, building intensity, and, as Shiflett puts it, “shredding” in all the right ways.
Reflecting on the context of “Limelight” and Rush’s 1981 album, Moving Pictures, Shiflett highlights how the band departed from the prevailing rock ‘n’ roll trends of the time. In contrast to acts like Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, and KISS, Rush’s progressive rock style was, in essence, avant-garde.
Lifeson’s Candid Reflections
Speaking from his meticulously maintained home studio, Lifeson shares anecdotes about his early influences, citing names like Allan Holdsworth, Jeff Beck, and Andy Summers. Despite achieving international success with Rush, Lifeson confesses to a perpetual sense of insecurity about his playing abilities. Even amid the band’s complex arrangements and technical prowess, he recalls the occasional onstage “trainwrecks,” acknowledging the challenges of navigating their intricate music.
As Lifeson reminisces about the “Limelight” sessions, he humorously admits to the imperfections of memory, stating:
“That was 43 years ago. I can’t remember things from 40 minutes ago.”
However, he vividly recalls the recording process, describing the use of a modified Stratocaster with a vibrato arm to capture the solo in five or six takes. Bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee, along with producer Terry Brown, then skillfully compiled the takes into the final version. The objective was to craft a solo that mirrored the isolation and fragility inherent in “living in the limelight.” Lifeson explains:
“I really wanted to echo that feeling and that sense of loneliness.”