Geddy Lee Details Rush’s ‘Cocaine Years’: ‘Coke Was Everywhere’

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Nearly five decades after Rush’s debut album, Geddy Lee’s new autobiography “My Effin’ Life” and his interview with Rolling Stone Music Now podcast reveal intriguing aspects of his life with the band.

Lee, the charismatic frontman, bassist, and keyboardist of Rush, alongside guitarist Alex Lifeson and the late drummer Neil Peart, has shared insights into their experiences, from hash oil-induced hallucinations during the making of 1975’s “Caress of Steel” to the band’s handling of fame and substance use.

In “Caress of Steel”, Lee recalls the band being so influenced by hash oil that they perceived reverb in the music that wasn’t actually there. This experience, he notes, was a cautionary tale about the risks of drug use while working on serious music. He also describes an unnerving incident of playing a gig on acid, which he regards as one of his worst experiences, teaching him never to mix serious performance with substance use.

The late Seventies and early Eighties marked Lee’s brief encounter with cocaine, a period he refers to as the “cocaine years”. This was the only time when substance use intersected with Rush’s performances. Lee candidly speaks about the prevalence of cocaine during this era, noting its insidious nature and how it affected the entire crew. He credits his upbringing for his eventual realization of the need to stop using cocaine.

“Like, during the drum solo, you do a line. I really didn’t do any coke before a gig because I could feel it in my throat, and that was hard on my voice,” Lee said. “Occasionally, maybe after sound check, you might do a bump and then you get on with your day, but it was mostly towards the end of the night when you felt like you had earned a bit of a reward [laughs], so you’d get high.

But it’s an insidious drug, and it really moves quietly and quickly through an entire crew, an entire organization. It was very dangerous, and it took me a while before I realized the trap I’d slipped into. Thankfully, I was well brought-up by my mom. I realized, ‘I’m behaving like a losing dog here. I have to stop.’”

Elsewhere, Lee spoke to Toronto Life, detailing the drug use he was involved with. Talking about what drugs he was ingesting, he says:

“You mean, what drugs were we doing? Honestly, it was strange living out of a bus. We once played 23 cities in 23 nights. At that point, we were doing a lot of cocaine just to keep the energy up. In terms of wild nights, when a band stays in a town for two days you can bet there’s going to be an intense amount of drinking.

When we would open for bigger bands, people were constantly spraying beer and pie-ing each other in the face. One time, we pied Kiss in the face and they did the same to us. The hotel we stayed in got totally trashed. Someone took a giant potted plant and threw it over the balcony. They could have killed someone! But it was what you were supposed to do, I guess.”