Rush formed in Toronto, Ontario, in the autumn of 1968, and initially comprised guitarist Alex Lifeson (born Alexander Zivojinovich), vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee (born Gary Lee Weinrib), and drummer John Rutsey. In their primary incarnation, the trio drew a heavy influence from Cream, and honed their skills on the Toronto club circuit before issuing their debut single, a rendition of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," in 1973. A self-titled LP followed in 1974, at which time Rutsey exited; he was replaced by drummer Neil Peart, who also assumed the role of the band's primary songwriter, composing the cerebral lyrics (influenced by works of science fiction and fantasy) that gradually became a hallmark of the group's aesthetic.
With Peart firmly ensconced, Rush returned in 1975 with a pair of LPs, Fly by Night and Caress of Steel. Their next effort, 1976's 2112, proved to be their breakthrough release: a futuristic concept album based on the writings of Ayn Rand, it fused the elements of the trio's sound -- Lee's high-pitched vocals, Peart's epic-length compositions, and Lifeson's complex guitar work -- into a unified whole. Fans loved it -- 2112 was the first in a long line of gold and platinum releases -- while critics dismissed it as overblown and pretentious: either way, it established a formula from which the band rarely deviated throughout the duration of their career.