Alex Lifeson

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Alex in concert, sporting a bad feathered haircut.

“Why, of course I know who's in Rush! There's Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, and the...blonde dude with the guitar. Yeah.”

~ Rush fan on Alex Lifeson

“Who?”

~ Geddy Lee on Alex Lifeson

Aleksandar Samwise Živojinović, OC (born August 27, 1953), better known by his stage name Alex Lifeson, is a SerbianCanadian musician, best known as the guitarist, co-founder, swordsman, and fanfare player of the rock band Rush, the most famous Canadian trio that fought against the Syrinx heathens during the Battle of 2112 (other Canuck trios that participated include Triumph, Klaatu, and the Trailer Park Boys). In 1968, Lifeson founded the band that would become Rush with his two friends, that one bassist Jeff Jones and that guy who drummer before Neil Peart, John Rusty I think his name was. Jones and Rutsey soon dropped out, with Neil Peart (aka God with Sticks) and Geddy Lee (aka Geddy Lee) joining Lifeson as Rushians; all three were integral members of the band ever since.

Lifeson was the youngest member of Rush, and also did some lyrics for the band; people think it was just Peart and a lil' bit of Lee who wrote lyrics, but Lifeson also wrote the inspirational lyrics to "I Think I'm Going Bald". He is a fairly nice guitar player, who liked to occasionally rant on-stage about "Mr. Milton Banana", and also constantly sweats. Also, in his picture on the Fly by Night insert, he looks really tired. Alex may possibly be the greatest guitarist you've never heard of, but is one of the few to be upstaged by the drummer or bassist in his band, in one of the few cases where the guitarist is fans' least favourite member.

Early life[edit]

Alex Lifeson being all serious and crap.

“Alex Lifeson was not born. Rather, he was created from the Sun for the purpose of being Geddy's imaginary friend. Alex Lifeson does not actually exist, hence he had no early life.”

~ Lester Bangs on Alex Lifeson

Aleksandar Živojinović was born in 1950-something with a guitar in his hands, in the back of a bar somewhere in Serbia. After consuming 30 shots of plum brandy a few seconds after he was born, he was forcibly separated from his parents by the local police (who found his name to be unpronounceable), and exported to Canada as luggage. In the great white north, Alex was raised by wolves and grew up in a forest where the trees sat around and argued constantly about getting sunlight. At age five, he got two dogs (reflecting his faux-canine heritage), who he loved very much. Unfortunately, they got into a fight and one of them (called The Snowdog) killed the other (named By-Tor). He finally realized he wasn't a wolf and escaped at the age of six.

Now without guardians, Lifeson then lived in an alley behind a Tim Hortons, where all the bums would gather on the 24th of May for a gigantic knifefight, until he was eight. He then got word that his long-lost uncle died and left him a car in his freewill. Although it was not legal for him to drive, he did anyway, avoiding cops and being like The Blues Brothers until he was 13. He was caught and forced to enrol in the public education system at St. Patrick's School. However, Lifeson had few friends and felt left out by many kids, as he fit into none of the cliques they divided themselves into, in the high school halls, shopping malls, basement bars, and backs of cars.

Career[edit]

The Projection[edit]

Not only was that dragon a sick nasty guitar player, it also had a taste for flamboyant fruit hats.

“Who's come to slay the dragon, come to watch him fall.”

~ Geddy Lee on Alex Lifeson

One day while visiting Niagara Falls, the 14-year-old Živojinović wandered behind a waterfall where he discovered a guitar. He taught himself to play it, and became the world's best guitar player. Unfortunately, the waterfall was cursed, and Aleksandar became trapped for a year. He got together with manatee John Rutsey, snapping turtle Bill Fitzgerald, and giant stoned owl "Doc" Cooper to form a band, where his bandmates became non-famous and nobody learned his name. After getting bored of looking at the falls, the young Živojinović wandered further into a cave where he found a great red dragon. Instead of eating him like what dragons should do, it taught Živojinović how to play guitar. Živojinović played a riff so awesome the hills shook, fell down, and the dragon died of a massive heart attack (Alex and John's next band would be named Rush, in memory of their teacher).

Živojinović emerged one year later smelling heavily of plum brandy, wielding a Gibson Les Paul Red Atomic Rocker-Rooster Ultimate Batman Edition, a degree in dark arts, and third-degree burns. His skills were met with "meh-eh" by the Canadian townspeople though, so they took it upon themselves to raise the talented 15-year-old boy to adulthood, then celebrated his Canadian naturalization with a traditional tribal dance around the fire. In a drunken stupor, the Canadian chief translated the boy's name into Canadian, and he was known as "Alex Lifeson" ever since.

Forming Rush[edit]

Lifeson trying to alleviate his boredom by putting on a goofy facial expression.

“Perhaps, maybe, he's the best guitarist ever...or maybe not.”

~ Jann Wenner on Lifeson's guitar playing

Rush was formed in the summer of 1968, in Willowdale, Toronto, Ontario by guitarist Lifeson, super-explosion noise-maker that hits things Rutsey, and bass legend/singer Jeff Jones. However, Jones disliked the rest of the band and had a party to go to, so he left them after a one-day gig. Then one day John and Alex were walking home from school and heard some kind of divine noise coming from a house. It was who Geddy Lee, but Rutsey and Lifeson mistook it as being an angry satanic witch. They knocked on his door to talk him, but Neil being Neil knew what they were going to say and said "Yes."

Although Rutsey helped Rush get their name known (like they need help with that), he was let go in 1974 due to the fact that he couldn't make a drum solo of life or remember the right lyrics. Undeterred, Lifehouse and Geddy began to search for a new drummer. All of them sucked until one day, a strange man drove down their door with his motorcycle. Lifeless was proud of that door, so he demanded a shitload of money to pay for it. The man simply smiled, introduced himself as Neil Peart, and tossed a copy of Ayn Rand's Anthem at their feet. Geddy immediately recognized the book, squealed like a fangirl, and immediately made Peart their drummer. Upon hearing that the only instrument he knew how to play was the piano, Lifeson locked Neil inside a window-less room with nothing inside it but a drum set. Peart emerged two months later with thirce the skills of Ringo Starr, one-third the skills of Keith Moon and John Bonham combined (that's average), and ten times the skills of Lars Ulrich, as well as a ferocious appetite for destruction of drums and cymbals (afterwards, he refused to eat anything else). The only way to keep Neil well-fed was to supply him with an extremely large 360-degree drumset and replace the drums every time they went low, so that was exactly what they did. When Peart first auditioned for Rush, Lifeson is reported to have said "What the hell was that?" after Neil performed a 6-hour-long drum solo. Word got around to Neil's fans, who raided Lifeson's house, and Lifeson later issued a public apology. With Alex's inner quest complete, the three became BGF (Best Gods Forever), and Rush went on to attempt kicking major ass.

At first, Rush didn't make it very far as a band. Their debut album and only with Rutsey, Rush, just sounded like a Led Zeppelin clone, with a rather average hard rock sound that was bluesy and way less progressive. Fly by Night, their second effort and first with Peart, was a bit more progressive. Caress of Steel, their third album, was notably more progressive, with the Zepp imitations confined to the first half and two lengthy tracks being put at the end. It was the first Rush album to feature that progressive sound that would blaze their trail for the rest of their careers of steel. Once the only three copies of their first three albums went into the hands of a greedy record collector and stopped circulating, they began to have issues with poverty. Alex had to sell his guitar techs for extra band funds. They then found themselves living inside a small urban Toronto house that they built themselves out of cardboard. Five people lived in that house along with two instruments, two sets of amps, and 20 boxes of Heineken to keep Alex alive: Lifeson, his girlfriend Charlene, their illegitimate first son Justin, Geddy, and Geddy's girlfriend. Peart lived outside under the tarp that covered his drum set. To make money, Alex had to get into male prostitution (alluded to in an episode of Trailer Park Boys), while Geddy sold Alex's empty Heineken bottles.

Breakthrough[edit]

Popular re-enactment of Lifeson during the Battle of 2112, from the movie Windtalkers.

One day, sometime during Alex and Charlene's honeymoon, at a bar in Bangkok, Geddy showed up and the following conversation between him and Alex took place:

Lee: "Look at my nose, it's HUGE."

Lifeson: "Your nose really is huge."

Lee: "Uhhh...*awkward silence*....You've got to come back with me!"

Lifeson: "Where?"

Lee: "Back...to the future!"

At this point, Geddy grabbed Alex's arm and they time-travelled to 2112 AD, where they fought the great Battle of 2112. Here they fought to keep the world safe from the Solar Federation, governed by the corrupt Priests of the Temples of Syrinx. They had nothing to do after the battle was over, so they used the inspiration from this experience to help them get over their writer's block.

Rush's poverty ended with the commercial success of their 20-minute epic, 2112. The band then realized all they had to do was write obscenely long music in order to win in the music industry. On this album Geddy and Neil asked Alex to write his very own song. Alex, having very few ideas of his own, decided to describe exactly what he was doing at the time Geddy interrupted him and his wife's honeymoon. The song "A Passage to Bangkok" was written and selected for inclusion on the album (originally it was about a mythical war in Thailand, but that pothead Geddy changed the lyrics to be about an express in Thailand), narrowly beating Peart's "Another Lord of the Rings Song". Lifeson later picked up three or so Stratocasters in hopes of emulating Jimi Hendrix, in the end just sounding like...Alex Lifeson + cycle hum. The only true achievement he had made was naming his black one the "Porkflapsocaster"; sadly this was the one he "donated" to a Toronto pawn shop. 2112 set in stone band trademarks such as razor-sharp guitar solos, fantasy-related concept songs, and highly dynamic drumming, which helped to mold the band's musical play-dough into the shape of floating brains. The band continued writing 50-minute nerd epics, as well as wearing capes during live shows, before moving in a more pop-oriented direction by the 1980s.

Before and After...Here Again[edit]

Lifeson surrounded by the purple haze.

“He was the guitarist for that band with that song on Rock Band, right?”

~ Oscar Wilde on Alex Lifeson

As Rush progressed into the '80s, they released the hit albums Permanent Waves and Moving Neil's Pictures, with Lifeson starting to use reggae-style rhythms inspired by The Police's Sting. A few months after they released Moving Neil's Pictures, the band had lost Alex due to a broken neck and shattered skull. The cause was a picture, which Geddy and Neil were moving atop a roof. Geddy dropped it, and heard a loud scream from below. The two both looked over the edge to see who they hit, and saw Alex, already dead from impact, lying face up in a pool of blood. They called out "Check his Vital Signs!", then laughed at the song reference. Alex was buried a few weeks later. When interviewed about the loss of their guitarist, Neil said, "Well, we were moving a picture, and Alex happened to be just between us. It was a terrible loss to his family and to Rush, but we are trying our best to cope." When interviewed about the picture he dropped, Geddy had this to say, "Moving Pictures is a rough and dangerous job but hey, someone has to do it...I think I'm going bald." Geddy then lost his hair and Neil wrote all of the songs now, including one about a mullet man. Fortunately, Alex later showed up again in band practice after coming back to life (he does this every episode).

Lifeson's role in the band increasingly diminished over the course of the decade. Their following albums, Dog Fire Hydrant Signals, Made Under Pressure, Hold Your Guitars, Fuzzy Bunnies, and Roll the Yahtzee Bones (about Alex's swordsman training, in which he was taught by a talking skeleton and a giant pair of dice), were made in a contemporary style of '80s New Wave/synthpop music where Lee began to overuse synthesizers at the expense of Lifeson's guitar, which now played a more textural role with lots of flange, echo, and feedback. When people realized in the early '90s that '80s music had sucked all along, Lifeson regained his heavier, grungier, more upfront tone on the album Counterparts.

In 2018, Lifeson announced he had taken a break from touring due to his psoriatic arthritis. Following Peart's death in 2020, Lifeson and Lee wisely called it a day and said "No Neil, no Rush," unlike their contemporaries who drag other bands out long past their sell-dates.

Solo career and side-projects[edit]

“Not worth mentioning. A lot of bitching about abusive women; frankly it's terrible. Just shut up and play the guitar.”

~ Piero Scaruffi on Lifeson's solo works

“I'm not your friend buddy. You're not my buddy guy. And I am definitely not your guy friend.”

~ Alex Lifeson on Ricky LaFleur

After fighting the good fight with Rush, Alex later went back home to write the rest of his solo album, which failed because Neil Peart said "No" and cast flair on his unholy albums so he would be forced to come back to Rush. It is unfortunate that Alex based none of his music off of his life (like when Ricky from the Trailer Park Boys kidnapped him because he wanted free concert tickets, or when Alex and his son were tasered after dancing drunkenly at a New Year's Eve 2003 show in Naples) because that would have been cool, there'd be a lot of Ann Coulter in the lyrics, and it would have sounded like a Deerhooc song which is good.

In 2022, Lifeson formed a new band called Envy of None. They are a quartet consisting of Lifeson, Coney Island Hatch's Andy Curran, singer Maiah Wynne, and musician/recording engineer Alfio Annibalini. When the band dropped their first single, many expected it to sound more or less like a continuation of Rush (just with a woman singing instead of a womanly-sounding man), but were blindsided to find it was instead an indie shoegaze song more akin to the Cocteau Twins.

Musical style[edit]

Here Lifeson is seen using his patented acoustic-electric double neck guitar which he made by gluing a Les Paul to an acoustic guitar.

Lifeson was always a Gibson Les Paul guy. You know, like that Jimmy Page guy that Zeppelin allowed in their group. Somewhere around Signals he decided to piss off obsessive nerds and began playing Fenders. He referred to them as "Hentors", because, much as we all love Alex, he was dropped on his head repeatedly as a child. When touring with the band, Lifeson was most famous for being completely ignored as "that guy over there", as well as singing occasional backing vocals. He often played the most amazing guitar solos in the world, which did not exist. He showed off his technique in two solos: the last solo of "2112" and the first solo in "La Villa Strangiato". Unfortunately, almost nobody listens to those songs because they are more than two minutes long.

Lifeson has a total collection of over 30,000,000,000,000 PRS, Gibson, and Fender guitars; each is used during every Rush concert. Lifeson discovered while recording the song "Malignant Narcissism" that Neil Peart could actually play the regular drum set. This shocked Alex so much that he could only play an A-chord the entire song and lost the ability to solo.

Personal life[edit]

Alex Lifeson's two sons. Oddly enough, all of their Serbian heritage has been removed.

In the End of his junior year, Alex took a trip around the world, visiting places such as Afghanistan, Jamaica, and Lebanon. He ended up in a passage to Bangkok a year later, where he met hs first and only girlfriend, Charlene McNicol. The two bonded over their shared love of pot-smoking, and married in 1975. They had their unplanned first child, Justin, five years before marriage, while the second one, Phillip, inherited Lifeson's skill and is definitely the favourite. Phillip Živojinović went on to write the acoustic instrumental "Hope", featured on the Snakes on an Arrow album. Phillip also wrote a song cut from the album entitled "Hey Terrence, I've Got Something in My Ass for You", which was featured as a B-side to the single "Far Cry".

Lifeson's current residence.

Sometime in the '80s, Alex took a long walk in his quest to find a way to stop smoking, and stumbled across a small house filled to the ceiling with delicious cakes. Over the following afternoon, Alex gained 50 pounds and hadn't noticed since, except that he looked better with shorter hair. Lifeson has since sold his country house north of Toronto and moved back to the city full-time for its sentimental value, saying "Though it's just a memory, some memories last forever."

Alex's stage name "Lifeson" is a translation of his Serbian name, Živojinović. Ironically, his complete name Aleksandar Živojinović, in multiple languages, can translate to a prophecy saying "The Son of Life shall protect mankind". The man also shows little-to-no signs of age aside from arthritis and a bald spot, which suggests he was gifted with the divine life force of a God. Could this man have been chosen by fate to save us in the future?

See also[edit]