How Rush’s ‘I Think I’m Going Bald’ Gently Mocked a Kiss Ballad
Rush was officially capital-P prog by 1975, their evolution away from straight-ahead hard rock solidified with the virtuosity and stoned experimentation on Caress of Steel.
But "I Think I’m Going Bald," one outlier track from their third LP, felt like a goodbye to that early style: shorter and less intricate; closer in spirit to, say, "Rock and Roll All Nite" than "The Necromancer." And, fittingly, the title playfully nodded to the rockers who showed them the live ropes.
"We were touring a lot with Kiss in those days," Rush bassist Geddy Lee told Martin Popoff in 2004’s Contents Under Pressure, "and they had a song called 'I Think I’m Going Blind' ['Goin' Blind',' a ballad from 1974’s Hotter Than Hell]. So we were kind of taking the piss out of that title by just coming up with this."
Drummer Neil Peart — who’d joined the year prior and quickly became their lyricist — pushed the band into a headier place, reaching into science fiction and philosophy. But he kept things relatively cut and dry on "I Think I'm Going Bald," using that phrase to analyze the hair paranoia (hair-anoia?) of his bandmate, guitarist Alex Lifeson.
"[Peart] came up with this line, 'I think I’m going bald,' because Alex is always worried about losing his hair," Lee told Popoff. "Even when he was not losing his hair, he was obsessed with the fact that he might lose his hair. So he would try all kinds of ingredients to put on his scalp, and I think it just got Neil thinking about aging – even though we weren’t aging yet and had no right to talk about that stuff yet."
Listen to Kiss Perform 'Goin' Blind'
"I Think I’m Going Bald" probably won’t make anyone’s list of favorite Rush songs, but it does have one thing going for it: highlighting the band’s underrated sense of humor. "A lot of people mistake us for being deadly serious," Lee added, "but some of our songs are just plain goofy."
It’s easy to imagine Kiss appreciating the hat-tip — after all, the two bands had become friendly on the road. Rush opened for Kiss on their debut tour outside of Canada, after the face-painted hard rockers fell in love with the band’s self-titled debut LP.
"You know I love Rush, always have," Gene Simmons would later reveal. "When we first heard Rush, we were struck. It was like Canadian Led Zeppelin [mimics Lee’s singing], this high banshee thing. This was before Neil Peart came in with [mimics intricate drumming]. It was before Neil took them to this other place. Initially … Rush was a hard-rocking band."
Rush apparently abstained from Simmons' groupie-assisted partying on the road, instead mostly hanging out in their hotel rooms — though Lifeson did bond with guitarist Ace Frehley by inventing a weird character called "the Bag." (Simmons was apparently not a fan.)
Listen to Rush Perform 'I Think I'm Going Bald'
"The Bag would pop up every once in a while, not that often," Lifeson recalled in the Rush documentary Time Stand Still. "It was just a face drawn on a big laundry bag. You know, they had those paper laundry bags in the beautiful Holiday Inns we used to stay in, and I would make two holes for eyes and draw a stupid face in it and wear sweatpants and stick my arms through the sweatpants so only my hands came out at the knee. And have the bag on, and the bag would talk like this [speaks in bizarre voice]. And the Bag was always drunk and was really smart and knew everything — and made a lot of suggestions to people in the room, running commentary for a couple hours."
Rush and Kiss obviously shared a real friendship, even if their musical styles had already diverged by the mid-'70s. It’s unclear what Kiss thought of "I Think I'm Going Bald," or if they even knew about the title reference. ("I remember we played Caress of Steel once for [Kiss co-founder] Paul Stanley," Lifeson said in the Rush documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage. "We’d just got it. We played it in our van for him one night, and you could see that just … he didn’t get it. A lot of people didn’t get it. We wondered if we even got it.")
Still, decades later, Simmons maintains a fondness, both personally and musically, for the band they shared so many stages with.
"Unfortunately I was never able to see Rush live in those early days because we were busy putting on makeup to get ready for our show," Simmons said. "But much later on, I was able to actually come to a Rush show when they were headlining their own arena shows and behold the glory that is Rush. Still one of my favorite bands of all time."
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