Legendary Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson's main arsenal of iconic guitars and archive head to Julien's Auctions

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Legendary Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson's main arsenal of iconic guitars and archive head to Julien's Auctions
A 1976 Gibson ES-355TD electric guitar custom-built for Alex Lifeson at the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Lifeson’s main guitar from 1976-2015, his entire time with Rush. “Whitey” was featured on all albums from A Farewell to Kings (1977) to Test for Echo (1996) and used by Lifeson on stage during all tours from A Farewell to Kings (1977-1978) to R40 (2015). “Whitey” also appears in all music videos accompanying A Farewell to Kings, Hemispheres, and Moving Pictures, as well as “Show Don’t Tell” from Presto (1989). “I purchased this guitar in 1976; it was custom-built in Kalamazoo just for me. It has been my main guitar and is the iconic Alex Lifeson guitar.”

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Julien’s Auctions, the world-record breaking auction house to the stars, will honor one of the most influential music icons and guitar heroes of the progressive rock metal genre with Property from the Archives of Alex Lifeson, a centerpiece of their premiere music auction event, Music Icons, taking place Friday, May 20th, Saturday, May 21st, with the Rush legend’s auction as the grand finale on Sunday, May 22nd, 2022 live at Hard Rock Cafe in New York and online at juliensauctions.com.

More than 100 lots featuring signature guitars, instruments, wardrobe, gear and memorabilia owned and used by Alex Lifeson, the legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist and co-founder of Rush, one of the best-selling progressive rock groups of all time, who have sold more than 40 million records worldwide in the group’s four decade and counting history of record-breaking tours and performances, will be offered to the public for the first time.

With Geddy Lee on vocals, bass and keyboards, Neil Peart on drums and Lifeson on guitar, the band would become the enduring lineup of the iconic Canadian progressive rock band known to the world as Rush (photo left: “Whitey” Gibson electric guitar). After hitting the Toronto rock music scene and releasing their first single, a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away,” the band released their self-titled debut album Rush in 1974 which contained their first hit single “Working Man” featuring Lifeson’s guitar work, hailed by Guitar World as one of the greatest guitar solos of all time. The popular fan favorite song brought them to the U.S. and a recording contract from Mercury Records who released their next two albums, Fly by Night and Caress of Steel. But it was in 1976 that the band would have their biggest breakthrough and worldwide recognition with the release of their album 2112, considered Rush’s masterpiece and a rock music landmark with its 20-minute title track divided into seven sections. The platinum selling album began Rush’s streak of sold-out arena tours in the U.S. and Canada and the phenomenon of its worldwide cult fan base. In 1976, the group released its first live album, All the World’s a Stage, a double live album of their 1976 three-night stand at Massey Hall in Toronto during the band’s epic 2112 tour. The band’s sound evolved further into the direction of progressive rock inspired by the likes of the groups, Yes and King Crimson, with the U.K. recording of their next albums, 1977’s A Farewell to Kings and 1978’s Hemispheres. With the 1980 release of their Top Five U.S. charting album Permanent Waves, featuring their smash hit “The Spirt of Radio,” Rush became one of the most successful bands in the world with their popularity soaring to greater heights with the release of 1981’s Moving Pictures. The blockbuster album featured their biggest and most revered classics, “Limelight,” “Red Barchetta,” “YYZ” and “Tom Sawyer,” one of the most played songs on classic rock radio in the world and Rush’s most popular song of all time, which became the band’s best-selling and most commercially successful album in the U.S. hitting Number Three on the Billboard Charts and selling four million copies.

In addition to playing electric and acoustic guitars with Rush, Lifeson is renowned for his multi-instrumental repertoire of playing other string instruments such as mandola, mandolin and bouzouki, as well as keyboards and bass pedal synthesizers throughout his musical work with and outside of the band, putting his own signature of sonic experimentation with riffing, electronic effects and processing and unorthodox chord structures. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, that experimentation and progression would be heard in the band’s 1982 album, Signals, featuring their only U.S. Top 40 hit “New World Man” with the sound of synthesizers along with elements of ska, reggae and funk. They transitioned back to the band’s core of guitar, bass and drums with Lifeson’s acclaimed work on the 1989 album Presto, 1993’s Counterparts featuring their Grammy nominated song “Leave That Thing Alone,” 1996 album Test for Echo and 2002 album Vapor Trails, where Lifeson used over 50 different guitars and was hailed by Guitar Player as “his most rabid and experimental playing ever.”

In 1996, Lifeson released his first solo project Victor, named the title track from the W. H. Auden poem “Victor” with both his son Adrian and wife Charlene also contributing to the album. His dynamic body of work includes instrumental contributions and guest appearances such as the guitar solos of “Crying Over You” and “Holy Water” on Platinum Blonde’s 1985 album Alien Shores; Lawrence Gowan’s 1990 album Lost Brotherhood; guests tracks on Tom Cochrane’s 1995 album Ragged Ass Road, “Like a Girl” from I Mother Earth’s Scenery and Fish album; “The Little Drummer Boy” on the 1997 album Merry Axemas: A Guitar Christmas; “Anesthetize” on Porcupine Tree’s 2007 album Fear of a Blank Planet and “Sacred and Mundane” on the Tiles’ 2008 album Fly Paper. In 2006, Lifeson provided the original soundtrack material for the popular Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, where he would later guest appear in the franchise’s later films as well as voice the character Big Chunk in the animated series.

He is also a composer and producer whose credits include the theme for the science-fiction TV series Andromeda; songs on the 3 Doors Down album Away from the Sun; Keram Malicki-Sanchez’s 2014 album Come to Life - playing guitar on the songs “Mary Magdalene”, “Moving Dark Circles” and “The Devil Knows Me Well,” and on Keram’s subsequent singles “Artificial Intelligence,” “That Light,” and “Rukh” as well as being featured on Marco Minneman’s 2017 release Borrego, Fu Manchu’s 2018 Clone of the Universe album and more. Subsequent Rush recordings and touring include their 30th anniversary 2004 EP Feedback which featured their covers of Cream, The Who and the Yardbirds’ songs, 2007’s Snakes & Arrows, 2011 live album Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland and 2012’s Clockwork Angels. Rush ranks fifth for most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums, after the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Kiss, and Aerosmith.

Lifeson’s awards and recognition include induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013 with Rush; ranking third in the Guitar World Readers poll of 100 greatest guitarists and listing on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time; as well as being made an Officer of the Order of Canada on May 9th, 1996, along with Rush bandmates Geddy Lee and Neil Peart, and receiving the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards in 2012–the highest artistic honor in Canada. Additionally, Lifeson is a painter, golfer and aircraft pilot.

In 2021, Lifeson released two new instrumental songs, “Kabul Blues” and “Spy House,” and recently made headlines with the news of his self-titled debut LP from new band Envy of None, featuring bassist Andy Curran, singer-songwriter Maiah Wynne, and producer Alfio Annibalini, to be released on April 18, featuring a song dedicated to late Rush band mate and drum legend Neil Peart.

“Julien’s Auctions is proud to present this magnificent collection of coveted artifacts of rock history directly from the legendary guitarist and pioneer, Alex Lifeson of Rush, the most influential and innovative progressive rock metal band of all time,” said Darren Julien, President/Chief Executive Officer of Julien’s Auctions. “Lifeson’s mind blowing creativity, musical virtuosity and raw power will take center stage here in this epic auction of his legendary guitars, instruments, and rare memorabilia representing his enduring legacy as one of the godfathers of progressive rock metal music.”

Highlights of this auction include Lifeson’s music arsenal of renowned instruments used on some of Rush’s iconic recording sessions, hits, tours and performances such as a 1976 “Whitey” Gibson ES-355TD electric guitar custom-built for Alex Lifeson at the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo and Lifeson’s main guitar from 1976-2015, his entire time with Rush.

“I purchased this guitar in 1976, it was custom-built in Kalamazoo just for me. It has been my main guitar and is the iconic Alex Lifeson guitar,” said Lifeson.

“Whitey” is featured on all albums from A Farewell to Kings (1977) to Test for Echo (1996), and can be seen being played by Lifeson on stage during all tours from A Farewell to Kings (1977-1978) to R40 (2015) as well in most of Rush’s music videos accompanying A Farewell to Kings, Hemispheres, and Moving Pictures, as well as “Show Don’t Tell” from Presto (1989). This splendid guitar that was part of Rush’s most explosive era of creativity and legendary music has a conservative estimate of $200,000 - $300,000.

Another notable Lifeson axe–his 1980 custom-built Hentor Sportscaster electric guitar used on the recording of Rush’s seminal albums since Moving Pictures, in particular Grace Under Pressure where it was the main recording guitar will head to the auction stage. This iconic guitar was Lifeson’s favorite for soloing, including the solo from Rush’s Billboard hit “Limelight.” The Hentor Sportscaster’s heavy but versatile sound embodies Rush’s bold sonic explorations of the 1980s and Lifeson’s growth as a soloist during this time. The Hentor Sportscaster can be seen in the music videos for “Vital Signs,” “Countdown,” and “Enemy Within” and has an estimate of $100,000 - $200,000.

A 1981 Gibson Howard Roberts Fusion electric guitar that served as Alex Lifeson’s main guitar on the 1981 Moving Pictures tour as well as on numerous tours through the 2007 Snakes and Arrows tour and a 1971 Jose Ramirez classical acoustic guitar used by Alex Lifeson on all classical-style recordings from the 1978 Rush album Hemispheres, including “The Trees” and “La Villa Strangiato” will rock the auction stage. Each of these extraordinary guitars come with an estimate of $100,000 - $200,000. (photo right: Gibson Howard Roberts Fusion electric guitar)

Headlining the auction are a 1976 Gibson Dove acoustic guitar used by Lifeson to write “Closer to the Heart” and other songs from the 1977 Rush album A Farewell to Kings and played on numerous tours including A Farewell to Kings (1977-1978), Hemispheres (1978-1979), and Moving Pictures (1981) as well as a 1970 Gibson Les Paul electric guitar acquired by Lifeson on Rush’s inaugural tour in 1974, and played extensively by Lifeson on all Rush albums and tours from Fly By Night and 2112 to Hemispheres (each guitar estimate $100,000 - $200,000).

Other highlights include:

A 1976 Gibson J-55 acoustic guitar used by Lifeson to compose Rush’s early 1976 platinum-selling album 2112, as well as 1977’s A Farewell to Kings and served as the main acoustic guitar on “Natural Science” and “Camera Eye” from 1980’s Permanent Waves and 1981’s Moving Pictures (estimate: $80,000 - $100,000);

A 1990 Fender Stratocaster used by Alex Lifeson on most albums since Roll the Bones (1991) both on solos and for doubling Gibson guitar tracks and seen in the music video for “Big Money,” as well as live performances of “One Little Victory” from Vapor Trails (2002) (estimate: $60,000 - $80,000);

A 1992 Paul Reed Smith (bolt-on) CE electric guitar – Alex Lifeson’s main guitar from its debut on the 1993 Rush album Counterparts and accompanying tour through Rush’s tours in the early 2000s (estimate: $50,000 - $70,000). During this time, the 24 frets made this guitar a favorite for Lifeson’s distinctive and virtuosic soloing style. “This was my main 90s era Paul Reed Smith guitar. I still use it a lot because of the 24 frets. It was a real workhorse and I loved it,” said Lifeson.

A 2015 limited run Gibson EDS-1275 double-neck electric guitar created especially for Rush’s 40th Anniversary R40 tour and played live by Alex Lifeson on songs requiring both a six-string and twelve-string guitar, including “Xanadu” from the 1977 album A Farewell to Kings (estimate: $20,000 - $40,000).

Special exhibitions in Los Angeles and New York for the public to view highlighted items prior to the auction will be held at Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills April 11th- April 15th and in New York May TBD.

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