Today's topic is Rush lyrics. When Rush lyrics are the subject, it is easy to get lost in visions of humans sailing towards black holes(Cygnus X-1) and stories of protagonists defeating a futuristic empire to restore music to the public(2112), but believe it or not they have laid down some deep stuff. Drummer, and main lyricist, Neil Peart has done an excellent job of delivering some literary masterpieces to Rush songs. He has been one of the most respected at both of his Rush duties since joining the band in late 1974. Peart has been able to touch on a variety of topics in his lyrics ranging from humanitarian issues to real world problems.
It is hard to nail it down, but here are the best 10 songs Neil Peart has written for Rush:
10) The Trees - Hemispheres
Neil Peart delivers a poetic slamdown with this 1978 song. The lyrics are simple; Maple Trees feel they are not getting their fair share of sunlight and demand more from the greedy Oak trees, who in turn deny their request. Many fans from both sides of the political spectrum see this song as a jab at their opposed side, but to me it is just a great song about trees. The end of the song is my favorite part. The trees are brought down to Earth from their political battles by hatchet, axe, and saw! They are cut down and no more. Just like how in the end we will all be cut down and be equal in death.
So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights
'The oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light'
Now there's no more oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
9) Losing It - Signals
Rush takes us inside the mind of a depressed, estranged poet on this 1982 deep cut. A common theme with artists of any variety is a yearning to be as great as they once were. As performers of any profession grow older, their skills begin to diminish and their self-worth plummets. The struggles of an old brittle man are felt in a monotone form by bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee while Ben Mink makes a cameo performance with an electric violin accompanying the monologue. Ben Mink of course is not a relevant member of Rush, unless you count his work on Lee's solo album My Favorite Headache, but he is one of many musicians who Rush allowed on their records in one-off fashions throughout their career. And maybe his inclusion is vital to the song's importance; Here is an artist who is playing among rock legends and perhaps is envious of their fame and wishes it was his own. This song can not be fully described without mentioning how it is a tribute to late novelist Ernest Hemingway, who heavily inspired Peart and committed suicide in 1961 after years of depression. The thoughts that must have gone on in his head during the final painful years of his life are plastered on this piece of work done by a Canadian rock band 21 years after his death.
Some are born to move the world
To live their fantasies
But most of us just dream about
The things we'd like to be
8) Afterimage - Grace Under Pressure
A tribute to Robbie Whelen, a dear friend of the band, appears on Rush's 1984 album Grace Under Pressure. It is a tale that is somber in tone. The melody of the song gives an optimistic attitude that even though their friend is departed, he is still in their heart and their memory. Death of loved ones would be a reoccurring theme from Neil Peart throughout Rush's extensive career. There are not a large array of lyrics on this song like most of the others on this list, but perhaps it is a mirror of how when you lost someone close there aren't many words to say, just empty thoughts and feelings. Anyone who has lost a friend, family member, even a pet can definitely relate to the message portrayed in this song.
I learned your love for life
I feel the way you would
I feel your presence
7) Marathon - Power Windows
Most people would agree with me when I say that time moves too fast and it seems like we never have enough time in the day and our lives. Neil Peart agreed with our frustrations and wrote a song about it. Neil and I agree about a lot, we do share the same initials and sign them in the same branding-type manner after all. It seems like most people in society want things done in the quickest way possible. The average person gets overwhelmed by this concept and feels like the entire world passes them by before they have the chance to do anything. However, realizing that we have an entire lifetime to complete our goals should calm a lot of people.
It's not how fast you can go
The force goes into the flow
If you pick up the beat
You can forget about the heat
You can do a lot in a life time
If you don't burn out too fast
You can make the most of the distance
First you need endurance
First you've got to last
6) Something For Nothing - 2112
One of my favorite Rush songs makes it on the list at number six. The final song on Rush's 1976 prog-rock landmark album, 2112, is a message to everyone that you indeed do not get something for nothing. The song starts off describing a character waiting as oppurtunites pass them by as they wait for someone to do their tasks for them. We are all in charge of our own destinies and make our own decisions on how they pan out. When opportunity knocks on your door, you answer it! Rush affirms this on the song. It features perhaps my favorite verse in Rush history.
What you own is your own kingdom
What you do is your own glory
What you love is your own power
What you live is your own story
5) Bastille Day - Caress of Steel
The history major in me comes alive when reviewing this song. Bastille Day commemorates the storming of Bastille that took place on July 14, 1789 where the French people started the French Revolution and eventually overthrew the royal family in charge and played their hand in running their own country. The Rush song loosely follows these events in a loud and aggressive manner. The first verse even alludes to the most famous quote of the revolution spoken from Queen Marie-Antoinette, a quote that she never actually said. Bastille Day is one of Rush's heaviest songs and the most remembered song from an otherwise lackluster Caress of Steel album from 1975.
Lessons taught but never learned
All around us anger burns
Guide the future by the past
Long ago the mold was cast
4) Freewill - Permanent Waves
A song that says a lot to make a simple point: We all have freewill to believe what you want. Some people have described this as a song with spiritual or religious connotations. Neil Peart's religious beliefs are usually described as "Agnostic", another thing we have in common yay, and it could be evident from these lyrics that this song is pushing agnostic ideals. Should we conform ourselves to constricted views because everybody else does? Freewill says no, choose your thoughts however you want and don't be afraid to show it. As an agnostic person myself, I usually run into the problem of the typical comments of "how can you believe in nothing." But our choice has been made, the choice of no choice. It looks confusing in writing and even in dialogue, but makes sense to us and that's all that should really matter huh. This song shows that even though you are not deciding, you still have made a choice!
You can choose a ready guide
In some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide
You still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears
And kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that's clear
I will choose Freewill
3) Nobody's Hero - Counterparts
This hidden gem from Rush's 1993 album, Counterparts, is what inspired me to do this list in the first place. The lyrics deal with the idea of heroism, and how we idolize movie stars, musicians, or athletes who we will never encounter, even though there are brave triumphant people who live among us who we choose to ignore. The song's two main verses focus on two people. The first is about a homosexual man who manages to live a normal life despite the disapproval of others. This was an especially brave effort for a band in the early 90s in a society that had just started to accept homosexual people for who they were. The second verse speaks of a woman who was murdered and was a big loss to her family and loved ones. It is a very powerful and emotional song. It is one of Rush's most underrated songs. We are all heroes and should appreciate those people who do so much to make our days work the way that they do.
2) Limelight - Moving Pictures
This might be one of Rush's most known songs, but that does not discredit it in any way. Many people have a desire to gain fame; to be known worldwide and loved by many people. Most people never get to experience this as reality and instead spend their whole lives wishing to live their 15 minutes of fame. For the few that make it to the big time, fame is fleeting. Once people make it famous they find that a lot more is expected of them and their lives are viewed under a microscope, a feeling not looked too fond upon for a Canadian farm boy like Neil Peart. Fame was overwhelming for Peart and he expresses it on this hit from Rush's 1981 album Moving Pictures.
All the world's indeed a stage
And we are merely players
Performers and portrayers
Each another's audience
Outside stage gilded cage
1) Subdivisions - Signals
This is the definitive Rush lyric song. Just about every Rush fan is the nerdy kid in class who enjoys reading, listening to music, and playing video games. They are uninterested in what the popular kids are doing because they know they would not include them anyway. They are usually described and seen as loners, but normally find salvation with a small group of friend who share the same predicament. I briefly described my high school experience and that of many other Rush fans. That is why we feel such a connection to this song. If there is one song to describe teenage outcasts it is this one.
In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out
So, there is the definitive list of the best Rush songs based on lyrics. All other lists shall be burned and taken to the Temple of Syrinx for review. If you or someone you know have a better list, leave a comment on what it is!
What will be the next Tuesday Top 10? You will just have to wait and see!