Sunday, 30 June 2013

My top five lyrical Rush songs

So this is a list of my top 5 Rush songs that lyrically mean a lot to me.  Rush is not only a great instrumental band to listen to, but they are also a great philosophical band to listen to as well.  Probably the reason I love Rush so much is because we tend to be on the same intellectual wavelengths.  Here are a few songs that explain why.   

5.Faithless- Snakes & Arrows, 2007

Its so refreshing to hear a rock song thats so openly atheist yet so full of soul and hope.  Not that there anything wrong with the angry, anti-theistic music of heavy metal.  Songs such as “God hates us all” from Slayer definitely have their place.

I can tell Neil Peart has probably been reading some Daniel Dennett.  The line “I don’t believe in belief” is familiar to me because the idea of belief in belief was coined by Dennett in his book Breaking the Spell.  Its the widely held idea in our society that the very act of believing in something such as God, is inherently good no matter if it exists or not.  The positive effects of believing in something outweighs the negative of it not being true.  Dennett calls BS on this idea because he believes that there are real consequences to believing in things that aren’t true.  Peart obviously shares this sentiment.  Faithless is a great song if you tend to be someone without a “faith in faith” but also have a great love for humanity and hope for the future.   

I've got my own moral compass to steer by
A guiding star beats a spirit in the sky
And all the preaching voices -
Empty vessels ring so loud
As they move among the crowd
Fools and thieves are well disguised
In the temple and market place

Like a stone in the river
Against the floods of spring
I will quietly resist

Like the willows in the wind
Or the cliffs along the ocean
I will quietly resist

I don't have faith in faith
I don't believe in belief
You can call me faithless
I still cling to hope
And I believe in love
And that's faith enough for me

I've got my own spirit level for balance
To tell if my choice is leaning up or down
And all the shouting voices
Try to throw me off my course
Some by sermon, some by force
Fools and thieves are dangerous
In the temple and market place

Like a forest bows to winter
Beneath the deep white silence
I will quietly resist

Like a flower in the desert
That only blooms at night
I will quietly resist

4.Roll the Bones- Roll the Bones,1991

One of my favorites not only because of its upbeat and unique sound, but for its great message as well.  Roll the bones, meaning that most of life is just a series of chances and random events.  Why do bad things happen to good and innocent people?  Why am I so fortunate?  If all people are created equal, then why has the creator created me with such wealth and abundance and so many other people are destined to suffer a short and miserable life?

The great point of the song is to say that we are lucky, and we should take advantage of the awesome dice roll we were thrown.  Not to mention the one and only Rush venture into rap music  

Well, you can stake that claim
Good work is the key to good fortune
Winners take that praise
Losers seldom take that blame
If they don't take that game
And sometimes the winner takes nothing
We draw our own designs
But fortune has to make that frame

We go out in the world and take our chances
Fate is just the weight of circumstances
That's the way that lady luck dances
Roll the bones

Why are we here?
Because we're here
Roll the bones
Why does it happen?
Because it happens
Roll the bones

Faith is cold as ice
Why are little ones born only to suffer
For the want of immunity
Or a bowl of rice?
Well, who would hold a price
On the heads of the innocent children
If there's some immortal power
To control the dice?

We come into the world and take our chances
Fate is just the weight of circumstances
That's the way that lady luck dances
Roll the bones

Get busy with the facts
No zodiacs or almanacs
No maniacs in polyester slacks
Just the facts
Gonna kick some gluteus max
It's a dig?
You move around
The small gets big
It's a rig
It's action...reaction
Random interaction
So who's afraid
Of a little abstraction?
Can't get no satisfaction
From the facts?
You better run, homeboy
A fact's a fact
From Nome to Rome, boy

What's the deal?
Spin the wheel
If the dice are hot...take a shot
Play your cards. Show us what you got
What you're holding
If the cards are cold
Don't go folding
Lady Luck is golden
She favors the bold
That's cold
Stop throwing stones
The night has a thousand saxophones
So get out there and rock
And roll the bones
Get busy!

3.The Garden-Clockwork Angels, 2012

The finale of their latest album Clockwork Angels, The Garden is one of Rush’s most emotional songs.  It is the words of some very wise people with a guide on how to live a life worth living.  I think the lyrics need no more explanation.

In this one of many possible worlds,
All for the best or some bizarre test?
It is what it is and whatever,
Time is still the infinite jest

The arrow flies when you dream,
The hours tick away,
The cells tick away

The Watchmaker keeps to his schemes,
The hours tick away, they tick away

The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect,
So hard to earn so easily burned
The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect,
So hard to earn so easily burned

In the fullness of time,
A garden to nurture and protect

In the rise and the set of the sun,
'Til the stars go spinning,
Spinning 'round the night
Oh, it is what it is, and forever
Each moment a memory in flight

The arrow flies while you breathe,
The hours tick away,
The cells tick away,

The Watchmaker has time up his sleeve,
The hours tick away, they tick away

The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect,
So hard to earn so easily burned

In the fullness of time,
A garden to nurture and protect
(It's a measure of a life)

The treasure of a life is a measure of love and respect,
The way you live, the gifts that you give

In the fullness of time,
It's the only return that you expect

The future disappears into memory
With only a moment between.
Forever dwells in that moment,
Hope is what remains to be seen.
Forever dwells in that moment,
Hope is what remains to be seen.

In the fullness of time,
A garden to nurture and protect

In the fullness of time,
A garden to nurture and protect
(It's a measure of a life)

In the fullness of time,
A garden to nurture and protect
(It's a measure of a life)

In the fullness of time,
A garden to nurture and protect

2.Marathon- Power Windows, 1985

As a runner myself, a song can’t get much more relevant to my life than Marathon.  Its a song that compares living life to long distance running.  Its a song that means more and more to me as I pursue my running career.  An interesting thing I noticed the last time I competed in a half-marathon was my reaction to nearing the finish line.  I was actually a little disappointed as my race came to end. Not that I was disappointed in how I ran, but it was the realization that the fun part wasn’t the finish, but the whole race itself.  The fun part is purely living in the moment of keeping the pace and not thinking about time and distance passing.  Racing is much harder if you are constantly counting the miles to the finish line.  Likewise, life is more miserable if you are counting down the days and weeks of work or school, waiting for the next day off.    Life passes you by if you are not taking time to notice the present moment.  I think my favorite line of the song is: “You can do a lot in a lifetime 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.”  Its a line that means more to me as I grow and constantly try to improve myself as a runner and as a human being.   

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
More than just survival
More than just a flash
More than just a dotted line
More than just a dash

It's a test of ultimate will
The heartbreak climb uphill
Got to pick up the pace
If you want to stay in the race
More than blind ambition
More than simple greed
More than a finish line
Must feed this burning need
In the long run...

From first to last
The peak is never passed
Something always fires the light that gets in your eyes
One moment's high, and glory rolls on by
Like a streak of lightning
That flashes and fades in the summer sky

Your meters may overload
You can rest at the side of the road
You can miss a stride
But nobody gets a free ride

More than high performance
More than just a spark
More than just the bottom line
Or a lucky shot in the dark
In the long run...


You can do a lot in a lifetime
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...

1.Tom Sawyer- Moving Pictures, 1981

Tom Sawyer has always been one of my favorite Rush songs.  Although when I first heard the song, the meaning of the song eluded me more or less.  It just sounded really cool.  But as I intellectually mature, this song has taken on so much more meaning for me.  This is what drummer and writer of the song, Neil Peart had to say about this song.

“Tom Sawyer was a collaboration between myself and Pye Dubois, an excellent lyricist who wrote the lyrics for Max Webster. His original lyrics were kind of a portrait of a modern day rebel, a free-spirited individualist striding through the world wide-eyed and purposeful. I added the themes of reconciling the boy and man in myself, and the difference between what people are and what others perceive them to be - namely me I guess.”  

I will break down some of the best lyrics in my own eyes.  

“What you say about his company
Is what you say about society
Catch the mist, catch the myth
Catch the mystery, catch the drift

The world is, the world is
Love and life are deep
Maybe as his skies are wide

Today's Tom Sawyer
He gets high on you
And the space he invades
He gets by on you “

“today’s Tom Sawyer” is someone who is an individualist.  Someone who is a bit of a contrarian.  A little alienated from society.  Whether or not you sympathize with this person’s ideals shows how sentimental you are with how society is structured.    

His mind is not for rent to any god or government.

You can’t really peg me any more accurately than that.  As a libertarian-leaning Athiest, I don’t want to rent my intellectual real estate out to any political party, government or religion.  I don’t really even like to label myself “libertarian” or “atheist” anymore because those words usually imply some sort of ideological baggage that I may not necessarily agree with.

Always hopeful yet discontent

Yep.  How could I be as passionate about learning and teaching as I am, if I weren't so hopeful for the future and yet unsatisfied with the way things are?

He knows that changes aren't permanent. But change is.

The way technology is progressing and how weird the world is getting, I think its clear everything about our lives is going to change.  I don’t think it’s useful to get too used to things anymore.  The only thing that is going to be constant will be change and novelty.

Though his mind is not for rent
Don't put him down as arrogant

I probably come off as arrogant in an intellectual way.  If I do, I will try to improve that about myself.  its probably because I only try to express my opinions.  I believe this is the only way to be really intellectually honest.  Opinions are really the only things we have.  If you aren’t expressing your own personal opinion, you're just borrowing from other people.  Essentially you are renting space in your mind out to someone else.  In my opinion, a truly intellectually honest person will have personal opinions some things.  Anything they don’t have an opinion on, will have to admit to ignorance.

“His reserve, a quiet defense
Riding out the day's events”

I’m kind of a reserved person in large social situations and in general.  I’m not one to be a social butterfly or want a lot of attention.  I like to take all of the days events in stride and I try not to let a bad day of work ruin the rest of the day.

“The river”

I think” the river” in this song refers to the stream of experienced consciousness.  If you take things as they come, there's a lot to be said about each and every present moment.  If you focus on living in the moment, there really is a river of conscious perception to be experienced.    

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