Grand Designs: Background

“The title of the song comes from book III of The U.S.A. Trilogy, The Grand Design, by John Dos Passos.”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

Dos Passos’ “grand design” references FDR’s New Deal. The term isn’t used admiringly. Critiquing the New Deal from a conservative perspective, the broad-based effort is seen as an overly ambitious scheme to pull the country out of the Great Depression that’s doomed to fail, because no scheme, no matter how sophisticated, can anticipate and respond to all the dynamics at work in a complex economy like ours.—Rob Freedman, Rush Vault 

“Public opinion, inherited values, political slogans, and religious dogmas substitute for our own critical thinking. And we, lazy slugs, are only too happy to surrender. We loyally march in lock-step conformity with the masses, what Martin Heidegger calls das Mann, more or less the idea of the faceless John Q. Public. Such existence is inauthentic. We were intended for better things.”—Carol Selby Price and Robert Price, Mystic Rhythms

The piece “articulates the myth of individual uniqueness . . . [and along with some other songs] takes on a didactic, proverb-like tone, but the effect is not necessarily one of teaching or persuasion but of recognition.”—Christopher McDonald, Rush, Rock Music, and the Middle Class

In his interview with Rush Vault, McDonald calls the piece a strong example of the band’s focus on individualism at the time. “It sets up this idea of the run of the mill vs. the diamond in the rough, and that one should seek to be true to oneself and be nonconformist, swimming against the stream. Most people are stuck in this two-dimensional life, and it takes real courage and time to be different from that.”—McDonald on Rush Vault

“Rush intended the song to be about contemporary music, which they felt was becoming increasingly image-oriented and superficial.”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

“Very often the guys will have worked out something musically and made a tape of it for which they have nothing in particular in mind. ‘Grand Designs’ was done that way. They had the musical ideas laid out and just made a little tape for me with guitar, keyboards, and drum machine.” (Guitar, 1986)—Neil in Merely Players

More about “Grand Designs”

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~ by rvkeeper on January 11, 2011.

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