Subdivisions: Background

“‘Subdivisions’ deals with growing up in suburbs—alienation, dreams, conformity—as Alex explores more of an angular, textural guitar sound and synths take over more. Contrary to popular belief, Neil does not sing the part ‘Subdivisions’ (nor does Alex, who filled in for concerts and the video promo). It was actually Toronto newsman Mark Dailey’s voice.”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

“I had been working on some lyrics and had come up with ‘Subdivisions,’ an exploration of the background from which all of us (and probably most of our audience) had come from. . . . I listened closely [to the music Alex and Geddy were creating for the song], picking up the variations on 7/8 and the way the guitar adopts the role of rhythm section while the keyboards take the melody, returning to bass with guitar leading in the chorus, then the mini-moog taking over again for the instrumental bridge.” (Stories from Signals)—Neil in Merely Players

The piece “brings home to many young Rush listeners that face of conformity that they most often see: the anonymity of the suburbs. Here the forces toward conformity are two. First is the very structure of suburban life, with its limiting, stifling options. Second is the gravity of peer pressure that is so hard to defy.”—Carol Selby Price and Robert Price, Mystic Rhythms

“We longed to break out of the boring surrounding of the suburbs, and the endless similarities, the houses after houses after houses that were the same, and no trees and the shopping plazas and all of that stuff. Our way of trying to be different and our way of not wanting to conform was by growing our hair long. This music that we were into spoke to us in a way that was a vehicle for us to speak out against whatever you speak out against when you’re a teenager. That’s part of teenage life is going through all these hormonal and psychological changes that you don’t even know what you’re doing half the time. We were growing our hair, we were playing in a band, we thought we were kind of hip. I guess we thought we were kind of cooler than the next guy, but we probably weren’t.”—Geddy on In the Studio with Redbeard

“Rush addressed the anti-conformist theme numerous times before and after the song’s release, but ‘Subdivisions’ provides a clear and engaging introduction to some of the key mythologies of middle-class identity and the suburbs. Rush portrays the North American suburb as a place where quiet and comfort is privileged in place of stimulation; a place that traps young people in ennui and conformity; a place hostile to dreamers and misfits. The bureaucratic rationality and ‘geometric order’ of the suburb hold sway over the chaotic, unpredictable, but ultimately creative character which presumably resides in young people who seek escape.”—Christopher McDonald, Rush, Rock Music, and the Middle Class

“Geddy does a great job of switching from a synth lead to a bass line during the chorus, but you can barely hear guitar until the closing section of the song. [The under-production of guitar is a problem throughout Signals.] Alex wanted to expand his rhythmic role in the band and Geddy was anxious to use the keyboards as the lead instrument on at least some songs. While this sounded like an interesting idea at least in theory, it would cause problems and create tensions in practice. The band entered Le Studio [in Quebec] on April 21 [1982]. They would not leave until July 15.”—Bill Banasiewicz, Rush Visions

The piece is one of five songs for which Rush was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010. The other four are “Closer to the Heart,” “The Spirit of Radio,” “Tom Sawyer,” and “Limelight.” At the induction ceremony, Jacob Moon performed the piece as a solo act using two guitars. How he came to be selected to perform the piece is an interesting story.

More about “Subdivisions”

Assorted “Subdivisions” tribute versions.

Back to Rush Vault

~ by rvkeeper on January 11, 2011.

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