The Big Money: Background

“The genesis of the song is the first book of The U.S.A. trilogy by John Dos Passos in the 1920s. It deals with the J.P. Morgan loans and the economic causes of World War I. I didn’t want the voice of the song to be totally in the voice of a cynical, anti-corporate reactionary, though, because things like the Ford Foundation do accomplish a lot of good. I mean, the church and worthy events like Live Aid are big money, too.” (Boston Globe, 1985)—Neil in Merely Players

The piece is a “parable of how power tries to corrupt. While the song keeps hammering home the theme of monetary success, it also deals with other sorts of power, in venomous asides, whether fame or religion. ‘It’s a Cinderella story . . . a war in paradise.’ Sonically, it shows how the band is advancing to a new musical age. The influences of the past few years [reggae, ska, jazz fusion, etc.] have been absorbed beyond the point of recognition.”—Bill Banasiewicz, Rush Visions

In the same way that Dos Passos uses experimental literary techniques to tell his story (“camera eye” stream of consciousness and “newsreel” excerpts of headlines and articles), the song uses an experimental motif: the TV game show.—Rob Freedman, Rush Vault

“We see a stark contrast between ‘Something for Nothing’ and ‘The Big Money.’ Both titles, both songs, use mercantile imagery. You might even say the listener addressed in ‘Something for Nothing,’ waiting for someone else to come and solve his problems, is hoping to be discovered and seduced by Big Money. On its own terms, ‘Something for Nothing’ is telling you your dreams won’t be realized for free. But ‘The Big Money’ adds to that picture the warning that you can pay too much for the realization of your dreams, namely your soul. Being a sold-out phony is hardly better than being a lazy zero.”—Carol Selby Price and Robert Price, Mystic Rhythms

“The song is a tour de force of arrangement, mood, movements, and emotional ebbs and flows, quite a handful for the radio hit it was.”—Martin Popoff, Contents Under Pressure

“The music sounds like it’s a game show theme. ‘Spinning wheels’ might refer to game shows like Wheel of Fortune. Originally written as ‘big wheels,’ the line could refer to people in power.”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

“That was a tough one that took a long time to complete. It was recorded in Montserrat. The guitar was tuned up a whole step with the E string at Fs, and I played a lot of open chords. I did a lot of drop-ins where I hit a chord and let it ring, then dropped in the next chord and let it ring and so on. When we started recording the song, it sounded too ordinary, so we tried dropping in those chords during the verses as an experiment. I remember doing the solo in this studio in England, SARM East, which is in the East End of London. We set aside a week for solos, last-minute vocals and mixing. The control room was tiny; there was barely enough room for me to turn my body around when I was playing, but I got a really great sound with the repeats and lots of reverb. I loved to be soaked in that kind of effect at the time. I used a white modified Fender Strat that I called the ‘Hentor Sportscaster.’ The name came from Peter Henderson, who co-produced Grace Under Pressure. The amp setup was a couple of Dean Markley 2×12 combos, two Marshall 2×12 combos, two Marshall 100-watt JCM800 heads and two 4×12 cabinets. I also ran a direct signal. By that time I had a pretty comprehensive rack with two TC Electronic 2290s and a 1210 that I used for phasing, and I had a Roland DEP-5.”—Alex in a 1996 Guitar World interview

More about “The Big Money”

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~ by rvkeeper on January 11, 2011.

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