The Body Electric: Background

“The [conformist] addressed in ‘Grand Designs’ [from Power Windows] is pictured here. ‘The Body Electric’ observes a compliant consumer who still manages to hear the call of his buried identity and struggles to become authentically human. The title comes from Walt Whitman’s poem, ‘I Sing the Body Electric,’ a long hymn to the beauty and glory of the human body. Why ‘electric? Because, Whitman says, all bodies are charged [with an electricity, the source for which is the soul].”—Carol Selby Price and Robert Price, Mystic Rhythms

“In binary digits, 1001001 [which is a line in the song] is equivalent to the 73 decimal and that is the ASCII [American Standard Code for Information Interchange] equal to the letter ‘I,’ which was banned by society in the Ayn Rand book Anthem. The video of the piece borrows images from George Lucas’ film THX 1138, with its numbered prisoners in the future and the scene where the escapee goes up to the surface of the underground prison and sees the sun. The concept is actually from Plato’s well-known ‘Allegory of the cave,’ where reality as we see it is a shadow of the truth. The Humanoid escapee in the song seems to have traces of humanity inside and tries to break free of its programmed existence.”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

“‘The Body Electric’ depicts a humanoid protagonist’s quest for human selfhood, which depends on the outcome of his struggle to ‘change his program,’ to ‘change his mode’ and ‘crack the code.’ The chorus contains two codes—‘SOS’ and ‘1-0-0’—and is infused with the urgency that ‘SOS’ is meant to telegraph, with Peart’s snare drum punctuating the ‘zero’,’zero’ sung on the second and third beats of each measure. In binary code the numbers ‘1001001’ stand for the capital letter ‘I,’ which in the context of the song refers to the human identity the android is trying to achieve. In ‘The Body Electric,’ code cracking is thematically linked to aspiration and desire, to an ambition to transform oneself.”—John Reuland, “Nailed It,” in Rush and Philosophy.

The song and themes from it and other Rush songs are featured in a 1985 Canadian cartoon called “The Body Electric.”

More about “The Body Electric”

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~ by rvkeeper on January 11, 2011.

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