The Fountain of Lamneth: Background

“The second half of Caress of Steel contains Rush’s first side-long composition. On the cover of the record, six individual songs are listed, but even a casual listen reveals they are meant to be taken as a whole. There are several recurring musical and lyrical motifs, and the tracks all melt into each ether. The epic appears to be about a man’s compulsion to see and taste the world, and if possible to understand what these experiences mean. The traveler finds that the key, the end, the answer, is that there is none. Even with the strict time limits, you can hear how the band is developing its compositional skills. The playing is solid, with definite signs of improvement, but it is not as noticeable as the leaps in technique made from the first to the second album.”—Bill Banasiewicz, Rush Visions

Alex in 2013 listed the “Panacea” portion of the song as among Rush’s worst, saying they were trying to do something with it but it just didn’t work out. “It was . . . innocent.”

Reaching the Fountain of Lamneth
Graham Whieldon

“[The song] was just something we had to do. But it’s kind of absurd. I mean, it’s just where we were at. We were a young band, a little pretentious, full of ambitions, full of grand ideas, and we wanted to see if we could make some of those grand ideas happen. And ‘Fountain of Lamneth’ was the first attempt to do that. And I think there are some beautiful moments, but a lot of it is ponderous and off the mark. It’s also the most time we ever had to make a record. I think we had a full three weeks, and we were just indulging ourselves.'”—Geddy in Contents Under Pressure

The piece is “considered by some to be overly ambitious and convoluted. . . . The first song in the suite recounts the birth of the child and his bond with his mother. The ‘valley’ is a classical symbol of fertility and creation. The fountain represents the life-force of man, situated at the center of the four rivers of paradise on earth. Carl Jung [the influential psychologist, contemporary of Freud] called this the ‘land of infancy’ that arises when life is inhibited. The mountain is an ascension symbol, the place where the philosophers dwelled (hence it was a symbol of the intellect). Fields of dew is a spiritual metaphor. ‘No One at the Bridge’ opens with sounds of waves as it describes the sea of alienation and the bridge to maturity. The troubled waters may be symbolic of the unconscuous as well.”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

Alex points to the influence of Gensis and GTR songwriter and guitarist Steve Hackett in influencing the sound he strived for in the album, and particularly on the solo in “No One at the Bridge.” He’s “so articulate and melodic, precise and flowing. . . . The solo is almost a steal from his style of playing, It’s one of my favorites.”—Alex in Merely Players

In reference to “Panacea,” the title is “Greek for ‘cure-all’ and the song recounts the ‘discovery’ of the opposite sex, almost a mother figure again. Homer’s navigation epic, The Odyssey, may have inspired this suite as Panacea could be a Calypso or Circe, an enchantress or siren who lured the hero Odysseus to stay with her on the island. The next lines were to follow the question, ‘have I left my life behind?’ but Neil vetoed these and a few other stanzas before finalizing the song: ‘The symmetry of snowflakes / In the music of the stream / A symphony of springtime / In the shadow of a dream.’ In ‘Bacchus Plateau,’ the traveler is at a crossroads. He discovers wine as a temporary distraction or panacea. Bacchus was the Roman equivalent of the Greek god of wine and fertility. Dionysus would appear in future Rush songs [most notably in ‘Cygnus X-1: Hemspheres’]. The cask of ’43 symbolizes the futility of existence [although here’s another view of this] and the goblet, of possibilities. Originally, the chorus went, ‘You’ve something more to give / I guess it doesn’t matter / You’ve so much more to live.’ Neil changed his character’s outlook for the final lyrics: ‘There’s not much more to live.'”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

“‘The Fountain of Lamneth’ predates epics like ‘2112’ and the Cygnus X-1 series, and is only 34 seconds shorter than ‘2112.’ It also forms a complete story, this one about a man in search of the Fountain of Lamneth, and chronicles the individual occurrences of his journey. Regarding ‘Didacts and Narpets’ (which consists mostly of a drum solo), in the October 1991 news release from the Rush Backstage Club, Neil Peart said: ‘Okay, I may have answered this before, but if not, the shouted words in that song represent an argument between our hero and the Didacts and Narpets—teachers and parents. I honestly can’t remember what the actual words were, but they took up opposite positions like: “Work! Live! Earn! Give!” and the like.’ A didact is a teacher, and ‘narpet’ is an anagram of parent.”—Wikipedia

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~ by rvkeeper on January 11, 2011.

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