The Trees: Background

“In ‘The Trees,’ the maples think that the oaks have too much light, so the maples organize and move to cast off the oak tyranny. The result is that the trees are all made equal by hatchet, axe, and saw.”—Bill Banasiewicz, Rush Visions

Durrell Bowman in his essay “How is Rush Canadian?” in Rush and Philosophy says the piece criticzes the Canadian Content regulations, which were introduced by Ottawa in the 1970s to recognize and separate Canadian artistic content from American content. “One could interpret the narrative solution of this song—legislated equality—as critical of Canadian Content regulations as a variant of affirmative action.” More on this.

“The forest is a mother symbol and may represent the perilous unconscious. C.S. Lewis in ‘Screwtape Proposes a Toast’ discusses how Greek tyrants leveled off tall stalks in corn fields to make them as good or bad (equal) as the rest. Also, the cartoonish images may have been inspired by Dr. Seuss’s book Lorax, published in te 1960s, where the trees are bickering about height. Incidentally, Neil’s pet birds chirp away on the tune.”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

“Lyrically, the song’s a piece of doggerel. I certainly wouldn’t be proud of that. What I would be proud of is taking a pure idea and creating an image for it. I was very proud of what I achieved in that sense. . . . I wrote ‘The Trees’ in about five minutes. It’s simple rhyming and phrasing, but it illustrates a point so clearly. I wish I could do that all the time. It was just a flash. I was working on an entirely different thing when I saw a cartoon picture of these trees carrying on like fools. I thought, ‘What if trees acted like people?’ So, I saw it as a cartoon, really, and wrote it that way.”—Neil in Merely Players

Neil in his book Roadshow talks about a poignant moment with the song while the band was playing in a former communist country, the Czech Republic, during the R30 tour in 2004. “Ray [Danniels, the band’s manager] was in Prague for that show and during intermission, he told me got a kick out of hearing us play the song in a former communist country. That song is a parable about collectivism, in which the maples rebel against the oaks for being so lofty and taking all the light, concluding with, ‘So the maples formed a union, and they passed a noble law / Now the trees are all kept equal, by hatchet, axe, and saw.’ Well, yes, I thought, we were there representing something, and I was proud of that.”

Five “The Trees” tributes.

More about “The Trees”

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~ by rvkeeper on January 11, 2011.

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