Ghost Rider: Background
The song encapsulates the cathartic role of Neil’s 55,000-mile motorcycle journey around North America and parts of Mexico in 1998 after he was struck by personal tragedy.
The piece is a “carafe splashing one of Rush’s greatest examples of passionate melody.”—Martin Popoff, Contents Under Pressure
In the line, “from the lowest low to the highest high,” Neil refers to Telescope Peak, the highest summit in Death Valley, California. His climb to the top of the peak took on new meaning after his descent; his next stop was Los Angeles, where he met his new wife.
“In October 1999, when I had been rambling aimlessly around the West for the better part of a year, trying to find some way to face the world again, I hiked to that 11,049-foot summit. The next day, I rode on to Los Angeles, where I met Carrie, and my whole life changed completely (and needless to say, positively). An irresistible metaphor seemed to arise there—that I had climbed to the highest point in Death Valley from the lowest, then descended to travel onward and find Life again. In the book Ghost Rider I had used Telescope Peak as an important symbol, and had written some lyrics called ‘Telescope Peak,’ too, around the refrain of ‘the last lonely day.’ . . . The best lines from ‘Telescope Peak’ were [used in] ‘Ghost Rider’ and ‘How It Is’ [and other songs], so nothing was lost.”—Neil in News, Weather & Sports, December 2008
During the writing and recording of the Vapor Trails album, the band was on the verge of abandoning “Ghost Rider” until their co-producer and engineer Paul Northfield suggested changes. “He could help us judge the performances as “finished” or “not yet,” and he saw possibilities that sometimes escaped us (urging “Ghost Rider” from the verge of abandonment to its glorious realization, for example).”—Neil in the Vapor Trails tour book
~ by rvkeeper on January 12, 2011.