Cygnus X-1: The Voyage

Background and Commentary

“The song was inspired by a Time magazine article on black holes. Producer Terry Brown reads the prologue through a voice synthesizer. The tale is of a space ship journeying into a time warp in the black hole of Cygnus (Greek for dog), which is referred to as the Swan constellation, where scientists believe there might be one (Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan have said that life might exist there). The music can be described as a dark, wrenching, heavy metal vortex. The “sound and fury” allusion is to a line in Shakespeare’s MacBeth, which William Faulkner used for the title of his most famous novel. The allusion to Rocinante is to Cervantes and Steinbeck.”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

“Rocinante was Don Quixote’s horse [from the Miguel de Cervantes novel], and also the name of the truck in Travels With Charley. I just liked it, that’s all. (Backstage Club, 1990). I was never a sci-fi nerd and didn’t watch Star Trek or read science fiction, but then when I was in England, I was poor and couldn’t afford to buy books. So, I was ransacking the closet where I lived and I found a lot of sci-fi. It reintroduced me to the genre and made me realize it wasn’t all about numbers and integrated circuits. It refreshed my idea of what the style was, and that led me into fantasy. It was a whole lot of reading at that time, of being young an interested in fantasy and science fiction and alternative universes. That was all in my reading, so naturally it was reflected in the lyrics.” (Seconds, 1994). Neil in Merely Players

To get the unique sound they wanted for the futuristic epic, they “allocated a day for special effects [at Rockfield Studios in South wales, where they recorded A Farewell to Kings], which you can’t just pull out of a hat. So we messed around and had Alex hook up his guitar through various pedals and we hooked up a bunch of digital units in the control room. We just developed ideas with tape loops, a whole bunch of different sounds.” Terry Brown, producer, in Merely Players

“The menace of the black hole is conveyed through a staccato instrumental passage. The percussion work seems enough to frighten off all but the most hardy character. But the traveler [depicted in the piece] heads onward in his ship, the ‘Rocinante,’ towards the heart of the dead star. But what awaits him is not known, but it is clearly worth the risk. The ship enters the black hole, ‘spinning, whirling, descending like a spiral sea unending.’ A brief phrase, ‘To be continued . . . ‘ closes out the lyrics, and leaves listeners wondering if they’ll ever learn of the fate of the ‘Rocinante.'”—Bill Banasiewicz, Rush Visions


In the constellation of Cygnus, there lurks a mysterious, invisible force: the black hole of Cygnus X-1.

Six Stars of the Northern Cross
In mourning for their sister’s loss
In a final flash of glory
Nevermore to grace the night

Invisible to telescopic eye
Infinity, the star that would not die

All who dare to cross her course
Are swallowed by her fearsome force

Through the void
To be destroyed
Or is there something more?
Atomized…at the core?
Or through the Astral Door?
To soar

I set a course just east of Lyra
And northwest of Pegasus
Flew into the light of Deneb
Sailed across the Milky Way
On my ship, the “Rocinante”
Wheeling through the galaxies
Headed for the heart of Cygnus
Headlong into mystery

The x-ray is her siren song
My ship cannot resist her long
Nearer to my deadly goal
Until the black hole
Gains control

Spinning, whirling
Still descending
Like a spiral sea

Sound and fury
Drown my heart
Every nerve
Is torn apart

To be continued . . .


By Jimmy Pena (

Excerpted from Fretplay.

This is not wholly original. The solo was taken from a previous
version of the tab, done by Blake Butterworth (
The rest of it appears similar, but that’s just because it was mostly done
right the first time. I have included it here because it appears to be
correct, and my purpose is to merge all previous versions to make the most
comprehensive and correct tab, not necessarily an original version.
Standard tuning [EADGBe] (low to high). The key is C.

| = not a standard bar line; just used to separate music
~ = vibrato or held note
h = hammer on
p = pull off
s = slide
b = bend string up to indicated pitch/fret
r = release bend to indicated string/fret
/ = slide up from infinity
\ = slide down into infinity
o \_
o / repeat sign (always look for these!)
[x35553] = fret box; this is a C chord – this is the same as standard
tablature, only turned on its side. Tilt your head clockwise to read.
+-3-+ = this is a triplet indicator

Chord legend:

A : [x0222x]
G : [320033]
C : [x3555x]
F : [xx3211]
D : [xx0232]
Cm : [x35543]
Ab : [466544]


[Riff 1a] [Riff 1b]
A5 C5

[Riff 2b]
[Riff 2a] C
C5 +–3–+ +–3–+

[Riff 3]
D5 C#5 B4 B5 F#7sus4 Asus2

[Riff 4a] [Riff 4b] [Riff 4c]
C#m Em Ab G Ab G Ab G

[Riff 5a] [Riff 5b]
C#m +-3-+ Em +-3-+ Ab +-3-+ G +-3-+

For complete tab, go to Fretplay.


“Cygnus X-1” guitar cover

“Cygnus X-1” bass cover

“Cygnus X-1” drum cover

Back to Rush Vault

~ by rvkeeper on February 3, 2011.

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