Vital Signs

Background and Commentary

“‘Vital Signs’ closes the picture show, continuing the softly pulsing legacy of exploring what can be called exotic, technology-steeped reggae, a slight and side preoccupation began one record previous [Permanent Waves], to be revisited on Signals, double that on Grace Under Pressure.”—Martin Popoff, Contents Under Pressure

In the piece, “free will is assumed, as well as our capacity to choose our dreams based on our basic values. ‘Vital Signs’ specifies virtues which must be developed and fully engaged if our dreams are to be realized. The quirky, even funky rhythms and relatively spare arrangement sonically frame a passionate plea to avoid the vice of conformity and actualize our dreams through courage and persistence.”—Neil Florek, Rush and Philosophy

“The song [the last on the album] reprises many of the themes of Moving Pictures: the inability to absorb all the events flashing by and the struggle to achieve balance.”—Bill Banasiewicz, Rush Visions

“We purposefully left one song still unwritten with a view of writing it in the studio. Eclectic in the extreme, it embraces a wide variety of stylistic influences, ranging from the sixties to the present [1981]. Lyrically, it derives from my response to ‘Technospeak,’ the language of electronics and computers, which often seem to parallel the human machine, in the functions and interrelationships they employ. It is interesting, if not irrelevant, to speculate as to whether we impose our nature on the machines we build, or whether they are merely governed by the same inscrutable laws of nature as we [are]. (A Rush Newsreel) That song took about three tours to catch on. It was kind of a baby for us. We kept playing it and wouldn’t give up. . . . It opens up so many musical approaches. Everything we wanted in the song is there. So, it’s very special for us. But we had to wait. We had to be patient and wait for the audience to understand us.” (Guitar, 1986)—Neil in Merely Players

“Keeping with the album themes, there’s even a cinematic touch in the line ‘pause rewind replay.’ Geddy actually sings ‘evelate’ instead of ‘elevate’ near the end.”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

For a little more on the “evelate” matter, go here.


Unstable condition
A symptom of life
In mental and environmental change
Atmospheric disturbance
The feverish flux
Of human interface and interchange

The impulse is pure
Sometimes our circuits get shorted
By external interference
Signals get crossed
And the balance distorted
By internal incoherence

A tired mind become a shape-shifter
Everybody need a mood lifter
Everybody need reverse polarity
Everybody got mixed feelings
About the function and the form
Everybody got to deviate from the norm

An ounce of perception
A pound of obscure
Process information at half speed
Pause, rewind, replay
Warm memory chip
Random sample, hold the one you need

Leave out the fiction
The fact is, this friction
Will only be worn by persistence
Leave out conditions
Courageous convictions
Will drag the dream into existence

A tired mind become a shape-shifter
Everybody need a soft filter
Everybody need reverse polarity
Everybody got mixed feelings
About the function and the form
Everybody got to elevate from the norm


By J-Punk (

Excerpted from Fretplay.

Notes: This is kind of 2 guitars for 1. Guitar 1 (the top 3 strings) is clean with chorusing. Guitar 2 (the bottom 3 strings) is distorted. I supplied the counting. (This one’s tricky.)


(fade in) intro fill
1 2 3 4 1(2)+ + + 1 2 (3,4)

2 4 2 + 1 3 1 + 4

Play verse x5 (fill to prechorus 5th x, I can’t figure it out)

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Play a few times, then
1 + + + + + 3

For complete tab, go to Fretplay.


“Vital Signs” guitar cover

“Vital Signs” bass cover

“Vital Signs” drum cover

Back to Rush Vault

~ by rvkeeper on February 5, 2011.

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