Grand Designs

Background and Commentary

“The title of the song comes from book III of The U.S.A. Trilogy, The Grand Design, by John Dos Passos.”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

Dos Passos’ “grand design” references FDR’s New Deal. The term isn’t used admiringly. Critiquing the New Deal from a conservative perspective, the broad-based effort is seen as an overly ambitious scheme to pull the country out of the Great Depression that’s doomed to fail, because no scheme, no matter how sophisticated, can anticipate and respond to all the dynamics at work in a complex economy like ours.—Rob Freedman, Rush Vault 

“Public opinion, inherited values, political slogans, and religious dogmas substitute for our own critical thinking. And we, lazy slugs, are only too happy to surrender. We loyally march in lock-step conformity with the masses, what Martin Heidegger calls das Mann, more or less the idea of the faceless John Q. Public. Such existence is inauthentic. We were intended for better things.”—Carol Selby Price and Robert Price, Mystic Rhythms

The piece “articulates the myth of individual uniqueness . . . [and along with some other songs] takes on a didactic, proverb-like tone, but the effect is not necessarily one of teaching or persuasion but of recognition.”—Christopher McDonald, Rush, Rock Music, and the Middle Class

In his interview with Rush Vault, McDonald calls the piece a strong example of the band’s focus on individualism at the time. “It sets up this idea of the run of the mill vs. the diamond in the rough, and that one should seek to be true to oneself and be nonconformist, swimming against the stream. Most people are stuck in this two-dimensional life, and it takes real courage and time to be different from that.”—McDonald on Rush Vault

“Rush intended the song to be about contemporary music, which they felt was becoming increasingly image-oriented and superficial.”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

“Very often the guys will have worked out something musically and made a tape of it for which they have nothing in particular in mind. ‘Grand Designs’ was done that way. They had the musical ideas laid out and just made a little tape for me with guitar, keyboards, and drum machine.” (Guitar, 1986)—Neil in Merely Players


A to B
Different degrees

So much style without substance
So much stuff without style
It’s hard to recognize the real thing
It comes along once in a while
Like a rare and precious metal beneath a ton of rock
It takes some time and trouble to separate from the stock
You sometimes have to listen to a lot of useless talk

Shapes and forms against the norm
Against the run of the mill
Swimming against the stream
Life in two dimensions is a mass production scheme

So much poison in power, the principles get left out
So much mind on the matter, the spirit gets forgotten about
Like a righteous inspiration overlooked in haste
Like a teardrop in the ocean, a diamond in the waste
Some world-views are spacious
And some are merely spaced

Against the run of the mill
Static as it seems
We break the surface tension with our wild kinetic dreams
Curves and lines
Of grand designs

Tablature (Bass)

By Sean Jones

Excerpted from Ultimate Guitar.

q q h+ w q q h q q q q q q h+ H q e e
||–4 mm.–||——–|—-||——-|-14-12-14-12\|——-|——|——-

e e e e e e e e e e s s s s e e e e e e e e e s s e e e e e s s

e e e s s e e e e e s s e e e e e s s e e e s s e e e e e s

s e e e e e s s e e 3x e s s e e e s s e e s s s s e e s s s E e

e e e s s e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e s s e e e e e e e e

e e e e e e e s s e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e s s e e e e e

e e e e e e e e e e s s e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e

Ultimate Guitar.


“Grand Designs” guitar cover

“Grand Designs” bass cover

“Grand Designs” drum cover

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~ by rvkeeper on February 7, 2011.

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