The Big Money

Background and Commentary

“The genesis of the song is the first book of The U.S.A. trilogy by John Dos Passos in the 1920s. It deals with the J.P. Morgan loans and the economic causes of World War I. I didn’t want the voice of the song to be totally in the voice of a cynical, anti-corporate reactionary, though, because things like the Ford Foundation do accomplish a lot of good. I mean, the church and worthy events like Live Aid are big money, too.” (Boston Globe, 1985)—Neil in Merely Players

The piece is a “parable of how power tries to corrupt. While the song keeps hammering home the theme of monetary success, it also deals with other sorts of power, in venomous asides, whether fame or religion. ‘It’s a Cinderella story . . . a war in paradise.’ Sonically, it shows how the band is advancing to a new musical age. The influences of the past few years [reggae, ska, jazz fusion, etc.] have been absorbed beyond the point of recognition.”—Bill Banasiewicz, Rush Visions

In the same way that Dos Passos uses experimental literary techniques to tell his story (“camera eye” stream of consciousness and “newsreel” excerpts of headlines and articles), the song uses an experimental motif: the TV game show.—Rob Freedman, Rush Vault

“We see a stark contrast between ‘Something for Nothing’ and ‘The Big Money.’ Both titles, both songs, use mercantile imagery. You might even say the listener addressed in ‘Something for Nothing,’ waiting for someone else to come and solve his problems, is hoping to be discovered and seduced by Big Money. On its own terms, ‘Something for Nothing’ is telling you your dreams won’t be realized for free. But ‘The Big Money’ adds to that picture the warning that you can pay too much for the realization of your dreams, namely your soul. Being a sold-out phony is hardly better than being a lazy zero.”—Carol Selby Price and Robert Price, Mystic Rhythms

“The song is a tour de force of arrangement, mood, movements, and emotional ebbs and flows, quite a handful for the radio hit it was.”—Martin Popoff, Contents Under Pressure

“The music sounds like it’s a game show theme. ‘Spinning wheels’ might refer to game shows like Wheel of Fortune. Originally written as ‘big wheels,’ the line could refer to people in power.”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

“That was a tough one that took a long time to complete. It was recorded in Montserrat. The guitar was tuned up a whole step with the E string at Fs, and I played a lot of open chords. I did a lot of drop-ins where I hit a chord and let it ring, then dropped in the next chord and let it ring and so on. When we started recording the song, it sounded too ordinary, so we tried dropping in those chords during the verses as an experiment. I remember doing the solo in this studio in England, SARM East, which is in the East End of London. We set aside a week for solos, last-minute vocals and mixing. The control room was tiny; there was barely enough room for me to turn my body around when I was playing, but I got a really great sound with the repeats and lots of reverb. I loved to be soaked in that kind of effect at the time. I used a white modified Fender Strat that I called the ‘Hentor Sportscaster.’ The name came from Peter Henderson, who co-produced Grace Under Pressure. The amp setup was a couple of Dean Markley 2×12 combos, two Marshall 2×12 combos, two Marshall 100-watt JCM800 heads and two 4×12 cabinets. I also ran a direct signal. By that time I had a pretty comprehensive rack with two TC Electronic 2290s and a 1210 that I used for phasing, and I had a Roland DEP-5.”—Alex in a 1996 Guitar World interview


Big money goes around the world
Big money underground
Big money got a mighty voice
Big money make no sound
Big money pull a million strings
Big money hold the prize
Big money weave a mighty web
Big money draw the flies

Sometimes pushing people around
Sometimes pulling out the rug
Sometimes pushing all the buttons
Sometimes pulling out the plug
It’s the power and the glory
It’s a war in paradise
It’s a Cinderella story
On a tumble of the dice

Big money goes around the world
Big money take a cruise
Big money leave a mighty wake
Big money leave a bruise
Big money make a million dreams
Big money spin big deals
Big money make a mighty head
Big money spin big wheels

Sometimes building ivory towers
Sometimes knocking castles down
Sometimes building you a stairway
Lock you underground
It’s that old time religion
It’s the kingdom they would rule
It’s the fool on television
Getting paid to play the fool

Big money goes around the world
Big money give and take
Big money done a power of good
Big money make mistakes
Big money got a heavy hand
Big money take control
Big money got a mean streak
Big money got no soul

Tablature (Bass)

Excerpted from Ultimate Guitar.

w +w +w +w w +w +w +w w +w +w +w w +w +w

+H q e e e e e e e e e e e e 8 e e q e e q 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 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

For complete tab, go to Ultimate Guitar.


“The Big Money” guitar cover

“The Big Money” bass cover

“The Big Money” drum cover

Back to Rush Vault

~ by rvkeeper on February 7, 2011.

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