Background and Commentary

“Mission” was inspired by a conversation Neil and Geddy had in the 1980s about people they knew in their age group (mid-30s at the time) who remained dissatisfied with their lives, unfulfilled, and asked them questions like, “How old were you when you knew what you wanted to do?”

“It seemed like we had always known [what we wanted to do],” Neil says in his book Traveling Music “but I decided to try writing a song from that point of view—not as someone who already had a mission, but someone who was searching for one (or, if not actively searching, at least waiting).

“In praising great works of art, music, books, painting, architecture, and movies, the ‘narrator’ of the verses says, ‘I wish I had that instinct, I wish I had that drive.’ The chorus celebrates the heroes—‘Spirits fly on dangerous missions, imaginations on fire’—then, in the middle-eight section (really a middle thirty-two), I pulled the focus back to the struggle and suffering some of those artists had gone through to live their lives and produce their works: ‘If their lives were exotic and strange, they would likely have gladly exchanged them / For something a little plain / Maybe something a little more sane.’

“I had been thinking of people like Vincent van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, or F. Scott Fitzgerald, people who lost themselves in the struggle for their art. . . .” Neil in Traveling Music

“‘Mission’ is a meditation on the drives and demons of the greatly gifted. The real genius is the one born both with great ability and with an inborn drive that will allow him to see that ability. The great creator has little choice in the matter: he must create or be himself destroyed. Such is the power of the creative urges swelling within.”—Carol Selby Price and Robert Price, Mystic Rhythms

“It relates to the creative process, the burning desire to do something and how important it is to keep your fire lit regardless of what you have to do. It relates to holding your inner flame. (Off the Record) It basically grew out of a conversation Neil and I had about the kind of people we consider ourselves to be, people who always knew what they wanted to do. We knew we would always play music in some way. ‘Mission’ also looks sadly at the people who have never really been sure what they should be doing and have never really had a clear-cut idea where to put their creative abilities.” (Bass Player)—Geddy in Merely Players

“‘Mission’ is a song Peter Collins [producer on Hold Your Fire] just loved. And at some point in Britain, when we were working in it, he really wanted to do what he called The Full Monty—put orchestra and choir on it—and there’s a particular sound of an English brass band, which I guess is something he grew up with that we had no feel for, the kind of band you saw in the park on Sunday playing the gazebo. He was kind of obsessed with finding an authentic one. And he tracked one down in the north of England, and he wanted them to play on this track. We were really working hard on that record, and there was this weekend where this band was available. We were all supposed to fly up there to record them, and we just said, ‘Look, Pete, you go. You know what you want, and we’re pooped. Why don’t you go and record them? This will be a treat for you.’ And he did. And he brought it back, and he was all excited about it, of course. And we never really shared the same enthusiasm for it. And, in the end, the version of the song that we released is kind of stripped down. I don’t think we used the brass band very much. So, there is another version of that song that exists that I hope we’ll release that has The Full Monty on it.”—Geddy in Contents Under Pressure


Hold your fire
Keep it burning bright
Hold the flame ’til the dream ignites
A spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission

I hear their passionate music
Read the words that touch my heart
I gaze at their feverish pictures
The secrets that set them apart

When I feel the powerful visions
Their fire has made alive
I wish I had that instinct
I wish I had that drive

Spirits fly on dangerous missions
Imaginations on fire
Focused high on soaring ambitions
Consumed in a single desire

In the grip of a nameless possession
A slave to the drive of obsession
A spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission

I watch their images flicker
Bringing light to a lifeless screen
I walk through their beautiful buildings
And I wish I had their dreams
But dreams don’t need to have motion
To keep their spark alive
Obsession has to have action
Pride turns on the drive

It’s cold comfort
To the ones without it
To know how they struggled
How they suffered about it
If their lives were exotic and strange
They would likely have gladly exchanged them
For something a little more plain
Maybe something a little more sane

We each pay a fabulous price
For our visions of paradise
But a spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission


By bkowalski27@gmail

From Ultimate Guitar.

This riff and the solo are the only guitar parts in this song. The rest of the lead is synth.

Mission Riff


“Mission” guitar cover

“Mission” bass cover

“Mission” drum cover

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~ by rvkeeper on February 8, 2011.

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