Ghost Rider

Background and Commentary

The song encapsulates the cathartic role of Neil’s 55,000-mile motorcycle journey around North America and parts of Mexico in 1998 after he was struck by personal tragedy.

The piece is a “carafe splashing one of Rush’s greatest examples of passionate melody.”—Martin Popoff, Contents Under Pressure

In the line, “from the lowest low to the highest high,” Neil refers to Telescope Peak, the highest summit in Death Valley, California. His climb to the top of the peak took on new meaning after his descent; his next stop was Los Angeles, where he met his new wife.

“In October 1999, when I had been rambling aimlessly around the West for the better part of a year, trying to find some way to face the world again, I hiked to that 11,049-foot summit. The next day, I rode on to Los Angeles, where I met Carrie, and my whole life changed completely (and needless to say, positively). An irresistible metaphor seemed to arise there—that I had climbed to the highest point in Death Valley from the lowest, then descended to travel onward and find Life again. In the book Ghost Rider I had used Telescope Peak as an important symbol, and had written some lyrics called ‘Telescope Peak,’ too, around the refrain of ‘the last lonely day.’ . . . The best lines from ‘Telescope Peak’ were [used in] ‘Ghost Rider’ and ‘How It Is’ [and other songs], so nothing was lost.”—Neil in News, Weather & Sports, December 2008

During the writing and recording of the Vapor Trails album, the band was on the verge of abandoning “Ghost Rider” until their co-producer and engineer Paul Northfield suggested changes. “He could help us judge the performances as “finished” or “not yet,” and he saw possibilities that sometimes escaped us (urging “Ghost Rider” from the verge of abandonment to its glorious realization, for example).”—Neil in the Vapor Trails tour book


Pack up all those phantoms
Shoulder that invisible load
Keep on riding North and West
Haunting that wilderness road
Like a ghost rider

Carry all those phantoms
Through bitter wind and stormy skies
From the desert to the mountain
From the lowest low to the highest high
Like a ghost rider

Keep on riding North and West
Then circle South and East
Show me beauty but there is no peace
For the ghost rider

Shadows on the road behind
Shadows on the road ahead
Nothing can stop you now

There’s a shadow on the road behind
There’s a shadow on the road ahead
Nothing can stop you now

Sunrise in the mirror
Lightens that invisible load
Riding on a nameless quest
Haunting that wilderness road
Like a ghost rider

Just an escape artist
Racing against the night
A wandering hermit
Racing toward the light

From the white sands
To the canyon lands
To the redwood stands
To the barren lands

Sunrise on the road behind
Sunset on the road ahead
There’s nothing to stop you now
Nothing can stop you now


By jonathanr

Excerpted from Ultimate Guitar.

Intro/verse gtr.1(clean, no treble)

Intro/verse gtr.2(slightly distorted, but clear lead tone)

Verse gtr.3

For complete tab, go to Ultimate Guitar.


“Ghost Rider” guitar cover

“Ghost Rider” bass cover

“Ghost Rider” drum cover

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~ by rvkeeper on February 16, 2011.

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