Vapor Trail

Background and Commentary

“Vapor Trail” is the more informal term for the artificial clouds, or contrails, left behind by the condensed water vapor from the heat of jet engines. The clouds seem so substantial when they’re fresh but they eventually fade away and leave no trace that they were once there.

Purdue University philosophy professor Neil Florek calls the piece Peart’s seminal post-tragic composition and says it’s “symbolizing the tendency for memory to fade, however brilliant or profound the object of the memory, and this is ultra-significant for conscious creatures. Memory is one way to attempt to ‘freeze the fading past,’ but if the memory is subject to gradual disintegration, then freezing either the actual moments of experience or their mental representation is doomed to failure. The ocean, stars, the songbirds, all will fade away. ‘Vapor Trail’ states this simple fact and proposes no solution, ethical or otherwise. A free spirit following Peart’s ethical vision can’t help but ask, ‘Is this the final word? Is there nothing to be done? Should I still attempt to live as if each step was the end?'”—Neil Florek, Rush and Philosophy

Neil’s brother Danny “read the poem ‘Funeral Blues’ by W. H. Auden at his daughter Selena’s funeral. The poem contains the lines “The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun; Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood, For nothing now can ever come to any good.” This inspired the lines “All the stars fade from the night / The oceans drain away.”—Songfacts

Neil also pulled lines for the song from the title of Edward Abbey’s Black Sun, about a loner forest ranger who falls in love with a young woman. The ranger is heartbroken when the woman, who has no affinity for the outdoors, leaves him.

In deciding on what to call the album, Neil says the band’s previous approaches weren’t working, so they chose the song title, “Vapor Trail,” because they liked it best, and “made it plural to refer to all the songs.”—Neil in the Vapor Trails tour book


Stratospheric traces of our transitory flight
Trails of condensation held
In narrow paths of white
The sun is turning black
The world is turning gray
All the stars fade from the night
The oceans drain away

Horizon to horizon
Memory written on the wind
Fading away like an hourglass, grain by grain
Swept away like voices in a hurricane

In a vapor trail

Atmospheric phases make the transitory last
Vaporize the memories that freeze the fading past
Silence all the song birds
Stilled by the killing frost
Forests burn to ashes
Everything is lost

Washed away like footprints in the rain

In a vapor trail

Tablature (Bass)

By Sean Jones (

Excerpted from Ultimate Guitar.

(2x) Stratospheric traces…
H+e e H+e e w h h H+e e H+e e
-4:–10 sec-||-4 mm–||*——-|——-|—|-12\7\-*||——-|——–|

The sun is…
H+e e e s e s e E s s s e e s e s e q E s e s e s e s s e

s s e e s E e E s e e E e s e E s s s s s E E e e s s e e

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

Hey, hey… Horizon to horizon…
e s s s s s s s s s s s s s s e s s s s s s s s s s s
-7\|-2 mm-||*—————–7-7-7-7-7-7—*||-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0–|

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

Fading away…
s s s s s s s s s e s s s s s s s s s s s s s s s s s s s s s s s

For complete tab, go to Ultimate Guitar.


“Vapor Trail” drum cover

Back to Rush Vault

~ by rvkeeper on February 16, 2011.

%d bloggers like this: