My Favorite Headache: Background
The album’s opening track is also one of the heaviest, with Geddy sounding a little like the late Layne Staley of Alice in Chains in much the same way as he does in “One Little Victory” on Vapor Trails. The title phrase “my favorite headache” comes from a story by Geddy’s collaborator on the album, Ben Mink (the violinist in “Losing It” on Signals), in which he says that his mother used the term to describe the things one loves to do—indeed, has to do—even though they’re a headache.—Rob Freedman, Rush Vault
“Ben’s dad was telling him a story about something that happened to his mother, and he said, in his Polish accent, ‘and right away, she gets the favorite headache.’ Once I stopped laughing, I realized what a great phrase that is, and I became determined to use it. It represents my sort of reluctant relationship with making music: I love it passionately, but it drives me crazy, because once I get into a project I’m completely consumed by it.”–-Geddy in Bass Player magazine, January 2001
With that as the background to the title phrase, the meaning of the lyrics become unclear, since the piece appears to be about bowing out, becoming a spectator rather than a creator. By contrast, the piece “Working at Perfekt” seems to be exactly about Geddy’s relationship to music, as he describes it.
“The piece showcases Geddy’s use of multiple bass tracks and bass chords. “The most aggressive guitar sound on the record is not a guitar, it’s a bass, playing these really outrageous chords.”—Ben MInk in 2000 My Favorite Headache video press release
“In ‘My Favorite Headache,’ Geddy Lee lets us know whom we’re listening to right up front. That serrated bass riff and its chunky sound leave us with no question. The vocal melody and the words put to it evoke thoughts of madness and nihilistic hopelessness. The lyrics are a bit esoteric, which is unusual for Rush, but this is not Rush, and Peart is not holding the pen. My own feeble attempt to penetrate the lyrics and give them meaning would lead us to believe that the song is about (at least in part) how television is replacing our observations of the natural world around us (“I watch the sea / I saw it on TV”).”—Epignosis on Prog Archives
“The grinding bass riff that opens the title track . . . is a bit misleading, as the rest of the album won’t be quite as heavy. This is still a great standout on the album. The distorted guitars coming in in a decidedly NON-Lifeson manner and Geddy’s voice echoing in screams make for a mind blowing entrance to the album. As stated before, this is not the way the rest of the album will flow. However, what this song does is basically say, ”Okay, we got the aggression out of the way. Let’s focus more on the emotion, shall we?”—King By-Tor on Prog Archives
“Things get started with the title track, one of my favorites on the album. Geddy really shows off his bass playing skills on this one. Check out his playing during the intro! This is the only song where his playing really stands out. Great song!”—Mellotron Storm on Prog Archives