Wish Them Well: Background
Neil calls this song the “trouble child” of the Clockwork Angels album.
“Out of all the seemingly more complicated songs, the music for ‘Wish Them Well’ was written and scrapped twice, and the song was almost abandoned. But Geddy liked the lyrics enough to keep trying (thank you!), and the third version pleased everyone. The song also put Booujzhe [producer Nick Raskulinecz] and me to a lot of trouble over the drum part, much more than any other song except ‘Headlong Flight’—that one for its perverse complexity, rather than the exacting simplicity of ‘Wish Them Well.’ Booujzhe and I spent many hours trying out different basic patterns, and juggling their arrangement. (The guys always laugh when I come out of the studio grumbling, ‘I hate that stupid ignorant song!’ [Add expletives to taste.] They laugh because they are the ones who made it that way.) ‘Wish Them Well’ was equally elusive vocally—or at least lyrically. The day Geddy and Booujzhe recorded that vocal in Toronto, I happened to be at home in California, and all day we exchanged texts and emails over the tiniest of alterations, line by line, sometimes word by word. Ultimately it turned out very well, but I admit I still have a bit of a grudge against that song.”
“We always loved the lyrics, but this was a tough song to figure out,” Alex says in a MusicRadar interview. “The first version that we had was so far away from this one. It was a little more ethereal, with delays that were a la The Edge––too much so. We scrapped it and started working on something else that was quite different. And then we scrapped that, too––it just wasn’t right. It happens like that sometimes: you know when you’re forcing it. After the first two versions, we took a whole new approach, with the straight fours and a very traditional chordal progression. It really suited the lyrics. It was defiant, it was a strong statement, and it had enough interest in it to be interesting. Yet it was still very basic in its delivery, which I think is good on a record like this because of all its complexity. I love the way the guitar sounds. It’s huge and classic . . . a sick Marshall sound. Rich [Chycki] is such a terrific engineer.”
Alex talks a bit more about the song’s different iterations in a Metal Express interview. “We got a set of lyrics from Neil that we really liked and we tried to develop some musical ideas but it didn`t seem to be working. With the first version we had parts of it that we really liked but the longer we spent on it the less we liked it. We went ahead with a couple of the other songs and did the [Time Machine] tour [in 2011] and then when we returned to it we decided to scrap the music. We felt the lyrics were strong and were important for the story. The music just was not happening, so we developed a completely different thing and lived with that for a little while, and that was still not getting us off. Finally we went with the approach that you can hear now, which is much more strident . . . . The thing about ‘Wish Them Well’ is that the approach we settled on is a very classic, traditional sounding rock song. The drums are really strident and marching along and the nature of the chords and the chord progressions makes for a classic rock sound.”
Dave Everley of Classic Rock says there’s a “tangible warmth” to the piece that provides for the album’s most uplifting moment.
“A blissed-out romp that starts with a fake-out: Are those white-hot guitars or a cranked-up Hammond organ over Peart’s ramrod drums? Hard to tell, but it’s a magical combo. One of the consistent pleasures of any terrific Rush song – just pick one – is taking in the sheer spectacle of their efficiency, the almost freakish way in which the team always pulls together but everybody gets to be a starter. Here it’s Peart, whose feverish and inventive playing creates its own kind of orbit. But even when the other players are spinning into the far reaches of space (Lifeson’s solo is particularly cosmic), he never leaves them stranded. Lifeson’s guitar takes on a shimmering quality for the ride-out, an unforced jam that moves with the ease of a victory lap.”—Joe Bosso, MusicRadar
Easily the most straight forward number on Clockwork Angels, and possible in the entirety of the Rush back catalogue, ‘Wish Them Well’ is a bit punky, very poppy, and not at all as memorable as it pretends to be. Something of a throwaway tune, it is the one track here that elicits complete indifference, and wouldn’t be missed were it to magically disappear.
“—Dominic Hemy, The Digital Fix
“’Wish Them Well’” would sit quite comfortably on either one of the Roll the Bones or Counterparts releases, with it’s accessible, gentle pop twist. It also has a ‘Bacchus Plateau’ (from Caress of Steel) feel to it.”—Rob Palladino, Audio Times
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