The Wreckers

Background and Commentary


Neil gives credit for lines in the piece to British author Daphne du Maurier, arguably Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite writer. Hitchcock’s The Birds is based on her short story of the same title and she also wrote Rebecca, which Hitchcock turned into another classic film. “‘The Wreckers’ was actually from Daphne Du Maurier,” Neil says in a 2012 Classic Rock interview. “That’s been in my mind for 30 years. I guess it’s an episode in Jamaica Inn.”

“This Daphne Du Maurier novel Jamaica Inn describes these people called ‘The Wreckers’ on the coast of the Cornwall in Britain,” Neil says in a June 12, 2012, Rolling Stone interview. “They would not only plunder shipwrecks, but they would actually put up a fake light and attract the ships in a storm to crash on their shores so they could loot them. It’s just a shocking example of inhumanity, and it happens to be a true story. I wove it all of that into the story of this album.”

Watch official lyric video for the piece.

For the music, Neil says in the same interview, Geddy and Alex switched instruments as way to get fresh ideas. They were in a small studio at Revolution Recording in Toronto in October, 2011, just after the Time Machine tour ended. “To keep the writing fresh, one day they even tried switching instruments—Geddy on guitar and Alex on bass—and they turned out a richly melodic song called ‘The Wreckers.’ They joked that playing the ‘wrong’ instruments had turned them into the Barenaked Ladies. (I happened to run into Ed Robertson around that time, and he had a good laugh about that.) [Robertson is co-founder of and guitar player for the band.] But once we switched to recording mode, it was back to the ‘same old us.’”

Alex described the instrument-switching in a Classic Rock magazine interview this way: “Ged and I were getting these drum tracks back from Neil and were like, ‘My god, that’s amazing—he never plays like this!’ There are so many parts and so many cool things and consequently, that gets you all fired up and you try a bunch of different things—hence, Ged and I swapping instruments on ‘The Wreckers.’ We were on a break and Ged picked up one of my guitars and he started messing around, and I remember he got up and came back with some lyrics. Then he sat in the corner playing the melody for the verses and I thought, ‘Wow, this sounds great.’ He just wanted to put it down very quickly and I grabbed his bass and we ended up recording the demo with him playing guitar and me playing bass— it was great! He played on the record, but it’s my bass part, which is really cool. When we swap instruments, we sound like Barenaked Ladies, which was a surprise. We had to Rush-ify the song.”

Alex says it was a struggle to get the verses to “sit” properly with the music. “The acoustics were too sweet,” he says in a MusicRadar interview. “They didn’t feel right. There was a contrast that didn’t feel broad enough. So after a lot of hard work, we came up with the quick strumming and putting the harmonics in, and that created a beautiful moment. This is contrasted by the sound of a danger signal: Don’t accept everything at face value. Be careful. Things that might look so good could turn out to be the exact opposite. There’s a middle section where all the damage is done—I’m trying to explain it without getting into the whole story—and that came from one of our soundcheck jams. Once we got the strings and the bass pedals down, it all became such a visual moment in the song. ‘The Wreckers’ has a real pop feel. It’s not heavy, but it’s emotionally tied to a strong rock presence. The verses are some of my favorite Rush moments ever.”

The song ends with a fade-out on the solo. Alex says in a Metal Express interview that they did that for simplicity’s sake. “There’s so much going on. There’s an orchestra playing, strings and keyboards stuff going on. The solo per se is not a flashy solo, it`s more a double stringed screen that exists under there, so it’s more of a whole composition of sound rather than a straight ahead solo.”

“A big, brash British power chord opening, evoking so many things Who and Kinks, lights up this one-of-a-kind winner. There’s so much that’s good about ‘The Wreckers’ that it’s hard to know where to begin: the way Lifeson flamenco strums his guitar and how Peart catches and accents his every move; how Lee sings huskily and wistfully, revealing previously untapped emotions; and the gleeful way the band bodysurfs giant waves of sound, crashing against one another and stirring up their own kind of current. This is the kind of song that engages you on so many levels—you like it because it sounds great, because it’s being played by Rush and you’re thrilled that they can push all the right buttons, but mostly because it renews your faith in the idea that rock music still has crazy and beautiful places to go.”—Joe Bosso, MusicRadar

“This one has an old pop rock feel to it, characterised by jangly and melodious guitars. Along with ‘Halo Effect’, these two show Rush can still write these great radio-friendly hits, and do it far better than most. Not one of the stronger songs on the record, it is still a very pleasant number that adds yet more dynamism to this enthralling show as the orchestra swells to a crescendo, and even has a massive guitar line bursting out to take us to the fade.”—Dominic Hemy, The Digital Fix

“The mid-nineties indie rock bounce of ‘The Wreckers’ bucks the heavy trend, and is one the poppiest points on the album.”—Rob Palladino, Audio Times

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NARROWLY ESCAPING A FROZEN DEATH IN THAT DESERT, I made my way back to Poseidon, and found a berth on a homeward ship. Caught in a terrible storm, we seemed to find salvation in an unexpected signal light. Steering toward it, we soon learned it was false – placed by the denizens to lure ships to their doom on the jagged reefs. They plundered the cargos and abandoned the crews and passengers to the icy waves.

I was the only survivor.

The breakers roar on an unseen shore
In the teeth of a hurricane
We struggle in vain
A hellish night – a ghostly light
Appears trough the driving rain
Salvation in human chain

All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary
Of a miracle too good to be true
All I know is that sometimes the truth is contrary
Everything in life you thought you knew
All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary
‘Cause sometimes the target is you

Driven aground, with that awful sound
Drowned by the cheer from ashore
We wonder what for
The people swarm through the darkling storm
Gather everything the can score
‘Til their backs won’t bear any more

The breakers roar on an unseen shore
In the teeth of an icy grave
The human chain leaves a bloody stain
Washed away in the pounding waves

All I know is that memory can be too much to carry
Striking down like a bolt from the blue


By Spence

Excerpted from Ultimate Guitar.

Tuning: Standard

Intro Riff:


Verse: Strum each chord up and down as sixteenth notes.


Repeat until the pre-chorus:


Chorus (Listen for the strum pattern) (Repeat as necessary for the different choruses):


Repeat everything and then back to intro again.

Bridge (nice and slow):







For complete tab, go to Ultimate Guitar.


“The Wreckers” guitar cover

“The Wreckers” bass cover

More about “The Wreckers”

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~ by rvkeeper on June 6, 2012.

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