Distant Early Warning

GUEST REVIEW: Rush – “Distant Early Warning” (1984) by Aaron Lebold

I asked Aaron Lebold if he wouldn’t mind throwing in a few words about “Distant Early Warning” for my Grace Under Pressure review.  He sent me 772 words!  So here’s an entire separate post for you — Aaron Lebold on “Distant Early Warning”.

 

RUSH – “Distant Early Warning” / “Between the Wheels” (1984 Anthem)

by Aaron Lebold

Mike has asked me to do a review on the song “Distant Early Warning” by Rush.  When I first met Mike I quickly realized that Rush was one of his favorite bands,* and though he showed me a lot of their work, this song was the one that always stuck out to me the most.

My interpretation of the song may be a bit different now than it was when I first heard it; one of the greatest things about music is that its personal meaning can shift depending on what is going on in your own life.  I find musical interpretation to be completely personal, and what you take from it may be completely different than what the artist even intended.**

I was always reluctant to hear the artists of the songs I enjoyed explain them, as it could feel very crushing if the impact it had on me was not the actual meaning. I will explain what this song means to me, but that doesn’t mean I’m right.  It does mean that I am able to see why it had relevance to me, and if you have found a different interpretation, you are not wrong.

“An ill wind comes arising, Across the cities of the plain, There’s no swimming in the heavy water, No singing in the acid rain, Red alert, Red alert”

To me this is the ability to foresee an event, there is a metaphoric storm on its way, and it is serious enough for us to stop our own distractions, and unhealthy coping strategies in order to prepare for what is ahead.

“It’s so hard to stay together, Passing through revolving doors, We need someone to talk to, And someone to sweep the floors, Incomplete,  Incomplete”

This talks about the separation among us as people to me; we all tend to find our own paths and some of us become relevant to each other, where others become lower class, and we may see them as nothing more than the person who is sweeping the floors for us. This type of discrimination makes us incomplete as a human race.

“Cruising under your radar, Watching from satellites, Take a page from the red book, And keep them in your sights, Red alert, Red alert”

This again is a reference to having greater insight than others may possess. Being able to observe a situation undetected and being able to gather forethought about what the results may be.  The Red Book is a reference to Psychology, and this suggests using that manner of thinking as you move forward.

“Left and rights of passage, Black and whites of youth, Who can face the knowledge, That the truth is not the truth, Obsolete, Absolute, yeah”

To me this makes reference to our way of thinking, and things we may have misinterpreted as priority.  Rights of passage is the idea of moving from one group to another, and relates to social classes and advancement. Separating the races of children is another method of creating a divide.  The truth could refer to the idea that we are all one class and one collective  group of people, and that a lot of our perceptions are obsolete in the big picture.

“The world weighs on my shoulders, But what am I to do? You sometimes drive me crazy, But I worry about you”

To me this means that even though I may have my own problems, and I don’t always agree with someone’s actions, I still care for them and can’t help but notice when they seem to be heading in a bad direction.

“I know it makes no difference, To what you’re going through, But I see the tip of the iceberg
And I worry about you”

This basically means to me, that I am aware that my insight does not change your situation, but I can see the bigger picture and it makes me worried about how it may end up affecting you.  The Tip of the Iceberg is of course a reference to the Titanic, and how there is much more lurking under the water than is visible from the surface. The results can be potentially devastating, as they were for the historic vessel.

I can’t recall exactly what drew me to this song when I was younger, and I may have interpreted things differently back then, but the bottom line is that I found relevance and importance in the lyrics.  You may have a completely different take on this song, which is great.  The best thing about music is using it to find our own connections, and get us through our own lives.

Aaron Lebold


* So he thought.  In 1994 I was still a Rush poser.  I only owned Chronicles.  

 

** “Distant Early Warning” was written about the loneliness of someone who worked the DEW Line- a system of radar stations in the far northern Arctic region of Canada set up to detect incoming Soviet bombers during the Cold War, and provide early warning of any sea-and-land invasion. – wikipedia

#574: GUEST SHOT – Association Through Music

GETTING MORE TAKE #574:  Association Through Music
Guest shot by Aaron Lebold

A sequel to #571:  Record Store Tales – A Different Perspective

Before I met Mike, my knowledge of music was pretty minimal, and I had not yet been able to see the influence it could have on daily life.  I mostly listened to what my friends had shown me, which was basically dance and rap music.  I did have a friend who made me a mix tape, it mostly consisted of tracks from one of those Dance Mix [also known as MuchDance] albums, but amongst all that was “Sweating Bullets” by Megadeth.  I listened to this song fairly often.

When I met Mike I absorbed a lot of his musical tastes.  I looked up to him, and he seemed to know a lot about music, and was very passionate about it. Initially I was just enjoying what I liked the sound of, but this eventually shifted to me being a  bit of a music snob, and focusing mostly on the lyrics, and the message of the song.

Some of the first bands Mike showed me were Soundgarden and Rush.*  Once I got more into music I found I enjoyed a lot of Rush’s music, but couldn’t really find much personal value in it.  There was one song, “Distant Early Warning” that I always found to be powerful, and to this day it is still my favorite song by the band.  I have a feeling that Mike still thinks of me when he hears this song.**

I also associate Rush with a different element of my life.  I had a friend who I spent a lot of time with, and  really liked the girl who lived next door to him.  I remember talking to her about music, and at this point I still didn’t really have an abundance of knowledge, so I went with the few things I had learned from Mike at the time.  I told her I liked Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Rush.  I remember her response of “Rush sucks” made me feel a bit embarrassed, because with music in general I really didn’t know what I was even talking about at that point in time.***

Another association I still have to this day is in relation to Soundgarden. It was around the time that Superunknown had been released, and Mike and I were both huge fans of the album.  At this point in my life I was starting to find value in the lyrics, and Soundgarden and Nirvana really had what I was looking for.

I used to live across the street from a public school, and one evening Mike and I went over there and were just belting out the lyrics to “Spoonman.”  I would take the more mellow parts like “All my friends are skeletons,”  and Mike would follow by screaming at full capacity “They beat the rhythm with their bones”.  This would of course prompt us to both yell “Spoonman!” in unison.

I find it pretty extraordinary that music can be tied so tightly to memory.  I saw Soundgarden play in Toronto a couple years back on their reunion tour, and even then I thought of Mike when they went into “Spoonman.”  

If you are interested in learning a bit more about me, please check out my work on Medium.  

https://medium.com/@aaronleboldbmr  

I am in the process of reflecting on my life story.  Feel free to share some of your most memorable events that you use music to help you remember in the comment section below.

Godspeed,
Aaron

* Rush I remember, but I didn’t know I could take credit for getting him into Soundgarden.  That’s pretty cool.  

** I do!

*** Perhaps I should have warned him that girls did not like Rush.