Music Mondays: Chemistry

Once more, it’s Music Monday!

Today: chemistry, but also neurobiology. But the song is called Chemistry – here’s Rush, from the 1982 album Signals (sorry, no cool video):

Signals transmitted
Message received
Reaction making impact
Oh, but how
Do we make contact
With one another?
Electricity, biology?
Seems to me it’s chemistry

Here the lyrics are playing with a double meaning of “chemistry”, I think – the chemistry of neurotransmission (“electricity, biology”) but also the chemistry of interactions between people and between people and music. Rush was known for its frequently intellectual lyrics*, and this isn’t their only song about science: among others, there’s Natural Science and, arguably, Roll the Bones (which I’ve always thought was heavily influenced by Stephen Jay Gould’s Wonderful Life).

And now for this week’s I-just-like-it bonus: Mary Gauthier’s Mercy Now. I’ve chosen this performance of the song both because it’s superb, and because I’m thoroughly enamoured with the beard her violinist, Michele Gazich, is sporting.  If I could grow that beard, I would; but I can’t.

See you for more next week.

© Stephen Heard  August 16, 2021

Image: Acetylcholine, a critical vertebrate neurotransmitter. © CCoil via CC BY-SA 3.0

*^Although with an unfortunate dalliance with the “philosophy” of Ayn Rand, early in their careers; you can see it, for example, in The Trees. The good news is the Neil Peart disavowed Rand later.


3 thoughts on “Music Mondays: Chemistry

  1. Philip Moriarty

    Thanks for this post, Stephen. “Signals” is such a great album and allusions/reference to science are everywhere in Peart’s lyrics, not least the wonderful closing track: “This magic day when super science mingles with the bright stuff of dreams.” (I just love how “Countdown” builds musically and rhythmically towards take-off…)

    Peart’s lyrics on Signals are among some of his best — there is no better paean to the disaffected geeky youth than “Subdivisions”. At his best, he combined the intellectualism to which you refer with a wonderful lyricism. But he also contributed his fair share of stinkers over the years. (As Primus, who were massively influenced by Rush, put it, “They can’t all be zingers.”) I give you “Virtuality”…

    “Net boy, net girl
    Send your signal ’round the world
    Let your fingers walk and talk
    And set you free”

    The Ayn Rand thing was indeed unfortunate. “Anthem”, the first song on the first album Peart recorded with Rush (“Fly By Night”) is essentially a potted version of Rand’s “philosophy”. Peart disavowed this, as you say — arguing that he just needed to grow up. Rational Wiki’s entry on Rand kicks off with a neat quote:

    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

    Anyway, as you can tell, I’m a bit of a Rush fan…

    Liked by 2 people


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