"New World Man" -My Interpretation

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One of my all-time favorite songs is from the Canadian band Rush (as if anyone didn't know they were Canadian), called "New World Man" from the 1982 album Signals. Although that album heralded the beginning of Rush's crazy 80's synthesizer period, I still absolutely love it; it's kind of rare for me to enjoy every single track on any given record. At the time of this writing, only Frank Zappa's 1973 MASTERPIECE Overnight Sensation leaps to my mind.


The song is apparently about the USA, and was written with the same attitude that a loving woman would feel toward a wayward man; maybe a lover, maybe a relative, but nonetheless cares about them enough to not only point out their good points, but also to gently remind them of the areas that they’re completely blowing it. Anyway, here goes:




He's a rebel and a runner
He's a signal turning green
He's a restless young romantic
Wants to run the big machine


I took this as describing America as a rebellious upstart that’s full of youthful energy and is chomping at the bit to not only play with the big dogs of the world, but to kick their asses, too.


He's got a problem with his poisons
But you know he'll find a cure
He's cleaning up his systems
To keep his nature pure


There are a couple of ways I interpret this one. Could it be indicating the Puritanism that still seems to be alive and well, or could it mean Prohibition? Either way, the subject has some form of toxicity that seems to be plaguing them.


Learning to match the beat of the Old World Man
Learning to catch the heat of the Third World Man


Now that the New World Man has achieved some of his goals, he also realizes that with power comes responsibility, and that people are looking to him for guidance and leadership, but aren’t finding it.


He's got to make his own mistakes
And learn to mend the mess he makes
He's old enough to know what's right
But young enough not to choose it
He's noble enough to win the world
But weak enough to lose it
He's a New World Man...


This part is self-explanatory and reflects very well how The New World Man is often on the horns of a dilemma.


He's a radio receiver
Tuned to factories and farms
He's a writer and a ranger
And a young boy bearing arms

He's got a problem with his power
With weapons on patrol
He's got to walk a fine line
And keep his self-control


This means, to me, that the USA is a great and diverse nation, full of factories and farm fields, but the power and wealth is starting to go to his head. Armed to the teeth, he is starting to lose his way, and is becoming one of the things he has previously fought bitterly.

Trying to save the day for the Old World Man
Trying to pave the way for the Third World Man


This part points squarely to involvement in both World Wars and the subsequent assistance granted to many countries to help rebuild them. His efforts elsewhere have been met with mixed success.


He's not concerned with yesterday
He knows constant change is here today
He's noble enough to know what's right
But weak enough not to choose it
He's wise enough to win the world
But fool enough to lose it
He's a New World Man...


The final part sums it up very well. Sometimes I can’t tell if we are the smartest people in the world or the absolutely dumbest ones, and our nation seems to be a mass of glaring and often incompatible contradictions, but it’s where I happen to live, so I’ll deal with it as best I can.


Pardero Added Mar 18, 2018 - 1:17pm
Michael B.
Great article! I like Rush. Geddy Lee is a brilliant lyricist. My favorite politician, Rand Paul is also a fan. 
I love the riffs in Limelight. Maybe you can remind me of the tune that featured Aimee Mann?
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 18, 2018 - 1:20pm
Pardero, without looking anything up, the only time I've heard a female voice (outside of Geddy Lee's lol) on a Rush song was "Time Stands Still" from Hold Your Fire.
Pardero Added Mar 18, 2018 - 1:24pm
Michael B.
That's it!
Thank you. Too bad I have a blown woofer. I may crank it presently, anyway.
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 18, 2018 - 1:30pm
I like that song, but I was glad that album was the beginning of the end of the dreaded keyboard period, lol. Still, their worst is still much better than many others; best!
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 1:34pm
Rush wrote about America earlier in their career on the Fly by Night LP, a song called Beneath,Between,Behind, to mark our bicentennial:
Ten score years ago, defeat the kingly foe
A wondrous dream came into being
Tame the trackless waste, no virgin land left chaste
All shining eyes, but never seeing
Beneath the noble birth
Between the proudest words
Behind the beauty cracks appear
Once with heads held high
They sang out to the sky
Why do they bow their heads in fear?
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 1:35pm
thats not the whole of it, but you get the gist of it
Pardero Added Mar 18, 2018 - 1:48pm
The Burghal Hidage,
Tremendous recall on your part. One of my favorites is Spirit of Radio. Really liked the use of Sound of Silence lyrics.
Pardero Added Mar 18, 2018 - 1:54pm
To no one in particular,
Off topic as all get out, but the
Sound of Silence cover by Emiliana Torrini is a fantastic Ennio Morricone-esque delight that should not be missed.
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 1:56pm
Decent one, Permanent Waves, yes.  Natural Science the most memorable track there, IMHO....
the most endangered species? the honest man
and  science, like nature, must also be tamed
Peart is brilliant
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 18, 2018 - 2:06pm
I saw Rush twice; Frankfurt Germany in 1992 and the Hollywood Bowl in 2004. Both were incomparably AWESOME!!! The Frankfurt gig was cool because we got good spots, close enough to see them sweating. They were very dot-like at the Hollywood Bowl (not so good seating), but still a great concert. I wish I would have been able to see them back in the 70's, but that's what YouTube is for, lol.
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 18, 2018 - 2:08pm
TBH, I never realized that - I'll have to have a Rush retro marathon soon! Fly by Night is classic, but I always thought that Caress of Steel and A Farewell to Kings were under-rated albums, but that's just me.
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 2:13pm
Caress of Steel was Lifeson's "Steve Howe" period, I like to think.
Farewell to Kings was phenomenal. I wrote a piece about its 40th anniversary a couple months ago
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 2:13pm
You have to take Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres as a pair, though
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 2:14pm
The whole Cygnus X-1 mythos.....great when the entire thing is performed as a suite
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 2:16pm
saw that performed on the Hemispheres tour in '78 at Mershon Auditorium at OSU campus
Pardero Added Mar 18, 2018 - 2:17pm
Michael B.
If album notes don't show the individual contributions, is there any way to determine who wrote the lyric part of each song? 
It appears that Peart wrote many of the lyrics but didn't Lee write some, too?
I may just be showing my ignorance by attributing everything to to the presumed frontman.
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 2:22pm
Pearts lyrics. Geddy just provides killer bass and and an ugly face :)
Oh, all right....I guess he sings too!
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 18, 2018 - 2:22pm
TBH, awesome! I'm jealous! And you're absolutely right about Cygnus X-1!
One of the things I love about Prog Rock in general is the almost complete lack of songs about love, relationships, women, broken hearts, and all of that shit.
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 18, 2018 - 2:23pm
Pardero, although Lee and Lifeson undoubtedly contribute, Peart has always been their lyricist, and they all seem to be happier and much better for it. Neil Peart is one of the coolest dudes on the planet as far as I'm concerned.
Pardero Added Mar 18, 2018 - 2:30pm
Michael B.
Not the first time I have made a total fool of myself. In a way it is a relief the TBH's "ugly guy" didn't write those great lyrics.
Excuse me, I am cranking Time Stands Still until stuff vibrates off shelves.
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 2:34pm
rock on, freaky bro!
Pardero Added Mar 18, 2018 - 2:36pm
Whoa, I noticed some Tom Cochrane while digging around for some Rush.
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 18, 2018 - 2:44pm
Pardero, I'm strained to see how you made a fool of yourself. Quite the opposite; you and TBH just rocketed to the top of my WB cool book, lol!
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 2:46pm
If I had a rocket launcher..... That Tom Cochrane?
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 2:48pm
you could maybe use some of us old farts around, MB....you are an X-er?
Pardero Added Mar 18, 2018 - 3:06pm
The Burghal Hidage,
I only know a few tunes such as Life Is A Highway and Lunatic Fringe. Do not know the rocket launcher song ; )
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 18, 2018 - 3:07pm
TBH, most definitely an X-er! I like old farts, and younger ones too, as long as they're cool, lol.
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 18, 2018 - 3:08pm
BTW, TBH, WTF does that mean? I could look it up, but I'd rather hear it from you, lol.
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 3:08pm
Oh, from Red Ryder....yeah, yeah....they later released Neruda,a good LP
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 3:09pm
as an X-er you've probably had some kind of exposure to Spongebob Squarepants? That doesn't presume children, dude. Cartoons are cool for grown ups too....
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 3:11pm
in a perfect universe the part of Patrick Star would be voiced by Gregory Peck. Imagine that stentorian timbre uttering that famous line: Every kind of paint comes out with something!
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 3:14pm
An X-er not too young for Gregory Peck?
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 3:15pm
If they showed you the film To Kill a Mockingbird in school....that guy
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 18, 2018 - 3:18pm
TBH, I meant, what does The Burghal Hidage mean, lol. Also Gregory Peck is one of my all-time favorite actors, with Moby Dick and MacArthur being my favorite movies of his.
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 3:23pm
Oh....too detailed to explain in comment thread. Get with Pard, he can get you a back channel so you can get the whole skinny.
There ya go Pard! You've been outed as a co-conspirator. Don't worry, I got yer six bro. Got people out west too :)
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 18, 2018 - 3:39pm
Need to obtain some gardening supplies friends. See you some time Tuesday
Pardero Added Mar 18, 2018 - 4:14pm
The Burghal Hidage,
Don't forget the asparagus and rhubarb starts.
Pardero Added Mar 18, 2018 - 4:28pm
Michael B.
Burghal Hidage was a system of fortifications that Alfred the great and progeny used in defense from the Danes. Burh=fortification,town +hidage=hides, a measurement for determining men from the region.
I can only speculate, but such a system could have significance to those with similar sensibilities of those populating the American Redoubt. 
Pardero Added Mar 18, 2018 - 4:30pm
Men per fort
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 19, 2018 - 8:56am
Thanks for clearing that up...sooo, I guess your Vietnamese counterpart would be called The Cu Chi Tunnels? lol
Pardero Added Mar 19, 2018 - 10:06am
Rush was one of my brother's bands. I borrowed and listened until I had to get my a couple of my own. 
I only have a few CDs but that includes Chronicle 1 and 2.
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 19, 2018 - 11:01am
You have good intuition Pard. Your concluding sentence is the perfect short version of the significance in the name. The history is correct also :)
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 19, 2018 - 11:03am
Rhubarb abounds here!  I'm only getting some seed starts now. Damn it! Almost 60 yesterday and today, cold wet tomorrow and snow Wednesday. Global warming my ass!
Morgoth Added Mar 19, 2018 - 11:25am
Rush is one of my favorite bands.  I saw them in concert twice, they put on a great show.  
The least favorite part of growing old is watching the bands I idolized get old as well.
Pardero Added Mar 19, 2018 - 11:29am
The Burghal Hidage,
That is warm. Sounds like a good climate for self-sufficiency gardens.
Pardero Added Mar 19, 2018 - 4:57pm
Michael B.
If you would like the e-mail address of a certain colorful character, I have permission to supply it to you. It is a good source for entertaining prose.
wsucram15 Added Mar 20, 2018 - 9:48am
The working title of the song was"project 3:57", it was only put on the side to fill empty digital space. It eventually came in at the needed 3:42.  Oddly enough it was the only song they ever had that cracked #1 in Canada and broke top 40 in US.
That has always blown my mind about them, their music is incredible and they have one of the best bands (at least rhythm section) ever created and they only broke chart sales once.    Would never know that at a concert though.  Great band.
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 20, 2018 - 3:34pm
It's Geddy's vocals.....puts off too many people
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 20, 2018 - 3:35pm
Pard -  the fella I was mistaking earlier in thread.... Bruce Cockburn. He had a song I remember called "If I had a rocket launcher"
Pardero Added Mar 20, 2018 - 5:13pm
Yeah, I always had a tough time with the screechy vocals. 
Female artists sing to me,
male artists in my stead, and I have a resonant baritone.
The Burghal Hidage,
I see you are into other than just that hippie stuff ; )
I was once crazy about Krafrwerk but you wouldn't know it now that I am usually content with a girl with a guitar.
Pardero Added Mar 20, 2018 - 5:13pm
Pardero Added Mar 20, 2018 - 5:14pm
Was it a play on If I Had A Hamner?
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 20, 2018 - 5:18pm
No....it was political...just remember the verse " If I had a rocket launcher some son of a bitch would be dead tonight"  
Cockburn (pronounced Co-burn) is(was?) a Canuck....northern Ontario, I think.
You are a fan of Joy Division....I suggest you check out the band Interpol, songs Evil and Obstacle 1.  You'll think you are listening to Ian Curtis
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 20, 2018 - 5:20pm
I like some of the old Kraftwerk.....if you like these I could suggest the German duo, Burger-Ink. An instrumental piece called Jealous Guy from Memphis
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 20, 2018 - 5:25pm
You might also enjoy The Orb.  A project of DJ Alex Patterson, sometimes reminiscent of Pink Floyd.  The song Little Fluffy Clouds is one you might know. It was featured as music on some Volkswagen commercials. There is a live recording of it featured on the 2 disc set, Orb Live 93, from a performance in Tokyo. The intro they put on that version of the song is priceless
Pardero Added Mar 20, 2018 - 7:59pm
The Burghal Hidage,
Damn, you know a lot of music! I am just a dabbler. Have heard some Cockburn, and he is good. I am just about to check YTube for Burger-Ink and The Orb. I am really into female vocals, though trying to think of the American that reminds of him...
I am getting old and like a lot of gentle stuff. Just adore The Innocence Mission. Still putting out gentle records. 
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 21, 2018 - 4:43am
The Innocence Mission! Yes! The Color Green.....what a beautiful piece of music. If you like the female vocals and ethereal sound you should check out the catalog of The Cocteau Twins. Elizabeth Fraser has an amazing set of pipes. You know that theme song to House MD? A song by the band Massive Attack. On the show you do not get the vocals, but it features Liz on vocals
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 21, 2018 - 4:45am
Along same vein find Noonday Underground's Barcelona
Pardero Added Mar 21, 2018 - 4:57am
The Burghal Hidage,
I am on an oilfield location. Easy money.
You never cease to amaze me on music. 
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 22, 2018 - 9:02am
Think I'll crank up some 2112 this morning.....
Pardero Added Mar 22, 2018 - 11:10am
The Burghal Hidage,
Good stuff. I used to listen to my brother's Rush records. At tge time, I was pretending to be a punk and new wave purist but was unable to resist Rush.
Michael B. has been quiet. I hope he doesn't mind the chatter on his fine article.
Michael B.
Just say the word and we can chatter elsewhere. Never meant to take away from your fine article.
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 22, 2018 - 2:06pm
Ah, c'mon Pard! Give the kid a break! He's an X-er.....he's got to be at work to pay for our social security :)
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 22, 2018 - 2:07pm
you didnt think they could print all  of those dollars
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 22, 2018 - 7:51pm
@ Jeanne - Remember CREEM? I remember once seeing a photo of Geddy Lee in one issue, with the caption comparing him to Teety Bird on helium, lol.
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 22, 2018 - 7:53pm
@ Pardero and TBH - No problem, dude! If, as a Rush fan, I cannot provide a sanctuary for other Rush fans, my life must be terminated IMMEDIATELY, lol.
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 22, 2018 - 7:54pm
I heard Kraftwerk! Another band I've listened to more and more the last several years. Trippy Kraut shit for sure.
Pardero Added Mar 22, 2018 - 7:57pm
The Burghal Hidage, 
That laugh is out loud funny.
Pardero Added Mar 22, 2018 - 8:03pm
Michael B.
You are all right. 
Quit slamming Brits and Canucks, me and TBH can't supply you with all the likes this article deserves. All you got left is humorous dystopian philosophers and crusty antisemitic truck drivers and some mystery admirer or two.
Really enjoyed this article. You are right, great song. Listened a bunch of times from my Chronicle 2 CD set.
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 22, 2018 - 8:31pm
Thats right Mikey! We know Nigel dresses funny and has peculiar teeth, but he's your cousin so play nice or I'll send you to stay with your French cousins instead! See how you like that!
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 22, 2018 - 8:50pm
Thanks Pardero, you also are a cool dude. Regarding my "hit pieces", as long as my country, my culture, and my people are being attacked, I will respond in kind. I'm powering up against those Swiss rats again, lol.
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 22, 2018 - 8:52pm
TBH, I play nice with everybody as long as they play nice with me, and even many who do not. Regarding the French, at least their women are prettier than equivalent Limey prick pouches, and their food goes without saying, lol.
Pardero Added Mar 22, 2018 - 8:52pm
Even the French don't like the French. They are sly, though. They named the mountains Grand Tetons, knowing the English are too pompous to learn another language. An Englishman would have never gotten away with Big Tits.
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 22, 2018 - 9:10pm
That's true! For some reason, I'm reminded of an incident during WW2 - Some American officers were in Australia setting up some kind of base, which they (probably accurately) named "Lackanookie", and when questioned by their Australian hosts about the meaning of the name, they said it was that of a great Indian Chief and warrior.
Pardero Added Mar 22, 2018 - 9:12pm
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 23, 2018 - 12:59pm
We've used that Indian name thing many times. For example: the state of Iowa. The story goes that it is the name of a tribe. It is not. Ask anyone in Wisconsin or Minnesota and they will tell you that it is in fact an anagram: Idiots Out Walking Around
TexasLynn Added Mar 25, 2018 - 8:06pm
Very late to this thread.  Good post, liked your interpretation and agree with much of it.
Rush wasn't my favorite group in my youth... but they were pretty good.  I was more into Pink Floyd, and the Eagles.  Signals was my favorite Rush album though I really like the song Young Tom Sawyer from Moving Pictures.
A relevant bit of trivia is that the band (and especially their album 2112) was key to the plot of the book "Ready Player One".  The movie adaption will be released this week (3/30) and I believe some of their music will be in the soundtrack... though I don't know if the plot retained the original importance of Rush.
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Mar 27, 2018 - 12:13am
Thank you, TexasLynn! I'd be shocked if I ever heard a Rush song on a movie soundtrack; much like Led Zeppelin, they don't seem to like having their songs in movies, or at least none that I can recall. I'm actually eager to see the movie now, lol.