Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact
Album: As Far As SiamReleased: 1981
Red Rider was led by guitarist Tom Cochrane, who had a solo hit in 1991 with "Life Is A Highway." He wrote this song after reading about Raoul Wallenberg, who worked to free Hungarian Jews during World War II. The song speaks against the oppression of Jews in America, which Cochrane felt was far less overt but still disturbing. Cochrane even mentions the "Final Solution" in the lyrics, which refers to Hitler's wish that all Jews be eliminated.
Speaking with the Toronto radio station Boom 97.3 in 2017, Tom Cochrane talked about getting resistance to this song. "Everybody was saying, 'What are these lyrics? These are way too heavy for rock and roll. Why don't you just get down to writing a pop song? Just write some pop lyrics and let's get on with it.' And I thought, 'No, this is important to say.'
The song speaks out against racism, it speaks out against a number of things, and it topically is current today, I suppose, as it was back then in some ways. It's about being vigilant, about our freedom."
Cochrane adds that while recording the song, he found out John Lennon had been killed. "It just hit me like a ton of bricks and I thought, here's a guy that always wore his heart on his sleeve. For better, for worse, these lyrics are going to stand. I didn't think the song would see the light of day because it was just so different, so unique. I'm very proud of this song. It's probably one of the more unique pieces of music I've ever written."
The etherial intro was created by the Austrian musician/producer Peter Wolf, who later co-wrote and produced Starship's hits "We Built This City
" and "Sara
." When Red Rider toured with Jefferson Starship in the early '80s, Grace Slick asked Tom Cochrane about the "Lunatic Fringe" intro, which may be how Peter Wolf came to her attention.
The song had to be re-recorded because the master tape fell apart. This was devastating for the band, but they ended up with a better version, complete with the Peter Wolf keyboard intro - he wasn't part of the first recording.
The solo that comes in at 2:30 is a steel guitar played by band member Ken Greer. Their drummer, Rob Baker, handled the harmonica part.
For some, this song took on new meaning when Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in 2016. Todd Rundgren
told Rolling Stone
, "The undercurrent of indigence and violence and hate, as evidenced by the election of Trump, makes this an evergreen song. But now the lunatic fringe is no longer the fringe."