Lunatic Fringe

Album: As Far As Siam (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 ("On guard this time against your final solution"). >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Raymond - Winnipeg, Canada
  • 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 ethereal 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.
  • This was used in the 1985 movie Vision Quest and included on the soundtrack, which also included Madonna's #1 "Crazy For You" and sold over a million copies. That same year, "Lunatic Fringe" also appeared in the "Smuggler's Blues" episode of Miami Vice, which was based on a Glenn Frey song.
  • 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."

Comments: 24

  • Mgb from Camarillo, CalifI would like to know what type of organ is used in this tune and what type of steel guitar?
  • Brewster from AmericaANTIFA is today's ' lunatic fringe '. Trump supporters have nothing to do with current political violence. Runt is a moron.
  • Whisperin from Atlantic, IowaAs an old rocker (64, rhythm/lead guitar) I've always liked this tune. But like every song (for me, anyway) the lyrics are usually secondary to the music. It's always the music that catches my ear/attention first (as I believe it is with most people) and determines whether I'll listen to it further, learn how to play it, or find out more about the lyrics, lyricist(s), band, etc. I've often wondered about the meaning behind the lyrics of this song, but would still enjoy the music without them. Nice to find out he used a steel guitar to get that sound. I was thinking bottleneck slide.
  • Brewster from AmericaA great song. Probably my favorite. Definetely a studio song. You'd be highly disappointed hearing it played live I would imagine. Nonetheless a fantastic song. Damn near perfect IMO. To hell with the meaning. I listen to music to try to escape politics.BTW when you see some of your favorite bands play your favorite songs it's usually a train wreck anyway. Except for the Eagles and Blue Oyster Cult and a handful of others.
    Brewster out 8-23-2018
  • Kdryan from Fort Wayne, InBTW, it's surprising he could write a thoughtful intelligent protest song like this then follow it up immediately with a piece of cold war propaganda crap like 'Cowboys in Hong Kong.'
  • Kdryan from Fort Wayne, InCochrane has said many times he was writing about the rise of antisemitism and neo-Nazis in Europe at the time. It has nothing to do with John Lennon. If you read the liner notes, the lyrics at the end of the song are slightly different and there is a dedication to Wallenberg.

    Does anyone know what the instrument used in the solo is? It looks like a guitar mounted on a keyboard.
  • Joe from Grants Pass, OrReminds me of "All You Zombies", HUH ??
  • Joe from Grants Pass, OrHow U play slide on Hero really good; is there some cheat somewhere ??
  • Michael from Deridder, Lagood music for a montage or so....has anyone else played this perfectly on Guitar Hero? Me? Just me? is the lonelist number, i guess....

    (p.s. I went to and listened to that thing @ 0:24 and i heard it.....creeped me out a little bit....)
  • Josh from Champaign, IlThis may have been obvious to others but I just noticed what was before to me an inaudible voice under the intro keyboards and guitar 0:24 saying "We'll see you on the other side." with an echo effect.
  • Mac from Evanston, IlBentnail, the "bent" part I agree with, as in "cuckoo," although that may be giving you too much credit: sometimes people are plain evil, and not crazy at all.
  • Mac from Evanston, IlCochrane himself says the song is about anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, his readings about Raoul Wallenberg (the Swedish diplomat responsible for saving a large number of Hungarian Jews during the Nazi occupation, and who disappeared after the war in a Soviet prison camp), and his feelings about resurgent anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. He wrote it before Lennon was murdered, but felt increased motivation to release it after Lennon's death. "Chris in Tulsa"- yes, all those death camps where Christians have been imprisoned, gassed and murdered by Jewish guards. Give me a frickin' break.
  • Keith from Papillion, NeThis time with a reference: Tom Cochrane did indeed write this song over concerns about rising anti-semitism in the 70s. Such Tom verified in the 22 page booklet in the three disc set of greatest hits, Trapeze (2002). Reference: (If you look at the cover of The Symphony Sessions, the arrangement of the guitar and drapes are strikingly reminiscent of a Menorah.) Sorry, Bentnail and James, but your musings about banks and witches are simply wrong. James, covens of Wiccans have been openly active in USA for over 50 years.
  • Rick from Alamo, Txyou want to get goosebumps? I heard that Tom wrote this song the night John Lennon was murdered. Mark David Chapman, now there's a lunatic
  • Brian from Fremont, CaIt would be nice if all of you authorities would support your "knowledge" with sources. Otherwise, this site is a useless source of information. At any rate, the Nazi/Holocaust theory seems most plausible, based on the most obvious direct reference, "final solution". Also, "we can hear your footsteps" might refer to the infamous goosestep of the Nazi troops. As well, "And you hold your meetings" could be a reference to Ku Klux Klan rallies, white supremacy groups, etc.
  • Jude from Baltimore, MdThe song, released in 1981, was widely thought by radio listeners to be a new Pink Floyd song. The song bears many similarities to Pink Floyd's sound during the 1979-era when THE WALL was released (the movie version would be released in 1982), from the Gilmour-like guitar riff to sound effects such as the sound of the ambulance.
  • Bentnail from Calgary, AbSorry to disagree, but "Lunatic Fringe" is without a doubt a song that speaks out against secret societies (hence the all-seeing eye in the video).

    Listen to the lyrics:

    Lunatic fringe, I know you're out there. You're in hiding, and you hold your meetings. We can hear you coming. We know what you're after. We're wise to you this time. We won't let you kill the laughter.

    We know you've got to blame someone, for your own confusion. But we're on guard this time. Against your final solution.

    NOTE: In other words, we know what you elite bankers are up to...we are not stupid...we realize that you are trying to establish your wicked global government, economy, and religion...BUT..."in these new dark ages, there will still be light."

    We will not go down without a fight: "Can you feel the resistance? Can you feel the thunder?"

    other words
  • Aram from Sarajevo, Bosnia And HerzegovinaI love this song. I only figured out last night who sings it by calling one of our local radio stations.
  • James from Chapel Hill, NcThe song Lunatic fringe is actually about a a witches cult that resides in chapel hill northb carolina. The name of the witches cult is the lunatic fringe and they have been around since the 1800's. They are very secretive group that ,at times, causes minor mischief and slight problems for the resident of the U.N.C. campus. The lunatic fringe has been reported as being the closest thing to a real group of witches known in the u.s.a..
  • Mick from Las Vegas, NvWhen Cochrane wrote Lunatic Fringe he was dating a Jewish girl and was disturbed by the resurgence of anti-semitism in Europe and "the lunacy of revisionist historians." His manager at the time warned him that there was no place in "this disposable pop world" for such lyrics.

    Aren't we glad he didn't listen?
  • Pat from Chicago, IlThis song gives me goosbumps everytime i hear it. When i wrestled in high school, we constantly heard this song at meets and practices and it fit perfect for kicking some ass.
  • Ray from Montreal, QcTom Cochrane and Red Rider are the opening act for Bruce Springstein presently touring Canda.
  • Annabelle from Chicago, Il I've always liked this song.It's sounds like a revenge song.The song gives me goosebumps espically after 9-11.This song takes on a whole new meaning!
  • Brad from Spencer, IaJust interested in song lyrics, meaning, and band history. Thanks!
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