Roll The Bones
by Rush

Album: Roll The Bones (1991)
Charted: 49
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  • Neil Peart ("Roll The Bones Radio Special"): "Roll The Bones' is the perfect title, because through all of the thoughts that I go through on the album, about all these nasty things that happen, and all these terrible things that could happen to you: a drunk in a stolen car could run over you on your way home tomorrow night, and you could have the best-laid plans for what you want to do, but there's still that element of chance that it could all go wrong. But the bottom line of that is, 'Take the chance, roll the bones.' If it's a random universe, and that's terrifying and it makes you neurotic and everything, never mind. You really have to just take the chance or else nothing's going to happen. The bad thing might not happen but the good thing won't happen either, so that's really the only choice you have."
  • Geddy Lee (October 1991): "I guess that track is something that was influenced by more of the spoken word stuff that is going on, although I can't sit here and say I'm a fan of rap. I like some rap things, but a lot of I don't like. I think there's some of it that's really well done - there are some clever people out there. But it's also not a new influence. People are talking about rap music like it's something new - it's not new at all. It's been around for over a decade, if not always in one form. And there are songs, like 'Territories,' where we have used a similar kind of thing, although it was never related to rap because it wasn't the music of the moment - so we have used spoken word sections before."
  • Peart (1991): "The song 'Roll the Bones' is full of any number of little decisions that I had to make about what I thought, and how best to express them and how to introduce the idea that yes we do have free will and yes we do have choices, and yes our choices do affect the way our fates turn out. But at the same time, there are always these wild cards that are going to come along, sometimes tragically, sometimes triumphantly. The motto comes down to 'Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst'."
  • Geddy Lee (October 1991): "This one is written more from Neil's point of view. The lyrics were written very much in concert with contemporary rap music: the way the words react against each other and the structures form more in sympathy with what's going on in a contemporary rap way. To a degree we are having fun with that. We couldn't make up our minds really if we wanted to be influenced by rap or satirize it, so I think that song kind of falls between the cracks and in the end I think it came out to be neither, it came out to be something that is very much us."
  • Neil Peart ("Roll The Bones Radio Special"): "Yeah, that started off as a lyrical experiment for me; I was hearing some of the better rap writers, among whom I would include like LL Cool J or Public Enemy, musicality apart, just as writers, it was really interesting. And it struck me that it must be a lot of fun to do that; all those internal rhymes and all that wordplay and everything. That's meat and potatoes for a lyricist; it's stuff you love to do and can seldom get away with being so cute in a rock song. So I thought, "Well, I'll give it a try," and I submitted actually I think the song "Roll The Bones" without that section to the other guys and got them to like it, and said, "Well, I have this other thing I've been working on, and see what you think." You know, not knowing how they'd respond, but I'd had the fun of doing it and I've been rejected before; my notebook's full of things that haven't made it too, so that was the situation there. And they got excited about the idea, but then how to treat it was the other question, and we did think of trying to get a real rapper in to do it, and we even experimented with female voices, and ultimately found that that treated version of Geddy's voice was the most satisfying as creating the persona that we wanted to get across, and was also the most satisfying to listen to. And with the female voice in it, it wasn't as nice texturally going by, where Geddy's voice treated like that became a nice low frequency sound, and you could listen to it just as a musical passage without having to key in on the lyrics or anything, just let the song go by you. And it was pleasant to the ear, so I think that was probably one of the big factors in choosing that. We'd even been in contact with people like Robby Robertson; we thought we'd like to try his voice on it and had contacted his office, and so on. John Cleese we thought of; we were going to do it as a joke version, get John Cleese in it: "Jack, relax." Get him to camp it up, but again from the musicality and longevity factors, that would have got tired quickly; that's the trouble with jokes." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mike - Mountlake Terrace, Washington, for all above
  • The "rap" parts are the electronically-enhanced voice of Geddy Lee. Rupert Hine, who produced the track, explained: "After initially wanting a variety of 'famous voices' for that part (the final favourite of which was John Cleese) we finally decided that it should be less of a 'cameo role' and more 'self-contained.' Geddy asked me to do it, but after some experimentation we managed to effect his own voice to achieve a similar apparent depth."
  • This song took on new meaning for Neil Peart after two tragedies in 1997: his daughter died in a car accident and his common-law wife was diagnosed with cancer (she died a short time later). Peart questioned why this could happen, and in doing so, revisited the themes in this song, once again concluding that events take place "because stuff happens."

Comments: 21

  • Rolo from HuntsvilleIt's not even an official 'rap' section, Peart on many occasions said they refer to it as a 'The Chat' which is something they made their own which makes it awesome.
  • Patrick from Bedford, TxEver want to find the intersection of s--tty middle-school libertarianism and nihilism? Well, friend, you're in luck: this song is for you! If you've already met those conditions, you probably won't mind the super-appropriationist quasi-rap section. I started with high hopes, but this is becoming dire. On to "Face Up."
  • Charlene from San Diego, CaI love this song. I love this album. I love the video. This album brings back a lot of memories for me. I listen to it at work all the time.
  • Derek from Columbus, OhThe people who think this song is crap because of the rap section are probably the same ones who thought Rush was crappy for trying more synthesizer-sound back in the 80s. We all know how that turned out, don't we? This song is just fun, no matter how you look at it.
  • Stacie from St.louis, Momike from canada you are ridiculous!! nothing by rush is a disgrace! its symbolism for those who dont understand it!! try listening to what they are saying! i feel like nobody understands them but me..
  • Crizzle from Rincon, GaThe music video (not the one on this page put the actual one) is funny cuz its got a rapping skeleton w/ sunglasses, IN A RUSH SONG. Dat funny bizness.
  • Kevin from New York, Ndrap in a rush SONG? WTF
  • John from Asheville, NcI'm going to go on record as one of four people on the planet who don't mind the rap section. I think there's kind of a tech-geekness to it. The modulated voice is a must. Had Ged just used his voice I think it might've come off serious...but I think there's a cheeky charm to it. And I love the chorus. I do think the song is overplayed live....
  • Don from Franklin, MaAbout Roll the Bones itself, I dont wince as much as I used to for the, er, spoken word portion. But I've always thought it would be better done with a woman's voice - done in a sort of cajoling purr, as if Eris herself was goading you to get out there and rock, and roll the bones.
  • Don from Franklin, MaThis album marks my first Rush concert, though I'd been a fan since Power Windows. Its also my 'perfect moment' - the opening of the concert. The lights go down, and the opening chords of Dreamline start playing, then Geddy starts to sing, and then at the point where the song picks up, a massive bank of flood lights bathes the stage and the audience in light. Everyone roars with joy, and for that one, perfect moment, everything in the world is right, cause' I'm a Rush fan and the boys are on stage.
  • Sandi from Northbridge, MaWhy in this world would you ever take out a piece of the song? That is like taking out the lips on the MONA LISA...
  • Chuck from Houston, TxI don't care for this Rush song, the first song on the album (Dreamline) was the only song the band did all through out the 90's that I felt carry weight. In my mind, everything from "Test for Echo" up to now has been nothing but garbage. I do respece the band's willingness to try different things, that being said, Looking back in hinesite, there 70's - 80's material is worth still going for the show when they come to town. It's a good thing for them they can still play those songs the same way they did when they came out.
  • Itchy from Sf, CaI absolutely hate the rap part in RTB.....and I'm a long time hiphop fan. The rap in that song used to spoil listening to that album for me. So, I actually edited a version of "Roll The Bones" on my computer and removed the rap section from the song. The song is just great without it. Then I burned a CD of the album with the edited RTB.
  • Chuck from Houston, TxThis song would have been great if they just cut the rap s**t out. As capable as the band is in playing there music, rather live or in studio, there are some elements out there that they shouldn't try to touch - ever again - rap is one of them. They could try Reggie, but the Police have covered that area very well for a rock trio.
  • Brendan from Easton, CtNo, I don't think so. It is different from most Rush, but it is still very good. And you gotta love Geddy Lee in that hysterical rap section in the middle. Tell me that wasn't funny.
  • Mike from Bradford, CanadaThis is by far Rush's worst song and it is a disgrace to the band
  • Kent Lyle from Palo Alto, CaAlex Lifeson, who hadn't sung backing vocals on a studio album since their debut in 1974, decided to sing backing vocals on this album for reasons which were never entirely made clear. He did not continue this on subsequent albums. It's hard to tell since we are so used to hearing Geddy harmonize with himself, but there are sections where a voice an octave lower than Geddy's can be heard, and the two voices do not mesh particularly well. That's probably Alex. In this song, I think he sings the "We go out in the world and take our chances..." pre-chorus.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesWhether or not they were influenced by the rap boom is anyone's guess, but Rush' 1981 hit "Tom Sawyer" was sampled by a rap act (the short-lived Young Black Americans) - see my entry in the 'Tom Sawyer' comments section
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesThis song has an excellent video, set in a sewer where the walls are made up of dices. The young boy on the album cover of Rush 1992 long-player of the same name comes to life. The band are shown playing in a cavern just round the corner from the young boy. The "rap" part is mouthed by a skeleton. The video features a mix of live action, claymation, animation, and impressive computer graphics for a viseo that was made in 1992 (the year in which the song narrowly failed to earn Rush their 5th UK top 40 hit).
  • Charlie from Thomaston, Dci guess your right, i love rush anyway. incidently, what does existential mean?
  • Charlie from Thomaston, Dci think this song repressents rush selling out to a early nindees kind of rock
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