This song is about how narrow-minded and judgmental people can get when they are confined to certain groups - a common occurrence in the suburbs. This is spelled out in the chorus:
Subdivisions In the high school halls In the shopping malls Conform or be cast out
It tells of how when you don't meet a certain standard you are basically shunned.
Suggestion credit: Chris - Bradenton, FL
Rush's drummer/lyricist Neil Peart said this song is "an exploration of the background from which all of us (and probably most of our audience) have sprung.'"
Peart grew up reading adventure stories and science fiction, which for him were an escape from the confines of suburbia. As he got older, he took full advantage of his freedom, embracing travel and exploring other cultures.
Mark Dailey, evening newscaster and "The Voice" of Toronto television station City-TV and also MuchMusic, is the voice that repeats the chorus line "Subdivisions."
This song marked a turning point for Neil Peart, whose early Rush lyrics were based in fantasy. "I didn't believe yet that I could put something real into a song," he told Rolling Stone. "'Subdivisions' happened to be an anthem for a lot of people who grew up under those circumstances, and from then on, I realized what I most wanted to put in a song was human experience."
Rich from Las Vegas, NvFavorite Rush song of them all...I was 15 when Signals came out in '82 and MTV just started less than a year before and this video was in daily rotation...I was the lost misfit punk rocker living in a good community in Burbank, CA...I get watery eyes everytime I hear Subdivisions...I sold my (young) dreams for small desires and I definitely lost the race to rats and definitely hit the ticking traps (ie alcoholism & drugs, dropped outta high school). For me, it's the definitive song of the loss of my youth down the rabbit hole. But with a positive healthy end to the story...and start to dream of somewhere to relax their restless flight (sobriety, wife, family kids!) Thank you Neil for the lyrics to this great song. It's with me forever.
Jim from Columbus, MsIt's Neil saying "Subdivisions" in the chorus. Neil has confirmed this in recent years, while Mark Dailey said it was not his voice. Alex mouths it on stage, but that's all he's doing. He's just doing it for show, same as the video.
Chris from SpokaneThis song comforted me so much during my awkward high school years. I could listen to it all day long and never get tired of it.
Dave Glover from Cobourg Ont CdaI was that "Loner" in this gem. I'd recently moved to Scarborough from Downtown Toronto & Let me tell ya this story was way to autobiographical. For Years I wouldn't even talk about it. Didn't even get to meet the band. All in all it was the way High School was & apparently still is. Don't worry kids it really does get better. I'm now the host of my own Radio show at www.northumberland897.ca
Drake from Huntington Beach, CaThe song simply tells about choice, freedom, and decisions with who your with or the people that are around you. Being judge mental can have its results as much as not being that way. But it means though we are sometimes cast outs, it doesn't stop us from dreaming of things that impact others, hopefully for the better. This could also aim for those who are closed minded and don't open their eyes to other things in acceptance, for example someone could say, I don't like that person because he's different from everyone else. Rather than understanding them and helping them. Henceforth the name Subdivisons, people are put into categories by opinion.
Joe from Grants Pass, OrFirst time I saw RUSH --Back in '73; on Burt Sugarmans' " Midnight Special " ... Sat.nite on NBC !!!! They played Workin' Man !
P from St Helns, United KingdomThis song is about growing up and moving away from the rigid trappings of the music industry, at the time of penning the lyrics, Rush (peart) was extremally dissolusioned with the way the music industry tried to dictate how THEY should sound.
Dane from Green Cove Springs Fla., FlI love the words especially.The music's alright,very synth heavy,but a killer guitar solo.
Kosovodad from Tampa, Flhttp://www.nimitz.net/rush/faq1ans.html#32 has the info on the voices:
- Neil says "Subdivisions" in the song of the same name, even though Alex is shown saying it in the video and does it live.
Patrick from Toronto, OnI asked Mark Daily himself if it was his voice. He said no, that its been a rumour for years. He told me it was a guy from Buffalo named Nolan Johannes.
Brendan from Pocahontas, Ar"Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth, but the suburbs have no charms to soothe the rest-less dreams of youth."
Daniel from Mill Hall, PaI saw RUSH at the spectrum in Philly in 1989 (I think) and they opened with this song. Great show Rush, Thank You Very Much!!!!
Joe from Manchester, Njin the subdivisions music video it shows alex lifeson saying "subdivions" during the chourus
Harry from South Bend, InThe thing that strikes me as the most memorable part of this song has to be the synthesizer bridge between the refrain and the verse (also between the refrain and the solo). It's gotta be my favorite synth rift in any song, and it's what brings me back to it every time I pull out my iPod. A true example of a prog rock masterpiece.
Pete from Pleasant Mount, PaI absolutely love the lyrics to this song.
Rodimusben from Harrisonburg, VaTruly this is one of the best Rush songs, and it's amazing how its meaning is as potent now as it was when it was written, if not MORE so.
John from Asheville, NcMy favorite Rush song. I'll leave it at that except to say that it has just about everything I like about the band all wrapped up in one tight, sub-six-minute tune...musically, lyrically, melodically. It's the best, Jerry...the best!
Ken from South Elgin, IlThis has been my favorite song of Rush since I first heard it 25 years ago. It was awesome that they played it for the 2nd tour in a row. I've always related to the kid in the video and what he was going through.
Don from Franklin, MaThis song resonates more with me now as I approach 40 that it did when I was younger. You find yourself with a family, and you start to look around and dream of green places, you really start looking for 'somewhere out of a memory of quiet nights and lighted streets' My worry, of course, is that my son will grow up with the alienation of the song 'nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone.'
William from Twin Falls, IdI think this song is one of many that fully reflects Neils incredible artistic merit in his ability to use complexity of lyrical content to explain simple notions. This song points to the fact that everything in the universe, good or bad, can be explained in algorithms including social conformity. Being subjected to large groups of people that dont see the world the same way you do, forces you to either cave in to the pressure and "lose the race to rats"(being given a set of instructions to conform)or find a means of escape. I/E get in where you fit in.
Chuck from Houston, TxTo answer Dave, from Wales queston, not that I claim to have the answer, what I will say is (To Hell with Charts!!!) Most of that stuff is rigged anyway, like sports - Neil even wrote about this in a song two albums later "Big Money Draws the Flies"
Michael from Tucson, AzGRACE UNDER PRESSURE WHAT THE HELL IS Success Under Pressure?
Kent Lyle from Cincinnati, OhAllegedly Neil spoke the "subdivisions" line in the studio version but Alex does that job live.
Ruben Rodriguez from Miami, FlSubdivisions describes very well what it's like to live in the suburbs of North America. I live in a suburb of Miami, Fl and it is horrible. You can't walk anywhere, people live in McMansions and wax their SUVs and watch their plasma color TVs. Suburbia is such an alienating experience. I plan to move to a city where I can actually walk places.
Andy from Auckland, New ZealandThis song describes so well my background and experiences while growing up. Its been a favourite for a long time, but one particular hearing sticks in my mind. I was coming to the end of a 3-month period travelling North America, and was on a Greyhound entering the fringes of Totonto at dusk. It was a positively moving experience.
Rocco from Toronto, CanadaThis shows that experimenting with different styles unlike other bands that only stick to one sound
Rocco from Toronto, CanadaI wanna see this school and the suburbs where they shot the footage
David from Youngstown, OhNot to discount the excellence of this song, but it seems to advance the premise of Pleasant Valley Sunday, sung by the Monkees. PVS is a great song as well, and I don't want to offend Rush fans comparing their musical and lyrical brilliance to the Monkees. But there obviously is a common theme in both songs.
Oliver from West Jefferson, OhI think the song quotes Farenheight 451 when it says "Cruising for the action, Lit up like a firefly, Just to feel the living night"
Dave from Cardiff, WalesThis song still sounds fresh, innovative and strangely contemporary nearly 25 years after it was first released! Truly the mark of a great song... It gained quite a lot of radio airplay in the US and the UK in the early/mid-'80s. How on earth did it end up doing so badly in the charts??
Ben from Eden, TnI cant say anything how to describe how powerful this song is to me. I guess i could say that this song is what really got me into Rush's music. The song tells the truth of how high school days are pretty brutal and how we as adolescents must choose between fitting in with everyone, or being true to God and to yourself....which usually is all the ingredients needed for being a "loner".
Jim from Dayton, OhThe fills at the end are NOT triplet based.
Wil from Milwaukee, WiInteresting fact that although this song was recorded in 1982, NOTHING has changed...sad isn't it?!?
Tom from East Lyme, CtAlso, the book "Drum Techniques of Rush" by Bill Wheeler transcribes Tom Sawyer, Subdivisions, and many other complicated Rush songs like Spirit of the Radio and The Trees. It's a good buy.
Sebastian from Miami, FlIf you are a drummer and are trying to figure out how to play this song. Check out Neil Peart's instructional DVD Anatomy of a Drum Solo. This song and Tom Sawyer are shown from the drum camera perspective The songs were filmed in Frankfurt Germany as part of the R30 tour. This video perspective will allow you to figure out most of what is going on with the drums. If you want a more detailed explanation on grooves, breaks and fills for this song , check out the DVD: Rush Drum Licks by session drummer Jamie Borden. He breaks down 8 Rush song in great detail including Subdivisions. Just a hint , all drum fills and breaks are based on the triplet feel. On another note. I beleive this song is one of those few that any kid even now can relate too. Case in point , my neighbors son is 15 years old and heard this song on my stereo one day and loved it. He asked my why he had never heard it before. Just like that , instant new Rush fan.
Glp from Pittsburg , PaBest song of all time
R from San Diego, CaThis was the first song I ever heard through headphones when I was 12 back in 83. I was visiting my Canadian cousin in Toronto and he said I had to hear this band Rush on his new Walkman (the original)and this is the song he played. Wow. The bass synthesizer intro and keyboard beginning blew me away coming through the headphones. When I back home I had my dad take me to the record store to buy Signals. This was the first rock album I ever bought and have been a Rush fan ever since and started taking keyboard lessons so I could play like Geddy. I'm still saving up for a vintage Oberheim synth that he used in this song...
Yolanda Morphinite from Bountiful , UtThis song is the masterest of the chiefs and is the flippinest of the sweets.
Stephanie from Houston, TxI don't disagree with your interpretation of that line, Dave, but I'm not sure that that's what they were trying to convey lyrically with that verse. The opening verse reads: "Sprawling on the fringes of the city/In geometric order/An insulated border/In between the bright lights and the far unlit unknown." The border itself is neither bright lights (city with its bright signs and busy streets) or unlit (the unsettled wilderness beyond the suburbs). It evokes "lighted streets on quiet nights", the suburbs where there isn't a lot of activity (usually) at night. My daughter in high school is dealing now with the desire to be cool without conforming to the things that she knows is wrong; as an artist and a dreamer, it's something we've talked about a lot. She and I both relate well to this song.
Dave from Cardiff, WalesI agree totally, Taylor! This song effortlessly demonstrates the faultless, imaginiative lyricism of Neil Peart. I especially like the line "In between the bright lights and the far unlit unknown", which I assume is meant to refer the stars (bright lights) and space beyond the stars (the far unlit unknown). Perhaps this was supposed to convey the image of a bored, restless young person trapped in the suburbs ("Sprawling on the fringes of the city") looking up into the night sky, and wondering if there's more to life than the present, and wishing they could get away ("Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth, but the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth"). As a lifelong resident of the suburbs in my youth, this song is one I can relate to entirely.
Taylor from Riceville , TnI think the song is great and I love the verse when it says"lose the race to rats, get caught in ticking traps". It means don't let anything get in the way of something you really want. Just because you are doing something that makes you comfortable, don't give in to it, do what you really want to do.
Brian from Grand Forks, NdYeah, you needed to stay in School. Obviously, because he forgot how to spell the name of your high school.
Just Kidding buddy. I couldn't resist.
York from Belleville, CanadaThe video for this song was filmed in part at L'amereaux (spelling wrong) high school in Scarborough, Ontario. A suburb of Toronto. That was my high school and at the time of the shooting I was taking an unsheduled day off downtown. This proves it doesn't pay to skip school!