The Body Electric
by Rush

Album: Grace Under Pressure (1984)
Charted: 56


  • This is based on Twilight Zone episode #100 - "I Sing the Body Electric." The episode originally aired in 1962. It's about a family who orders a robot "Grandmother" after the death of their young mother. Written by Ray Bradbury, the name came from a Walt Whitman poem. The story was later included in a short stories collection with the same title in 1969.
  • Some believe the song was inspired by the movie THX 1138, one of the first films made by Star Wars creator George Lucas. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mike - Mountlake Terrace, Washington, for above 2
  • The song describes a robot who struggles to break free of the hegemony of the robots' social structure. The chorus repeats several times:
    one-zero-zero-one-zero-zero-one SOS
    one-zero-zero-one-zero-zero-one In Distress
    1001001 is ASCII code for the letter 'I.' This could indicate the robot's motivation for escape - it's attainment of self-awareness. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Michael - Torrance, CA

Comments: 17

  • Chuck Smoov from GeorgiaYeah, and if you convert "Peart" to hex, you get 5065617274a. Then if you convert that to binary and add 1001001SOS, you get a promotional code for a meatball sandwich at Subway. You guys are reaching a bit aren't you? HAHAHAHAHAAA!!! Probably conspiracy theorists.
  • Fred from Ottawa ,on CanadaNeil being the voracious reader he was, read many books including those of Philip K Dick and Ray Bradbury. He was inspired by much of what he read.
  • Nelson from Houston, TxSteve, Glendale, WI; as long as we're playing the numbers game ... 1001001 is 49 in hexadecimal and the ASCII value of 49 is the character 1, as in individual.
  • Steve from Glendale, WiBinary 1001001=73 and the letter "I" in ASCII
    The mirror of 73, the 21st prime number, 37, is the 12th prime number. The number 21 includes factors 7 and 3. The number 21 in binary is 10101 and Seventy-three in binary, 1001001, both are a palindrome. In addition, of the 7 binary digits representing 73, there are 3 ones. Also, 37+12=49 (seven squared) and 73+21=94=47×2, 47+2 also being equal to seven squared. Additionally, both 73 and its mirror, 37, are sexy primes twice over, as 31, 43, 67 and 79 are all prime numbers.
  • Patricia from Solon, MeDoes anyone know who the actor/male model is who played the escaping android in the video?
  • Pual from San Francisco, CaSince we know 1001001 is I followed by SOS I was curious if ISOS was involved which from an acronym site could mean several things. One being IP (Internet Protocol) Service Operating System (which the song sort of predates the internet but not Dial-ups or Ethernet/Newsgroups; as I am not an IT person but am curious if it has multiple layers in meaning. The statements connecting I-Robot and Frankenstein. Also Wizard of Oz.. hmm Peeling back or layering on?
  • Cheyl from Arcadia, FlGeddy was born in 1953
  • Jimmy from Houston, TxWhen I first heard this song I thought of my Algebra class; the formula for the Identity Matrix is:
    1 0 (0)
    0 1 (0)
    0 0 1
    Since the song refers to an android with an Identity Crisis.... The binary code explanation makes more sense to me now though.
  • Manu from Buenos Aires, ArgentinaZach, Geddy was born in '54, i think, and that's way after the jewish holocaust, at least it's enough time for Geddy's father to conceive him. I think that neil emphasized more in a dystopic future than in biographic tellings while writing down those lyrics for P/G, though I believe there's some background concerning Geddy's personal accounts.
  • Dave from Coal Valley, Ilthis song and video was featured in a movie from back in the 80's, it was a movie about some young music lovers and I think one of them worked for a either a radio or tv station and they played music, I can't remember much more than that but would like to know the name of the movie if anyone knows. Thanks!
  • Joanna from Portales, NmAlso the code being referenced in the song 1001001 (the binary code for "I") could also find it's roots from the "I" in Issac Asimov's series "I,Robot" which coincidentally, also finds its root in Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein."
  • Joanna from Portales, NmActually I would venture to believe that the song might be loosely based on Walt Whitman's poem "I Sing the Body Electric" from his 1855 collection; which most likely influenced the Twilight Zone episode. All of which in many ways may have been influenced in part by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; food for thought.
  • Marr from Toronto, CanadaMorse Code:
    . = 1
    - = 0

    e = .
    g = --.

    1001001 = .--.--. = egg

    The inner sleeve (I have the vinyl LP) has a picture of an egg in a c-clamp. Did anyone else come to this conclusion?
  • Jesse from L.a., CaThe drums here, in the beginning of the song, are awesome!
  • Zachary from Baxter, CanadaAlthough Joe makes a good point, I have to disagree with the paternal thing. After I surfed around a bit, I discovered that Neil wrote the lyrics for Red Sector A after hearing Geddy talk about how his mother survived the Holocaust. Although it would seem obvious that since his father did not, the song would be about him, I don't think it is. I believe the song is about his mother's suffering, and how she dealt with her husband's death.

    Then again, I could be completely wrong about that. For all I know, Geddy's father could have survived the Holocaust, and lived a happy life with his family. It's been awhile since I saw the article, and my memory about it is a bit foggy.
  • Paul from Williamstown, MaThe binary 1001001 in decimal is 73. 1973 is the year Rush recorded their first album.
  • Joe from Allston, MaIn contrast to "Red Sector A" (also on Grace Under Pressure), which seems to deal with someone crying out to a missing paternal figure, this song has the main character of the story, a robot, crying out to the "mother of all machines," the feminine. I've always viewed this song as an allegory for how some people live their lives as automatons, going through a daily routine without significant deviation. The robot's cry to a maternal figure is a cry for the emotional and intuitive aspects of intelligence that differentiate a lifeform from a machine.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: '80s EditionMusic Quiz

You know the scenes - Tom Cruise in his own pants-off dance off, Molly Ringwald celebrating her birthday - but do you remember what song is playing?

Van Dyke ParksSongwriter Interviews

U2, Carly Simon, Joanna Newsom, Brian Wilson and Fiona Apple have all gone to Van Dyke Parks to make their songs exceptional.

Philip CodySongwriter Interviews

A talented lyricist, Philip helped revive Neil Sedaka's career with the words to "Laughter In The Rain" and "Bad Blood."

John WaiteSongwriter Interviews

"Missing You" was a spontaneous outpouring of emotion triggered by a phone call. John tells that story and explains what MTV meant to his career.

Experience Nirvana with Sub Pop Founder Bruce PavittSong Writing

The man who ran Nirvana's first label gets beyond the sensationalism (drugs, Courtney) to discuss their musical and cultural triumphs in the years before Nevermind.

Dave EdmundsSongwriter Interviews

A renowned guitarist and rock revivalist, Dave took "I Hear You Knocking" to the top of the UK charts and was the first to record Elvis Costello's "Girls Talk."