The Pass
by Rush


  • Drummer and lyricist Neil Peart: "There was a lot I wanted to address in that song, and it's probably one of the hardest ones I've ever written. I spent a lot of time on it, refining it, and even more doing research. There was one song previously, called 'Manhattan Project' where I wanted to write about the birth of the nuclear age. Well, easier said than done, especially when [writing] lyrics, you've got a couple of hundred words to say what you want to say. So each word counts, and each word had better be accurate, and so I found in the case of the Manhattan Project, I was having to go back and read histories of the time, histories of the place, biographies of all the people involved, and that's not without its own rewards, but it's a lot of work to go to to write a song - having to read a dozen books and collate all your knowledge and experience just so you can write, you know, if it says the scientists were in the desert sands, well, make sure they were and why, and all that. So with this song it was the same. I felt concerned about it, but, at the same time, I didn't want the classic thing of 'Oh, life's not so bad, you know, it's worth living' and all that. I didn't want one of those pat, kind of clichéd, patronizing statements, so I really worked hard to find out true stories, and among the people that I write to are people who are going to universities, to MIT, and collecting stories from them about people they had known and what they felt, and why the people had taken this desperate step and all of that and trying really hard to understand something that, fundamentally, to me is totally un-understandable. I just can't relate to it at all, but I wanted to write about it. And the facet that I most wanted to write about was to demythologize it - the same as with 'Manhattan Project' - it demythologized the nuclear age, and it's the same thing with this facet - of taking the nobility out of it and saying that yes, it's sad, it's a horrible, tragic thing if someone takes their own life, but let's not pretend it's a hero's end. It's not a triumph. It's not a heroic epic. It's a tragedy, and it's a personal tragedy for them, but much more so for the people left behind, and I really started to get offended by the samurai kind of values that were attached to it, like here's a warrior that felt it was better to die with honor, and all of that kind of offended me. I can understand someone making the choice; it's their choice to make. I can't relate to it, and I could never imagine it, for myself, but still I thought it's a really important thing to try to get down."
  • Bass player and lead singer Geddy Lee: "There are certain songs, like 'The Pass,' where I felt it was more important to keep the lyrics intact and to build up a musical statement that's born out of the message of the song. In a case like that, I have to do a lot of thinking before a single note is written and I really immerse myself into the song. I mean, if I have to sing Neil's lyrics, I have to feel some sort of relationship with what he's talking about. I have to feel in concert with them in order to make it believable, to myself and to the listener. So there is a lot of conversation that goes down about each song before I start writing melodies." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mike - Mountlake Terrace, Washington, for above 2

Comments: 34

  • Patton from TexasSome years back I became addicted to Hydrocodone 10 after neck surgery. I was taking it for six weeks or so when I quit cold turkey. As a result from withdrawals I fell into depression, ... a very bad feeling I would want no one to have to experience. I listened to “The Pass” over and over again and became aware of the lyrics and felt a relation to this message. I really believe this song helped me get over this undesirable episode in my life and I have been good ever since.
  • Amanda from Midwest United StatesThis song isn't really in its correct category. I'd know--I'm a RUSHER, and this song saved my life when I struggled with depression over the suicide of a very close family member. The first part of the description quotes Neil Peart explaining that this song was researched just as intensely as 'The Manhattan Project;' it says nothing about being ABOUT the Manhattan project. This song, point blank, is about NOT giving up when the going gets rough and taking your own life, and why doing so isn't a reasonable option.
    Like so much of Peart's lyrics, there are layers upon layers of references, symbols, and metaphors in this song, but my favorite has to be "No hero in your tragedy." Traditional folk heroes often die at the end of their tale, but only because they gave their all to avert some horrible occurrence. That selfless sacrifice for the greater good is what made them 'heroes;' if they simply gave it their best shot, quit while they were ahead and let the horrible occurrence-slash-catastrophe-slash-massacre play out without another thought and died at fifty as a Walmart greeter, their story would never have made it past the gossip rags, if you catch my drift. Some examples would be conductor Casey Jones, who died trying to stop a runaway train and save his passengers, John Henry, whose body gave out in his quest to secure the jobs and livelihood of his team, and good ol' Beowulf, who died fighting a fictional booguns that had been slaughtering innocents.
    When you throw away your life, you're also throwing away the hearts of all those who wish you'd keep trying. No matter how bleak it seems when you're fighting depression, no matter how convinced you are that your death will never negatively affect those around you, it WILL tear your loved ones apart. Survivor's guilt is a horrible thing to wish on another, and when someone kills themselves, their loved ones are stricken with it; one death can rock whole communities, even affecting complete strangers. Keep trying, keep falling, and whatever you do, keep getting back up every time! Don't leave your loved ones with scars that never heal over.
  • Amanda from Midwest United States@ "Kevin" in AK: Well, seeing as Mr. Peart is remarkably well-read for a high school dropout (True story!) I wouldn't be at all surprised if that line WAS an Oscar Wilde reference. After all, the lyrics he's written for RUSH are rife with proof! The entire "Clockwork Angels" album was based on classical satire "Candide." (A great, timeless read) Peart's also written several songs based on the philosophy and literary works of Ayn Rand, notably "Anthem" which is based on Rand's book of the same name. My personal favorite, "Xanadu," was a retrospective continuation of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's eternally unfinished poem "Kubla Khan." It is written through the eyes of a man who was lured by the promise of immortality and hunted down Xanadu, the mystical lost palace of Kubla Khan. Once he found it, he achieved his dream of immortality and, too late, realized that immortality is a curse. Forever bound to the palace-turned-prison, he laments his foolish desires and slowly loses his sanity. Morbid, yeah, but it never fails to give me goosebumps.
    ...just a few examples of many. ;)
  • Amanda from Midwest United States@ "Vladimir" in Brazil: Sorry to bust your bubble, but this song isn't about Christ's sufferings--His name was used in vain as an Oath--a shout of dismay if you will--hence the comma. Since this is a public forum I'm not going to advertise my beliefs or affiliation, but don't worry--this song isn't trivializing His sacrifice or proclaiming it an act of cowardice. :) It's a warning to not waste the life you've been given, and a plea to keep trying, keep fighting, keep LIVING rather than give in to despair and take your own life. Religion really isn't the only thing people write about, after all...and though Peart's never outright said "I follow this religious affiliation" or not, a deeper look into his lyrics and influences suggests he's probably agnostic, albeit a spiritual agnostic. I suggest you take a good close look at the lyrics for these songs: 'The Big Wheel," "Totem," "Roll the Bones," and a personal favorite, "Freewill." Every song he writes, even if it appears to be purely allegorical or narrative, has underlying meanings and is brimming with symbolism if you just look for it.
  • Lennon from Plainview, NyThe first time I ever heard this song, I could not believe what I heard. I played it like 20 more times after that first listen. It's just too powerful of a song to not love. Same with Bravado since it gives you that feeling you can't explain. I can't decide which is my favorite between The Pass and Bravado! Both amazing!!
  • Vladimir from Rio Das Ostras, BrazilThe best music from Rush to me. Music is really powerful kind of art. I love Jesus and the concept that He left to us. And when I saw the term Christ in the lyrics and thought to myself, Thank you lord! But I understood the opposite from the intended meaning. The example of Jesus was not a coward choice. If we want to believe in his history until the part of death, i think that is good that we go until the end of his history too. Because he chose that way ONLY because He Knows for sure that he would never really die! Because death didn't really exist actually. As Lavoisier said “In nature nothing is wasted, nothing is created, everything is transformed”
    So, his example is a good example to me! His suffering for his beliefs is the most powerful thing on it. He never gave up! Is the opposite! And out of this subject, I truly believe that a GREAT WARRIOR prefers to die with his honor! I understand this music as message of humility. It doesn't matter why he lost the will to fight! It matters that the will is gone! Should I keep "fighting" even if the fight is killing me only because people might say that i am a coward? No, Really don't!
  • Joe from Grants Pass, OrI SO love this disc
  • Joe from Grants Pass, OrI always say " Don't Look at me.. I'm just the guitar player... on toppa that, I can't dance without a git strapped to my neck !!!
  • Oscar from Querétaro, MéxicoI have been graduated almost 2 years now. Me and the people that have graduate in this years, faced one of the hardest economical and laboral crisis ever, not only in México but everywhere, so the first paragraph of the song feels very real for me.
  • Pryce from Litchfield, NhPresto is my 2nd favorite album by Rush. (first is Test For Echo). So the Pass is 8 1/2 out of 10 for me!!
  • Michael from Charleston, ScI really don't get why so many people trash "Presto". Every Rush album is a step along a path. They all lead into one another, both lyrically and musically. "Presto" was a logical progression from "Hold Your Fire", with the scaling back of the keyboards and focusing more on the guitars... "Available Light" may be my favorite Rush song ever. The truth is, there isn't a bad Rush album. Not even "Presto".
  • Rufus from Wheeling, WvYes, this is one the top ten all time best Rush songs, musically and lyrically.
  • Jim from Kent, United KingdomThis song and 'Cinderella Man' complete each other. This isn't the only road because you get to choose the road - they cannot steal your dreams. Suicide is an escape from the invisible chains that are the values and aspirations of others: the world's applause has no value if they can't understand what it means. Hold up your riches to challenge them, but don't expect a salute!
  • Kevin from Somewhere, AkThe first refrain says, "All of us get lost in the darkness. Dreamers learn to steer by the stars. All of us do time in the gutter. Dreamers turn to look at the cars."

    It is possible, intentionally or accidentally, that these words are inspired by Oscar Wilde's famous aphorism: "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."
  • Daniel from Victoria, TxThis song has kept me from killing myself three times, the most recent about an hour ago. When I here "no hero in your tragedy" it helps me realize that what I'm about to do is nothing but cowardly and weak. I hope I never come so close to doing something so stupid again, but I have a feeling it will, and I hope these lyrics make it through the fog of emotions and into my mind as it has in the past.
  • Bret from Coos Bay, OrThis is the only song I liked off of Presto. Presto is a terrible album and I think Rush should be embarrassed for putting it out. But I love The Pass and this song totally makes up for how bad the rest of the album is.
  • Will from Green Hills, OhMany years ago I contemplated suicide. I had this song on tape and played it over and over and over. It caught all of the emotions that welled up inside of me. I was lost in the darkness and had nearly given up. I found myself standing on a rocky edge overlooking the waters that would take me over Niagara Falls. It took so long for me to hear the words screaming that this wasn't the only road. I turned around. I think it saved me. I don't know, I still don't have any answers. The world only became tougher, and more frightening, and more alone. I still walk that razor's edge and hope is still an illusive commodity. But one I still have somehow. Thank you Neil.
  • Steve from Champaign, IlI love this song but I have a different take on it than some.

    I believe the line "Christ, what have you done?" refers back to the line "the act of a noble warrior who lost the will to fight." I think Jesus Christ is the "noble warrior" who "set a bad example" and "made surrender seem alright". It makes perfect sense with Neil's thoughts on religion.
  • Eric from Worden, MtVery haunting song, while was out of university by the time I heard this, it still to this day hits me with powerful emotions. Both lyrically and sonically. It reminds all of us how we all have had these feelings and how close we can come to making the ultimate mistake.
  • Big Ed from Pulaski, TnAnother GREAT song from the GREATEST band in the world. This song is full of soulful meaning, it could go both ways. The suicide way or the christian way. Either way this song has the most powerful meaning! I can listen to this song over and over. Other bands should take notes fron RUSH and maybe there will be better songs in the world today.
  • Todd from Poynette, WiMike from across the pond summed this song up very elequently. This song is one of the most powerful and meaningful songs I have ever heard. This is why I love Rush so very much. To Mike from Gloucestershire, England: you nailed the theme of this song perfectly. Good show old boy
  • Joe Public from Anytown, AlClearly about the issue of teenage depression, which has only gotten worse in the world of today. Many teenagers expect that they can have everything and just wait for it, and descend into despair when nothing is working for them. "The Pass" says that they should come back from their depression and live freely and dare to act. Turn around and walk the razor's edge / Don't turn your back /And slam the door on me." Powerful message.
  • Nick from Nyc, Nyi also saw presto and roll the bones tour, and both times geddy spoke before this song. i too was wondering if they'd play my favorite song from presto. this song will always mean alot to me.
    the last few tours ive seen this song was excluded
  • John from Overland Park, KsI particularly like this song, especially from a personal aspect to it.
    I caught a "Nightline" show in 1981 about teen suicide, and one guy whose girlfriend had left took a tape recorder with him into his car after he'd re-routed the exhaust, so he could leave a tearful message to his ex to "give his death some meaning." My feeling was, "What a selfish jerk! What kind of guilt trip is that to put on some teenage girl?"
    So, anyway, "The Pass" seems to suggest the same sort of reaction as mine was; the line "Christ, what have you done?" seems to be more of a statement of shock towards the person committing suicide.
  • Rich from Knoxville, TnI love how this song shows the real tragedy of giving up on life and that suicide is a coward's way out.
  • Mike from Gloucestershire, EnglandThis is a song about expectations. You leave school. You literally swagger out expecting the world to come to you. But life is not that easy. Infact You have to take life on and challenge it!You can either embrace it and challenge life or you can dream and follow the cars. What you cannot do is give up because someone wrote that it's ok to do so (Commit suicide:the act of a noble warrior who lost the will to fight)This song is a positive message telling that suicide is not a noble exit: There is no honour in your tradgedy,No daring in your escape, no salute to your surrender,Nothing noble in your fate;
    In short: you cannot romanticise suicide. it is not he act of "A noble warrior."
    We are not all born to rule the world. We are not all born to fix the problems of the world. We must all try to make it better. Suicide is not the way. The world does not deliver our expectations. It is the same for us all. Don't die. Contribute and make it better. I've been there. Mike.
  • Jesse from L.a., CaTaylor from Riceville, TN... I'm not sure that the line "Christ, what have you done?" is about asking God how he could let something like that happen... Rather a statement of surprise, like, "Jesus Christ! What did you do?!" That's what I think, though...
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScHere's what I think about suicide. The only thing it doess is create problems for the people left behind. It's basically the coward's way out. I can see why people would do that to themselves though. They've probably had or been in situations that noone should be in.
  • Taylor from Riceville, TnThis is a great song. It talks about a kid who always got picked on at school and different places. He did't not what to do so he kills hisself. It's n a happy ending. " Christ what have you done." He's talking about how God could let this happen to a harmless kid.
  • Taylor from Riceville, TnThis is a great song. It talks about a kid who always got picked on at school and different places. He did't know what to do so he kills hisself. It's know a happy ending. " Christ what have you done." He's talking about how God could let this happen to a harmless kid.
  • Joe from Montvale, NjThe guitar solo by Alex is so perfect. It is amazing how much emotion it conveys. One of my favorites.
  • Brian from Bakersfield, CaWhat a powerful song about suicide . . . or why suicie is not as noble as it might seem:

    No hero in your tragedy
    No daring in your escape
    No salutes for your surrender
    Nothing noble in your fate
    Christ, what have you done?

    I waited and waited for Rush to play this on the Presto tour. About 2/3 into the set Geddy stopped and spoke (rare, I know!!) and said the band wanted to play their favorite track from the "new" album. I felt like I was right there with him in that moment.

    -- Brian E, Bakersfield, CA
  • Mike from Clinton, MaIt can be about many things one of them may be God, and turning away from sin.
  • Mike from Mountlake Terrace, WashingtonProbably one of the most emotive songs by Rush!
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