Paul Simon and RUSH...???? A Musical Link

First let us look at Paul Simon's "The Sounds of Silence":

Hello darkness my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dare
Disturb the sound of silence

"Fools" said I "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grow
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you"
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said:

"The words of the prophets are written on subway walls
And tenement halls"
And whisper'd in the sounds of silence

First off, I find it somewhat humorous and ironic that a song is about 'silence'. This beautifully written song was done in 1964. Paul wrote all the good songs, both lyrics and music, makes me wonder what the fuck Art did? Although I love the song, I have doubts it was written as one original piece. It seems to be different parts put together, ask Paul if you know him. The biggest thing I take away from this song is that Paul is trying to say, 'don't believe everything you hear, that you are told. Think for yourself.'

That maybe there is a message in silence. But, at the same time you can't have all silence can you? You would go crazy. You need balance, enjoy both, and don't be afraid of either.

Also, it strikes me that people who live in Manhattan might not hear a lot of silence. And maybe Paul wants people to enjoy silence, not always having to have something to listen to. Enjoy yourself! You don't need a prophet.

Certain words in songs, or poetry, can really jump out at you. In this song, beside the obvious title, sound in silence, the words "my eyes were stabbed by the flash", and "that split the light", I find very cleaver.

Okay, lets look at a Neil Peart song, "The Spirit of Radio":

Begin the day with a friendly voice

A companion unobtrusive

Plays that song that's so elusive

And the magic music makes your morning mood

Off on your way, hit the open road

There is magic at your fingers

For the Spirit ever lingers

Undemanding contact in your happy solitude


Invisible airwaves crackle with life

Bright antennae bristle with the energy

Emotional feedback on timeless wavelength

Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free

All this machinery making modern music

Can still be open hearted

Not so coldly charted

It's really just a question of your honesty, yeah

Your honesty

One likes to believe in the freedom of music

But glittering prizes and endless compromises

Shatter the illusion of integrity


For the words of the profits were written on the studio wall

Concert hall

And echoes with the sounds of salesmen

Of Salesmen

Of Salesmen!

SIDE NOTE: Note that tempo change! Oh, I love songs with good tempo changes!

What a great song, or poem. This is Neil's tribute to his craft, a tribute to music. There is also a little tribute to Paul in the very last verse. Compare the last verse, and sing it to "The Sounds of Silence".

It is nice when musicians pay homage to their influences that have come before them.

The song is tight, the words efficient. Unless you are writing a poem to a beat or rhythm, in a song you may have to be more of a word economist than you would have to with a standard poem. You have to make the words fit the rhythm. Neil does this here, and time and again. "Bright antennae bristle with the energy" is a wonderful use of words to describe the transmission process.

Comparing it to Paul's song look at fourth verse. Honesty, freedom, compromises, and "illusion of integrity." Neil, like Paul, is reminding us to remember that this industry is run by people trying to make money, and sometimes what we hear on the radio, TV, and the concert stage may be bent to achieve a monetary end. If the song won't sell, it might never become a record.

Dennis DeYoung of STYX says it more bluntly in his song "The Grand Illusion":

But don't be fooled by the radio
The TV or the magazines
They show you photographs of how your life should be
But they're just someone else's fantasy

Dennis flat out says that it is all bullshit on a live record. While Neil and Paul are more subtle about it, they have a similar theme. This message needs to be emphasized more than every with the rise of "reality TV". I just hope people realize what can be done with editing. So, enjoy the entertainment, but just remember it's not 'gospel'.

Okay, go listen to something, put on your headphones and...............TURN IT UP..!!!!!!!


Currently listening:
Permanent Waves
(Review: Greg Prato @ Allmusic)
By: Rush
Release date: January 1, 1980
Remastered CD Release: May 6, 1997


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