Your Survival Guy’s favorite version of Rush’s “Xanadu” is on the iconic live album Exit…Stage Left. Listen here:
Here’s a description of the making of “Xanadu” from Mystic Rhythms Live on YouTube:
“Xanadu” is a song by the Canadian rock band Rush from their 1977 album “A Farewell to Kings.” It is approximately 11 minutes long, beginning with a five-minute-long instrumental section before transitioning to a narrative written by Neil Peart. This song is based on an unfinished poem called Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who started writing it while under the influence of drugs. Once the effects of the drugs wore off, he was unable to complete it.
In Coleridge’s poem, Xanadu is the fictional name of the land where Khubla Khan ordered the dome to be built: “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree.” Coleridge goes on to describe the dome as a “Miracle of rare device, a sunny pleasure dome with caves of ice.” The notion of the “Man from Porlock” is a famous yet unsubstantiated tale offered by Coleridge himself to explain why his poem is unfinished.
The legend of Xanadu is related to a number of myths & legends going back to the prehistory of Asia, specifically that of Shamballa. There was a movement in the time of Coleridge to explore these legends, in doing so we are tapping into the universal consciousness, an ability that the members of Rush seem to be quite adept.
In Peart’s lyrics, the narrator describes searching for a place called “Xanadu” that will grant him immortality. After succeeding in this quest, a thousand years pass, and the narrator is left “waiting for the world to end”, describing himself as “a mad immortal man”.
Although the song does not explicitly state where “Xanadu” is, references to Kubla Khan imply that it is a mythical place based on Shangdu, the historical summer capital of the Mongol Empire.
“Xanadu” is the first Rush song in which synthesizers are an integral part. Unlike the previous albums 2112 and Caress of Steel, “Xanadu” used both guitar and synthesizer effects.
The song also marks Rush’s clear foray into program music, although previous albums had displayed some elements of this.
“Xanadu” requires each band member to utilize an array of instruments to affect the performance. Alex Lifeson used a double-necked Gibson electric guitar (one twelve-string, the other six-string) as well as synthesizer pedals; Geddy Lee made use of a double-necked Rickenbacker 4080 Bass/Guitar, as well as extensive synthesizer arrangements (through both pedals and keyboards) in addition to singing; & Peart took on various percussion instruments (temple blocks, tubular bells, bell tree, glockenspiel, & wind chimes) in addition to his drum kit.
Geddy Lee – Double Neck Bass/12 String Guitar, Taurus Pedals, Keyboards/Synths, Vocals Alex Lifeson – Double Neck 12 String/6 String Guitar, Taurus Pedals Neil Peart – Drums, Percussion (temple blocks, tubular bells, bell tree, glockenspiel, and wind chimes)
Kubla Khan, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree: Where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea. So twice five miles of fertile ground With walls & towers were girdled round; And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills, Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; And here were forests ancient as the hills, Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover! A savage place! as holy & enchanted As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted By woman wailing for her demon-lover! And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething, As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing, A mighty fountain momently was forced: Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail, Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail: And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever It flung up momently the sacred river. Five miles meandering with a mazy motion Through wood and dale the sacred river ran, Then reached the caverns measureless to man, And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean; And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far Ancestral voices prophesying war! The shadow of the dome of pleasure Floated midway on the waves; Where was heard the mingled measure From the fountain and the caves. It was a miracle of rare device, A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer In a vision once I saw: It was an Abyssinian maid And on her dulcimer she played, Singing of Mount Abora. Could I revive within me Her symphony and song, To such a deep delight ’twould win me, That with music loud and long, I would build that dome in air, That sunny dome! those caves of ice! And all who heard should see them there, And all should cry, Beware! Beware! His flashing eyes, his floating hair! Weave a circle round him thrice, And close your eyes with holy dread For he on honey-dew hath fed, And drunk the milk of Paradise.
If you want more check out Rick Beato’s breakdown here:
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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