"Prime Mover" as written by and Geddy Lee Weinrib Neil Peart....
Basic elemental
Instinct to survive
Stirs the higher passions
Thrill to be alive

Alternating currents
In a tidewater surge
Rational resistance
To an unwise urge
Anything can happen

From the point of conception
To the moment of truth
At the point of surrender
To the burden of proof

From the point of ignition
To the final drive
The point of the journey
Is not to arrive
Anything can happen

Basic temperamental
Filters on our eyes
Alter our perceptions
Lenses polarize

Alternating currents
Force a show of hands
Rational responses
Force a change of plans
Anything can happen

From a point on the compass
To magnetic north
The point of the needle
Moving back and forth

From the point of entry
Until the candle is burned
The point of departure
Is not to return
Anything can happen

I set the wheels in motion
Turn up all the machines
Activate the programs
And run behind the scene

I set the clouds in motion
Turn up light and sound
Activate the window
And watch the world go round

Anything can happen


Lyrics submitted by shed27

"Prime Mover" as written by Gary Lee Weinrib Alex Zivojinovich

Lyrics © OLE MEDIA MANAGEMENT

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Prime Mover song meanings
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  • +1
    My InterpretationI have to admit that I just don't see the supposed connection to child-rearing that others do. But maybe that's simply because I don't have children.

    I've always thought that this song almost belonged more on "Roll the Bones" than on "Hold Your Fire," though both albums have similar themes ("Roll the Bones" on the need to take a risk and "Hold Your Fire" on the need to stay motivated) which would make some thematic overlap understandable. To me, this song is about holding onto one's drive and pushing through from start (the point of ignition) through the finish (the final drive) and to accept whatever it may bring (rational responses force a change of plans).

    I also absolutely love the dual meaning in what, to me, are the two key phrases in the song:

    "The point of the journey is not to arrive."
    "The point of departure is not to return."

    Read one way those can be taken as cautions that we shouldn't see the journey as merely something that we have to go through to get to the destination (that is to say, arriving isn't the point of the journey) or that the point of leaving is to take in something new and different rather than just to let us come home and be thankful for the comfort and familiarity of our home.

    Read another way, these are much more forceful statements. The first can be taken as "never arriving is the entire point of a journey," suggesting that the whole point of life is to seek journeys, not destinations; that we should "thrill to be alive." The second admonishes us not to come back home; it tells us that never returning is the whole point of departure. When we leave, we should leave and not be wedded to the idea of returning home; the whole point is to keep moving and keep discovering.

    I've always preferred the second reading.
    Zenmervolton November 07, 2011   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationTo me Prime Mover is about the our human need to explain the unknown with GOD(s) and how we should resist these urges.
    gpohlson August 30, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI cant believe that on-one has commented on this song yet, it's an amazing piece of music, without a doubt one of Rush's best. The end section is so awesome, when everything except the drums, keys and geddy drop out, its amazing. Wow.
    Razormasticatoron April 01, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is about sex and babies.

    From the point of conception
    (when the sperm and egg meet)
    To the moment of Truth
    (finding out you have a child)
    At the point of surrender
    (giving birth? or preparing to raise children)
    To the burden of proof
    (ladies get fat when pregnant)

    Then of course that's just one interpretation, I think it's about the journey of being married and having children, kind of like Neil did.
    Life and Life Onlyon February 07, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI just thought it was about life changes and the possibilites they bring. Which I guess is kinda the same thing.
    Smokleron June 13, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song strikes me as a roughly analogous to the psychological theory of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

    From the basic level, physiological level: “Basic elemental instinct to survive” to one of Actualization: “I set the clouds in motion/turn up light and sound”
    egoron September 12, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think its about a couple making a baby and when the baby is born the father is a shocked. Maybe it was unplaned? or maybe it wasnt his? who knows. Great song btw one of my favorites.
    littlecarameldropon February 20, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think all you guys are right. I happen to think the lyrics were most likely born of Neil's life experience of his daughter Selena's birth (in 1978) and the unpredictability of fatherhood. The album was released in 1987 - when Selena was 9.

    Egor - I think you are really onto somehting there though. As well-read and intellectual as NEP is, it wouldn't suprise me if your observation was something Neil also had in mind when he wrote this song.
    tigerx2374on May 25, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwhen i first heard this on A Show of Hands i was amazed how beautiful it sounded Hold Your Fire is one of my favorites because all the tracks are really beautiful
    fadingmemoryon March 22, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThere's a lot of ways to interpret these kinds of open ended metaphorical lyrics, as is normal for Rush.

    An example being:

    From the point of conception
    To the moment of Truth
    At the point of surrender
    To the burden of proof

    For some, this can be seen as children. For others, it may be a generic statement following the reasoning of

    From the point of conception (the first spark of an idea)
    To the moment of Truth (when it's tested to see if it'll work or not)
    At the point of surrender (to give in when it doesn't work, or possibly related to another rush song, Resist, which states "you can surrender without a prayer, but never really pray, pray without surrender" Given Neil's normal method of wordplay, it's probably the latter more than the former)
    To the burden of proof (to steal a quote from wikipedia of all places, "The philosophic burden of proof is the obligation on a party in an epistemic dispute to provide sufficient warrant for their position." seems most accurate to Neil's normal lyrical use. Just because yeu've tested the beta / prototype, doesn't mean yeu're done proving your position. If it breaks and doesn't work, then yeu need, also, to justify why yeu tried in the first place often times)


    The song covers so many things, but all seem to relate to making one's way in life, and the choices along the way.

    The point of the journey is not to arrive (the journey itself IS the point; "journey's end is an endless crime" )

    From a point on the compass
    To magnetic north
    The point of the needle moving back and forth
    (Showing the difference between where yeu are and where yeu want to be, or where yeu're going)

    Alternating currents force a show of hands
    Rational responses force a change of plans
    ("Show of hands" implying the idea of poker or other game, but probably poker, to show yeur cards, whot yeu really have. Both parts of this stating that yeu may be forced to "play yeur cards early" based on the situation, or to be forced to admit that yeu really didn't have such a good idea or plan when someone confronts yeu directly with evidence to the contrary. The point here, is that yeur life has to be fluid, and decisions are not set in stone, one must always prepare for the unexpected, and change as needed when the situation warrents)



    I set the wheels in motion
    turn up all the machines
    activate the programs
    and run behind the scene

    I set the clouds in motion
    turn up light and sound
    activate the window
    and watch the world go 'round --

    This entire section feels like it's one large metaphor drawn out, designed to showcase the idea of one looking at one's own life as an outsider looking in. Yeu can plan everything out, meticulously decide how things should go, and prepare all yeu want, but in the end, all yeu can do is let it happen and see if it actually works the way yeu expected or not.

    Literally, "anything can happen", including things which shouldn't be possible.

    And why should it be any other way? "Why shouldn't truth be stranger than fiction? After all, fiction has to stick to possibilities."

    A very deep song, and I've probably only just touched the surface, and there's some parts I still don't fully understand yet. I've a feeling though, that the more one lives their life, the more they'll recognize how true this all is.
    Katsunion April 15, 2011   Link

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