Roll the Bones (song)

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"Roll the Bones"
Vinyl album sleeve, US Release
Single by Rush
from the album Roll the Bones
A-side Roll the Bones
B-side None (US Release)
The Pass (UK Release)
Tom Sawyer (Live) (German release)
Released 1991
Format Vinyl, CD
Recorded 1991
Genre Funk rock, synthrock, rap rock
Length 5:30
Label Anthem (Canada)
Atlantic (US)
Writer(s) Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson (music)
Neil Peart (lyrics)
Producer(s) Rupert Hine, Rush
Rush singles chronology
"Roll the Bones"
"Ghost of a Chance"

Roll the Bones is the title track second single from Rush's 1991 album of the same name.


The music of "Roll the Bones" was written by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, and its lyrics by Neil Peart. The lyrics reflect on taking chances in life, and urging those unsure to "roll the bones," a term used for dice. Additionally, the song has strong secular and evolutionary themes.

"But the bottom to take the chance, roll the bones, if it's a random universe and that's terrifying and it makes you neurotic and everything, never mind. You really have to take the chance or else nothing's going to happen."

- Neil Peart, "It's A Rap" interview, February 1992[1]

As a "lyrical experiment", Peart wrote a "rap" section in his lyrics, as a result of listening to "the better rap writers", like LL Cool J and Public Enemy.[2] The band considered seeking out a real rapper to perform this section of the song, or even considered approaching the section with a camp or comedic sensibility, and hiring singer-songwriter Robbie Robertson or actor/comedian John Cleese.[2] According to Geddy Lee, "We couldn't make up our minds really if we wanted to be influenced by rap or satirize it, so I think that song kind of falls between the cracks and in the end I think it came out to be neither, it came out to be something that is very much us."[2] Ultimately, the "rap" was performed by Lee: his altered voice is achieved through a drastic lowering of pitch and adding various effects.

The song follows in the vein of tracks such as "Show Don't Tell" from Presto, and helps to establish what would become Rush's musical style for the 1990s. The single reached #9 on the Mainstream Rock Charts in 1991.

Live performance[edit]

"Roll the Bones" would be played on every Rush tour since the song's release, up to the 2007-2008 Snakes And Arrows Tour, when it was removed from the setlist.

Track listing[edit]

All music by Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee and lyrics by Neil Peart.

US promo:

  1. Roll the Bones - 5:30

UK 7" release:

  1. Roll The Bones - 5:30
  2. Show Don't Tell - 5:01

UK Picture Disc release:

  1. Roll the Bones - 5:30
  2. The Pass - 4:51
  3. It's a Rap (Part 1: Alex Lifeson Speaks)

UK 2-Disc Limited Edition release:
Disc 1

  1. Roll the Bones - 5:30
  2. Anagram (For Mongo) - 3:59
  3. It's a Rap (Part 2: Geddy Lee Speaks)

Disc 2

  1. Roll the Bones - 5:30
  2. Where's My Thing? (Part IV, "Gangster of Boats" Trilogy) - 3:49
  3. Superconductor - 4:47
  4. It's a Rap (Part 3: Neil Peart Speaks)

German 7" release:

  1. Roll the Bones - 5:30
  2. Tom Sawyer (Live) - 5:06

12" release

  1. Roll the Bones - 5:30
  2. Tom Sawyer (Live) - 5:06
  3. Spirit of Radio (Live)


See also[edit]