In a 1984 interview Neil Peart describes writing "Distant Early Warning":
The main theme of the song is a series of things, but that's certainly one of the idea[s] (our very tense world situation), and living in the modern world basically in all of its manifestations in terms of the distance from us of the threat of superpowers and the nuclear annihilation and all of that stuff, and these giant missiles pointed at each other across the ocean. There's all of that, but that tends to have a little bit of distance from people's lives, but at the same time I think it is omnipresent, you know, I think that threat does loom somewhere in everyone's subconscious, perhaps. And then it deals with the closer things in terms of relationships and how to keep a relationship in such a swift-moving world, and it has something to do with our particular lives, dealing with revolving doors, going in and out, but also I think that's generally true with people in the modern world where things for a lot of people are very difficult, and consequently, work and the mundane concerns of life tend to take precedence over the important values of relationships and of the larger world and the world of the abstract as opposed to the concrete, and dealing with all of those things with grace. [more of the song is played] And when I see a little bit of grace in someone's life. Like when you drive past a horrible tenement building and you see these wonderful pink flamingos on the balcony up there, or something like, some little aspect of humanity that strikes you as a beautiful resistance if you like.
The music video for Distant Early Warning (directed by David Mallett) is something of a mystery to Rush fans. Rumour has it that Geddy Lee's son, Julian, was the small child seen starring in and riding the rocket in the music video. This rumour was dispelled by Geddy Lee in a Rockline interview on May 9, 2007. Geddy said that his son Julian was not in this video. The boy was actually a British citizen by the name of Alexander Lant. The rumour, however, continues due to a quote from Julian in a biographical book titled Rush: Chemistry, published January 15, 2006. Julian is quoted as saying "I don't remember too much, except sitting on this rocket thing as if I was riding it for a really long time," Julian recalled. "Neil let me play his drums, but I had to be REALLY careful!"