|Single by Rush|
|from the album Signals|
|Studio||Le Studio, Morin-Heights, Quebec, Canada|
|Songwriter(s)||Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart|
|Producer(s)||Rush, Terry Brown|
|Rush singles chronology|
The song was a staple of the band's live performances, is played regularly on classic-rock radio, and appears on several greatest-hits compilations. It was released as a single in 1982, and despite limited success on the UK charts, the song had significant airplay in Great Britain. In the United States, it charted at No. 5 on the Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart and No. 5 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Played live prior to its release, numerous pre-release live versions have circulated among collectors for years.
Lyrics and background
The song is a commentary on social stratification through the pressure to adopt certain lifestyles. It describes young people dealing with a "cool" culture amidst a comfortable yet oppressively mundane suburban existence in housing subdivisions. Anyone who does not obey social expectations is regarded as an outcast; the lyrics flatly describe a choice of "conform or be cast out".
"Subdivisions" was one of five Rush songs inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on 28 March 2010. The band asked Jacob Moon to perform his version of the song at the gala in their absence.
The song became available as downloadable content for the music video game Rock Band 3 on 2 November 2010, in Basic rhythm as well as PRO mode which takes advantage of the use of a real guitar, bass guitar, and standard MIDI-compatible electronic drum kits in addition to vocals.
Neil Peart, the band's drummer and lyric writer, said of the song:
Hugely autobiographical of course. It was an important step for us, the first song written that was keyboard-based. The upside of that: people don’t realize is that it made Alex and I the rhythm section. So the first time he and I tuned in to each other's parts was when Geddy was playing keyboards. It was a great new way for us to relate. It's also a good example of us learning to go into time signature changes more fluidly, and again, wonderful to play live. Lyrically, Geddy contributed by improvising "Battle Cars" instead of "Backs of cars" during recording and in live performances. It was a nice touch that better emphasized the struggle, or battle, we have with subdividing our lives. It's challenging and always rewarding to play decently.
The title of the song is heard twice per chorus, spoken by Peart and lip-synched in the video by Alex Lifeson. Live performances include a sample of Peart's voice, triggered at the appropriate moments and still lip-synched by Lifeson.
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The promotional video scenes were filmed in the Toronto, Ontario area. The downtown scenes were filmed in downtown Toronto, most notably the opening zoom out shot of the intersection of King and Bay St, while the suburbs scenes were filmed in Scarborough, Ontario, near Warden and Finch Avenues. The aerial zoom out is of Sandy Haven Dr in Scarborough at the north east corner of Warden Ave and McNicoll Ave. The high school scenes were filmed at L'Amoreaux Collegiate Institute, in the same area. The video also features scenes of the Don Valley Parkway (with a GO train seen crossing in the foreground), Highway 401 (at the 404 interchange), and a busy PATH tunnel.
The lead character is played by Dave Glover, a L'Amoreaux student at the time.
The arcade game featured at the end of the video is Atari's Tempest.. The video game arcade was a real arcade, not staged, and named Video Invasion. It was located at 3500 Bathurst St in North York, Toronto. It is just a few kilometers from Willowdale, the neighborhood of North York mentioned in The Necromancer. Most famously, Brian May of Queen frequented the arcade, and there were pictures of him on the wall.
- Geddy Lee – lead vocals and backing vocals, synthesizers (Oberheim OB-X, Minimoog) and bass guitar
- Alex Lifeson – electric guitar and backing vocals
- Neil Peart – drums and spoken word
- Ankeny, Jason. "Rush – Awards – Allmusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
- Infantry, Ashante (20 January 2010). "(News) New home a place to sing praises of our songwriters". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 16 June 2010.
- Ruiz, Michael (31 October 2010). "Subdivisions DLC For Rock Band 3". Power Windows. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
- Snider, Mike (10 June 2010). "Rock Band 3: What's New, What's Notable". USA Today. Retrieved 8 November 2012.
- "Subdivisions (1982 Video)". IMDb.
- Fleischer, David (19 January 2011). "Reel Toronto: Music Videos of the 1980s". Torontoist. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
- "Rush: Subdivisions video - Spacing Toronto". Spacing Toronto. 17 September 2007. Retrieved 11 June 2018.