Lock and Key (Rush song)

"Lock and Key" is a song written, produced and performed by Canadian rock band Rush. It is a promotional single from their twelfth studio album, Hold Your Fire. The song deals with the theme of every human being’s primal, violent instincts underneath their civil appearance - their “killer instinct”. Critics gave the song liking reviews, with some saying it had quality of a hit single, and would make it on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The song's music video was originally released in 1987, and was produced by Bob Jason and directed by T. Vanden Ende.

"Lock and Key"
Promotional single by Rush
from the album Hold Your Fire
GenreProgressive rock
LabelAnthem Records
Songwriter(s)Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart
Producer(s)Peter Collins

Composition and background


"Lock and Key" is an atmospheric, dark[1] progressive rock song, composed in a G♯ minor key, and played at a moderate tempo and in common time.[2] The intro follows the chord progression G♯m—F♯/A♯—B6—C♯7—G♯m—F♯/A♯—E—G♯m—F♯ (no. 2)/A♯—B (no. 2), the versus following G♯m—F♯/A♯—B, the pre-chorus following D#5—E♯5—F♯5—G♯5—A♯5—F♯5, the chorus following G♯m—F♯/A♯—B6—C♯—C#sus—G♯m—F♯/A♯—E5, and the bridge following G♯5—A♯5—B5.[2]

Lee said the song to have been a mix of sounds and ideas.[3] Instrumentation includes keyboards,[3] a rough-toned electric guitar, a smooth, creamy-toned bass guitar,[1] and drums.[4] Geddy Lee played both keyboards and bass in the song, which he found to be a "battle".[3] He also said in 1988 that, unlike most songs from Hold Your Fire, he played a 5-string bass for the song: "I find that low string really means more today, because we're living in the world of synthesizers that go lower than basses ever went before."[5] Drummer Neil Peart said that in the song, he performed "a solo while Geddy and Alex keep time behind me. That's fantastic, a beautiful exchange of roles: a drum solo in the terms of a guitar solo, where the rest of the band supports, Geddy and Alex playing the actual rhythmic pulse. It allows us to try out a new suit, to take on a new interrelationship between us."[4] The song also includes a guitar solo by Lifeson that, according to a review on Sputnikmusic, deviates "from his melodic aspirations elsewhere on the album [Hold Your Fire]."[1]


"I don't want to face the killer instinct

Face it in you or me
So we keep it under lock and key

Lock and key"

The song's chorus, describing how a "killer instinct" is kept under control.[6][7]

"Lock and Key" alludes to the Carson McCullers novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.[8] The subject of the song is about violence,[9] making mentions of threats about a "killer instinct" inherent in humanity.[10] Alex Lifeson said that the phrase meant "the ability to kill for no reason at all,"[6] so, according to the book Mystic Rhythms: The Philosophical Vision of Rush, "we suppress and repress the living, vibrant, animal courage, and substitute the tepid, torpid, vapid, but secure robotic, mechanistic, automatic-pilot self. Risk is the price of being free, and we’d rather not pay it."[11]


"Lock and Key" was only released as a promotional single by Anthem Records in Canada in 1987.[12] It is the sixth track of the album Hold Your Fire, and it later appeared on compilation albums such as Chronicles and Sector 3.[13] Rush also performed the song live on their Hold Your Fire tour,[14] and a live performance of the song appears on the laserdisc version of the concert film A Show of Hands.[15] The song was also listed as a track on the official flyer for the live box set Rush Replay X 3, but Anthem claimed it was an error and said it would not appear on the box set.[16]


The song has been given positive reviews from music critics. Allmusic called the song "quintessential Rush".[17] Sputnikmusic named it a "brilliant choice for a second single, and criminally underrated,"[1] and Scouting magazine said the song had "genuine hit-single potential."[18] Metal Storm said that the song was a standout track of Hold Your Fire, stating that it "has a clear-cut power edge over the rest of the album."[19] The Manila Standard also named it one of the best cuts from the album.[20] In contrast, The Cavalier Daily found the song to be forgettable.[21] The song peaked at number 16 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.[22]

Music video

The song's music video was originally released in 1987. It was produced by Bob Jason and directed by T. Vanden Ende.[23] The video was later released on iTunes on December 7, 2005.[24] The video includes a reel of old and unusual footage in the background,[3] such as clips from the 1932 film The Last Mile.[25][26] Lee said that the goal of making the video was to make the footage match with the lyrics, which was very difficult to do, because "we [the band] were all trying to do those effects on camera."[3]

In other media

"Lock and Key" was played on the episode "The Whole Truth" from the Canadian television show Degrassi Junior High.[27]

"Intro", from Joe Budden's self-titled debut album, is credited on the album's linernotes as sampling "Lock and Key".[28]

Chart positions

US Mainstream Rock Tracks (Billboard)[22] 16


  1. Rush - Hold Your Fire (album review 2). Sputnikmusic. December 28, 2005. Accessed from June 17, 2013.
  2. Lock and Key Sheet Music. onlinesheetmusic.com. Accessed from June 21, 2013.
  3. Rush On 'Lock and Key'. VH1. Accessed from June 18, 2013.
  4. Ponting, Tim (August 1988). Neil Peart: Mystic Rhythms. Rhythm. Accessed from June 18, 2013.
  5. Tolleson, Robin (November/December 1988). Geddy Lee: Bass Is Still The Key. Bass Player. Accessed from June 23, 2013.
  6. Putterford, Mark (October 17, 1987). Lifeson Times. Kerrang!. Accessed from June 18, 2013.
  7. Lock and Key lyrics. 2112.net. Accessed from June 30, 2013.
  8. Telleria, Robert (2001). Rush Tribute: Mereley Players. Quarry Music Books. ISBN 1550822713. Info adapted by the Rush Vault. Accessed from June 29, 2013.
  9. Bishop, Pete (October 4, 1987). 'Hold Your Fire' more of the same old Rush, but with potential. Pittsburgh Press. Accessed from June 18, 2013.
  10. Michael, Fischer (October 15, 1987). Rush - Hold Your Fire. The Michigan Daily. Accessed from June 18, 2013.
  11. Carol Selby Price, Robert Price (1999). Mystic Rhythms: The Philosophical Vision of Rush. Borgo Press. ISBN 1587151022. Info adopted by the Rush Vault. Accessed from June 29, 2013.
  12. Rush - Lock And Key (Vinyl). Discogs.com. Accessed from June 18, 2013.
  13. Lock and Key - Rush. Allmusic. Accessed from June 22, 2013.
  14. Rush Tour Dates and Setlists Archived 2011-11-01 at the Wayback Machine. 2112.net. Accessed from June 19, 2013.
  15. Rush – A Show Of Hands (Laserdisc). Discogs.com. Accessed from June 30, 2013.
  16. Lock and Key NOT on Rush Replay X 3. rushisaband.com. May 16, 2006. Accessed from June 30, 2013.
  17. Rivadavia, Eduardo. Hold Your Fire - Rush. Allmusic. Accessed from June 17, 2013.
  18. Scouting. Vol. 76. No. 1. January–February 1988. Accessed from June 17, 2013.
  19. Espiau, Olivier (23 April 2010). "Rush - Hold Your Fire". Metal Storm. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
  20. Lara, Lucky (November 19, 1987). Record Review: Rush - Lock and Key (Polygram Records). Manila Standard. Accessed from June 30, 2013.
  21. Arnold, Dave (October 8, 1987). Lost urgency, strained vocals mark latest Rush LP. The Cavalier Daily. Accessed from June 18, 2013.
  22. Rush - Chart History: Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks. Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Accessed from June 17, 2013.
  23. Rush - Lock and Key. VEVO. December 21, 2012. Accessed from June 17, 2013.
  24. Music Videos - Lock and Key by Rush. iTunes. Accessed from June 30, 2013.
  25. Neil Peart Archived 2014-03-05 at the Wayback Machine. effingham.net. Accessed from June 17, 2013.
  26. The Rush Frequently Asked Questions. nimitz.net. Accessed from June 18, 2013.
  27. Rush Pop Culture References In Literature And Film. 2112.net. Accessed from October 1, 2013.
  28. Rush Samplings from Power Windows. 2112.net. Accessed from June 18, 2013.
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