Driverless Cars And Red Barchettas: Did Rush Predict A Google-Controlled Future

By Peter Hartlaub,, June 4, 2014

As the San Francisco Chronicle's biggest Rush fan, I have spent my career defending the Canadian trio with a myopic fervor. This includes the lyrical vision of Neil Peart, the sci-fi-obsessed, philosophy-obsessed, snow dog-obsessed drummer/lyricist for the band.

Make fun no more, Rush haters. More than 30 years after the release of Rush's "Red Barchetta," one of the more popular and thematically "out there" songs from the band, it's all coming true. Peart appears to have correctly predicted the inevitable tech company-controlled future.

"Red Barchetta," the second track on the band's popular Moving Pictures, is "inspired by" an old Road and Track short story by Richard Foster. But after reading the 1970s story about an illegal drive in a dystopian future, I would estimate that 90 percent of the futuristic flourishes in the song came out of Peart's head.

We'll explore this theory stanza by stanza. But first, get yourself up to speed and listen to the song. Crank the volume on high and make sure you air drum ...

My uncle has a country place
That no one knows about
He says it used to be a farm
Before the Motor Law

The "Motor Law" references the inevitable tech company controls over transportation, with robotic self-driving cars which will no doubt become sentient and overthrow mankind. "So what?" you reply. "Stephen King predicted that in 'Maximum Overdrive.'"

Peart takes it so much further. Read on ...

And on Sundays I elude the eyes
And hop the Turbine Freight
To far outside the Wire
Where my white-haired uncle waits

Peart wrote the lyrics in 1981, and appears to correctly predict the inventions of Google Earth and Street View ("the eyes"). This will become even more prescient in the next decade or two, as the products continue their inevitable evolution toward watching our every move in real time. (Initially for consumer data-tracking purposes, but later co-opted by law enforcement.)

You know what is designed to be operated by a turbine and (maybe) carry freight? That's right. The Hyperloop.

And is the narrator's uncle Steve Wozniak? Ralph Nader? Maybe it's Neil Peart himself!

Jump to the ground
As the Turbo slows to cross the borderline
Run like the wind
As excitement shivers up and down my spine
Down in his barn
My uncle preserved for me an old machine
For fifty odd years
To keep it as new has been his dearest dream

Forget what I said before. I'm now convinced the uncle is noted old car lover George Lucas, and the "farm" is Skywalker Ranch. It makes sense that the Hyperloop would eventually find a way through Marin County, so ex-U.S. President Gavin Newsom (who as this nation's leader will conspire with tech leaders to create a tyrannic tech-ocracy) would be able to walk to a terminal from his house. Also Newsom's fault: In the future, the 49ers will play in a new stadium in Gilroy.

I strip away the old debris
That hides a shining car
A brilliant Red Barchetta
From a better vanished time
I fire up the willing engine
Responding with a roar
Tires spitting gravel
I commit my weekly crime

Even when I first heard this song in my teens, I wondered what the future punishment would be for riding in a Red Barchetta. Twenty years in prison? Beheading in the public square? Having to listen to Side 2 of Presto? (I kid, Rush fans. I'm one of you ...)

I love Rush, but really wish Neil Peart had been more clear about this.

In my hair
Shifting and drifting
Mechanical music
Adrenaline surge...

When I'm listening to "Red Barchetta" in my car, this is the point where I'm really bummed I'm driving a four cylinder Honda Civic EX.

Well-weathered leather
Hot metal and oil
The scented country air
Sunlight on chrome
The blur of the landscape
Every nerve aware

At least there are still awesome guitar solos in the dystopian Google-cratic future.

Suddenly ahead of me
Across the mountainside
A gleaming alloy air car
Shoots towards me, two lanes wide
I spin around with shrieking tires
To run the deadly race
Go screaming through the valley
As another joins the chase

We can only assume that "gleaming alloy air cars" are reconstituted Google buses, equipped with post-apocalyptic military hardware by enslaved former Yahoo building maintenance staff and interns who had worked on "Mythbusters." Note there are two of the air cars. No doubt this is the preferred transportation of the future police force.

Drive like the wind
Straining the limits of machine and man
Laughing out loud with fear and hope
I've got a desperate plan
At the one-lane bridge
I leave the giants stranded at the riverside
Race back to the farm
To dream with my uncle at the fireside

I've listened to this song 17,827 times in my life, and never understood the second and third lines in this stanza until I looked them up today. But this all fits together now.

"The valley" = Lucas Valley Road.

"One-lane bridge" = Nicasio Valley Road Bridge.

"The riverside" = Nicasio Creek.

The "fireside" and "farm" = Skywalker Ranch.

Does George Lucas pay off the government to look away from his property? Does he secretly install a cloaking device above Skywalker Ranch to jam the Google Earth sensors? I'm pretty sure the answers to these questions are somewhere in the lyrics of Signals, Rush's follow-up album after Moving Pictures. Listening very closely for clues in "The Analog Kid."

Is it too late for humanity? Probably. But it's not too late to declare Neil Peart a prophet. Someone should go write his words on the subway walls. Or at least apologize for all the "worst song lyrics" lists he has appeared on.

I'm going to go hug my children now. You should do the same. Then I'm working on my theory that "2112" from Rush's 2112 is coming true as well. It all starts when the public schools cut their music programs, people ...