Rush were six years, and the same number of studio albums, down the line when their new release started to send them stratospheric on this day 35 years ago. The Billboard 200 for the week of February 2, 1980 was the one featuring their seventh album ‘Permanent Waves’ as a new entry, and the profile of the Canadian rock giants was about to rise around the world.
Their transition from the long and experimental progressive pieces of their early years to a more accessible and concise style was captured in the piece that would be the calling card for the album, and one of the most famous tracks in the Rush songbook. ‘The Spirit Of Radio’ was released as a single in March and became a real calling card, helping ‘Permanent Waves’ to become the group’s first top five US album and, eventually, a platinum seller there.
The album was recorded in Quebec and co-produced by Rush with their usual collaborator, British producer Terry Brown. The album used their familiar creative formula in which Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson’s music was illustrated by Neil Peart’s lyrics, apart from ‘Different Strings,’ for which Lee wrote the words. But this time, with a new sense of discipline, the songs were self-contained, without the episodic movements of previous releases, and crucially, there was a single to drive them.
‘The Spirit Of Radio’ became a substantially bigger hit for Rush in the UK, reaching No. 13 there compare to only No. 51 in the States. The band had an existing British fan base that had taken their two previous releases, ‘A Farewell To Kings’ and ‘Hemispheres,’ to Nos. 22 and 14 respectively. But this was a new level, as ‘Permanent Waves’ rose to No. 3, as the first of seven consecutive UK top ten entries.
“There were still a number of long songs,” Lifeson told Billboard in 2004, “but there were quite a few shorter songs, and we condensed them more. We were more economical with them, and that sort of set the tone for at least the next ten years.”
Rush spent most of 1980 on the road touring the album, starting in North America from January all the way into May. The European leg of the tour included no fewer than five shows at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, and there was another run of North American shows in September.
Listen to the ‘In The Studio With Redbeard’ radio special on ‘Permanent Waves’ here
Listen to ‘Permanent Waves’ on Spotify
Download the album from Google Play or iTunes, or buy it on Amazon
Pre-order it on vinyl, along with a wealth of other Rush albums, in Universal’s 2015 reissue campaign, at uDiscover’s Deluxe Audio Store
Explore our dedicated Rush Artist Page