Moving Pictures (Rush album)

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Moving Pictures
Moving Pictures.jpg
Studio album by Rush
Released February 12, 1981
June 3, 1997 (remastered CD)
Recorded October - November 1980 at Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec
Length 40:00
Label Anthem (Canada)
Atlantic (Japan)
Epic/Sony (Japan)
Producer Rush, Terry Brown
Rush chronology
Permanent Waves
Moving Pictures
Exit...Stage Left
Singles from Moving Pictures
  1. "Tom Sawyer"
    Released: February 28, 1981
  2. "Limelight"
    Released: February 28, 1981
  3. "Vital Signs"
    Released: 1981
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[1]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[2]

Moving Pictures is the eighth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush. It was recorded and mixed from October to November 1980 at Le Studio located in Morin Heights, Quebec, Canada, and released on February 12, 1981.

Moving Pictures became the band's highest-selling album in the United States, peaking at #3 on the Billboard 200, and it remains the band's most commercially successful recording. The album was one of the first to be certified multi-platinum by the RIAA upon establishment of the certification in October 1984, and eventually went quadruple platinum.

Building on their previous album, Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures follows a more radio-friendly format and includes several of the band's best-known songs, such as the singles "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight", the rock radio standard "Red Barchetta", and the instrumental "YYZ."

Moving Pictures is one of two Rush albums listed in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (2112 is the other).[3] Kerrang! magazine listed the album at #43 among the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time".[4] In 2012, Moving Pictures was listed as the #10 'Your Favorite Prog Rock Albums of All Time' by Rolling Stone.[5] In 2014, readers of Rhythm voted Moving Pictures the greatest drumming album in the history of progressive rock.[6]

The album cover art is a visual pun on the title, and a triple entendre. The first meaning is represented by the movers carrying pictures, with the second by the people watching them who are emotionally moved by the pictures. The third meaning is shown on the back cover, where the entire scene is revealed to be a set for a motion picture.


Work on the album began in August 1980 at Stony Lake, Ontario. "The Camera Eye" was the first to be written, followed by "Tom Sawyer", "Red Barchetta", "YYZ" and "Limelight". "Tom Sawyer" grew from a melody that Lee had been using to set up his synthesizers at sound checks.

At Phase One Studios with producer Terry Brown, they began recording demos. "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight" were polished in October by playing them live on a warm-up tour and then they started the main recording at Le Studio in Quebec. "Red Barchetta" was recorded in one take, while others took many. There were problems with equipment failures and they finished three days behind schedule.[7][8]

Moving Pictures was played live in its entirety for the first time to open the second set during each show of Rush's 2010-11 Time Machine Tour.[9]


The opening track, "Tom Sawyer", is one of Rush's best-known songs and a mainstay of their live shows. Lyrics for this track were written in collaboration with Max Webster lyricist Pye Dubois.

The second song on Moving Pictures is "Red Barchetta". The lyrics were inspired by the short story A Nice Morning Drive[10] by Richard S. Foster, first published in the magazine Road and Track in November 1973. Instead of an MGB roadster as featured in the original story, Peart has reported that the car that inspired the song's title is a Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta. Foster recounts the story of how he and Peart finally met in 2007 over their mutual love of BMW motorcycles in an article titled "The Drummer, The Private Eye, and Me."

Next is the Grammy-nominated instrumental "YYZ". The title is the IATA Airport Code for Toronto Pearson International Airport, which is played repeatedly in Morse code (-.--/-.--/--..) at the beginning of the song using a 5/4 time signature, where the dashes (-) are played using eighth notes and the dots (.) utilize sixteenth notes.

"Limelight" is another perennial radio favourite. The lyrics are autobiographical, based on Peart's own dissatisfaction with fame and its intrusion into personal life. The song contains two self-references: the first, the line "living in a fish-eye lens, caught in the camera eye" references the next track, "The Camera Eye", while the line "all the world's indeed a stage, and we are merely players," references the title of the live album All the World's a Stage, itself taken from William Shakespeare's As You Like It.

Side two of the original vinyl release opens with "The Camera Eye," to date Rush's last song lasting longer than ten minutes, a frequent occurrence earlier in their career. Lyrically and musically it is an attempt to capture the energy and moods of two of the English-speaking world's great cities: New York City (first verse) and London (second verse). Unlike all the other songs on the album, it had not been performed live since the Signals tour in 1983, until it was brought back for the band's Time Machine Tour along with the rest of Moving Pictures in its entirety. The title refers to short pieces of the same name in the U.S.A. trilogy of John Dos Passos. Neil Peart has stated that he is an admirer of Dos Passos' work.

The sixth song, "Witch Hunt", opens with faint voices (which Alex Lifeson explained on In the Studio with Redbeard were recorded outside Le Studio in sub-zero temperatures with the band and others shouting in a humorous way) and sound effects produced by a synthesizer, before transitioning into the song proper. It features Hugh Syme, artist for most of Rush's album covers, on keyboards, and double-tracked drums in one verse. "Witch Hunt" would become a part of the Fear series of songs, which includes "The Weapon" from Signals, "The Enemy Within" from Grace Under Pressure, and "Freeze" from Vapor Trails.

The album closes with "Vital Signs," which features a sequencer part produced by an OB-X synthesizer, and shows distinct reggae flavour. Reggae influences in Rush's music were first heard on their previous album, Permanent Waves, and would later be heard more extensively on the band's next two studio releases, Signals and Grace Under Pressure.

Cover artwork[edit]

The Ontario Legislature, circa 2006

The album cover is a monument to triple entendre. On the front cover there are movers who are moving pictures. On the side, people are shown crying because the pictures passing by are emotionally "moving". Finally, the back cover has a film crew making a "moving picture" of the whole scene.[11] The album cover was taken in front of the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen's Park, Toronto. The pictures that are being moved are the starman logo featured on the reverse cover of the 2112 album, the famous Dogs Playing Poker painting, and a painting that presumably shows Joan of Arc being burned at the stake on May 30, 1431.

Mike Dixon, one of the movers on the Moving Pictures and Exit...Stage Left album covers, discussed the various people on the Moving Pictures cover with the website The first, Bobby King (seen furthest to the left on the album cover), was a member of Hugh Syme's design team, and is credited for assisting Syme on A Farewell to Kings, Hemispheres and Archives. Dixon explains that King is not only one of the movers, but also the original Starman on 2112 and Dionysus (the nude man) on the Hemispheres cover. According to Dixon, the mover holding the Starman painting is Kelly Jay, singer of the Toronto band Crowbar (Crowbar performed with Rush at the Minkler Auditorium in 1973; an advertisement for this show is seen in the liner notes for Different Stages). Dixon also confirms photographer Deborah Sammuels is the Joan of Arc character and that her relatives are the family on the right. However, this conflicts with information provided in the Rush biography Chemistry, which states "Hugh borrowed friends, neighbours and even his hairdresser's parents."[12]

The film crew shown on the back cover actually shot the scene with motion picture film, and the album's front cover is a single frame from this film. This was revealed to Rush concertgoers several years later, when the still image was projected on a large screen behind the band, and then suddenly came to life as a full-motion film sequence.

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Neil Peart except where noted, all music composed by Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Tom Sawyer" (Lyrics: Peart and Pye Dubois) 4:34
2. "Red Barchetta"   6:10
3. "YYZ" (Lee and Peart) (Instrumental) 4:26
4. "Limelight"   4:20
Side two
No. Title Length
5. "The Camera Eye
  • I: New York
  • II: London"  
  • 6:45
  • 4:16
6. "Witch Hunt" (Part III of Fear) 4:46
7. "Vital Signs"   4:46





Year Chart Position
1981 Canadian Albums Chart 1[13]
Billboard 200 3[14]
UK Albums Chart 3[15]

Sales certifications[edit]

Country Organization Sales
U.S. RIAA 4x Platinum (4,000,000)
Canada RIAA 4x Platinum (400,000)
UK BPI Silver (60,000)


  • Released: February 1981
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Rush and Terry Brown
  • Chart positions: #55 US Hot 100; #4 US Mainstream Rock
"Tom Sawyer"
  • Released: October 1981
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart and Pye Dubois
  • Produced by: Rush and Terry Brown
  • Chart positions: #44 US Hot 100; #8 US Mainstream Rock; #25 UK
"Vital Signs"
  • Released: March 1982
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Rush and Terry Brown
  • Chart positions: #41 UK

Remaster details[edit]

The first pressings of Moving Pictures on compact disc were missing the first beat of "Tom Sawyer" by mistake. This was corrected in subsequent CD releases.[17]

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab issued a Gold CD remaster in 1992 that is currently out of print.[18]

A Mercury Records remaster was issued in 1997.

  • The tray has a picture of three fingerprints, light blue, pink, and lime green (left to right) with "The Rush Remasters" printed in all capital letters just to the left. All remasters from Moving Pictures through A Show Of Hands feature this logo, originally found on the cover art of Retrospective II.
  • The remastered CD restores all of the original artwork found on the vinyl copy of the album as well as the lyrics, and includes the moving picture of drummer Neil Peart which was missing on the original CD issue.

Moving Pictures was remastered again in 2011 by Andy VanDette for the "Sector" box sets, which re-released all of Rush's Mercury-era albums. It is included in the Sector 2 set.[19]

Moving Pictures was remastered for vinyl in 2015 as a part of the official "12 Months of Rush" promotion.[20] The high definition master prepared for this release was also made available for purchase in a 24-bit/48kHz digital format at several high-resolution audio online music stores. These remasters have significantly less compression than the 1997 remasters and the "Sector" remasters by Andy VanDette. Sean Magee remastered the audio from an analog copy of the original digital master, using a 192kHz sample rate. But since Moving Pictures was originally mixed on digital equipment at 16-bit/44.1kHz, no audio above 22kHz exists in the original digital master or any of the remasters, which is why many digital music stores are only selling the album at a maximum sample rate of 48kHz.[21]

Two disc 5.1 Surround Sound release[edit]

Moving Pictures was re-released in a 2-disc 30th Anniversary set on April 5, 2011. The first disc contains the standard stereo mixes of the songs. The second disc, available as either a DVD-Audio or Blu-ray disc, contains all the album's tracks in Audiophile 5.1 Surround and Stereo and music videos for the songs "Tom Sawyer", "Limelight", and "Vital Signs".[22]

The "Vital Signs" music video is billed on the disc packaging as "previously unreleased," although it appeared on the 1985 Rush video compilation Through The Camera Eye and had been aired on MTV and other video outlets since the original release of Moving Pictures.


  1. ^ Prato, Greg. "Moving Pictures - Rush". Allmusic. Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  2. ^ "Rush: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 February 2013. 
  3. ^ " Parker...1001 Albums..". 
  4. ^ Jeffries, Neil (21 January 1989). "Rush ' Moving Pictures'". Kerrang! 222. London, UK: Spotlight Publications Ltd. 
  5. ^ "10. Rush - 'Moving Pictures'". Rolling Stone. 
  6. ^ "Peart named most influential prog drummer". TeamRock. 3 October 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  7. ^ Moving Pictures Tourbook
  8. ^ "Power Windows...A Tribute To RUSH". 
  9. ^ "". 
  10. ^ "A Nice Morning Drive". 
  11. ^ "The Rush Frequently Asked Questions on the Internet File". 
  12. ^ Power Windows. "Power Windows..A Tribute To RUSH: "Mover" Mike Dixon Discusses the Moving Pictures album cover". Power Windows..A Tribute To RUSH. 
  13. ^ "Top Albums/CDs - Volume 34, No. 17, April 04 1981". Library and Archives Canada. 
  14. ^ "Moving Pictures chart position in the US". Billboard. 
  15. ^ "Rush chart positions in the UK". The Official Charts Company. 
  16. ^ "Rush Discography". 
  17. ^ "Andy VanDette On Remastering 15 Rush Albums". 
  18. ^ Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
  19. ^ "Andy VanDette On Remastering 15 Rush Albums". 
  20. ^ "12 MONTHS OF RUSH: 14 ALBUMS FROM MERCURY ERA FOR RELEASE IN 2015". Retrieved 10 July 2015. 
  21. ^ "Rush - new 2015 vinyl and hi-res reissues thread". Steve Hoffman Music Forums. Retrieved 10 July 2015. 
  22. ^ "RUSH: More 'Moving Pictures' 5.1 Surround Sound Remix Details Revealed - Feb. 20, 2011". Retrieved 2011-02-20. 

External links[edit]