Permanent Waves

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Permanent Waves
Rush Permanent Waves.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJanuary 14, 1980[1]
RecordedSeptember–October 1979
StudioLe Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec, Canada
Rush chronology
Permanent Waves
Moving Pictures
Singles from Permanent Waves
  1. "The Spirit of Radio"
    Released: December 1979
  2. "Freewill"
    Released: January 1980
  3. "Entre Nous"
    Released: January 1980
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[2]
Rolling Stone(favourable)[3]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3.5/5 stars[4]

Permanent Waves is the seventh studio album by the Canadian rock band Rush, released in January 1980 on Anthem Records. After touring to support the band's previous album Hemispheres (1978) ended, the band members took a short break before they regrouped to work on new material. The album marked a departure in the band's musical style towards tighter song structures and songs more suitable for radio airplay. Permanent Waves was recorded in late 1979 at Le Studio in Morin Heights, Quebec and with co-producer Terry Brown and mixed at Trident Studios in London.

Permanent Waves received a mostly positive reception from critics, and became the band's most successful album at the time of release, reaching number 3 in Canada and the United Kingdom and number 4 in the United States. The album was certified platinum in the latter by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling one million copies. Rush released "The Spirit of Radio," "Freewill" and "Entre Nous" as singles, and supported the album with a 1979–1980 tour.



In June 1979, the band finished its eight-month tour of the United States, Canada, and Europe in support of its sixth studio album, Hemispheres (1978). The tour had taken its toll on the group and, for the first time in the band's history, each member agreed to take a six-week break before starting work on a new album.[6] They regrouped in mid-July 1979 at Lakewoods Farm near Flesherton, Ontario to write and rehearse new material for two weeks.[6][7] They set up their equipment in the basement and put down what Peart described as "a giant hodge-podge of instrumental mish-mash," initially titled "Uncle Tounouse", during the first session. The piece was not developed further, but sections of it were used as the basis of passages on other songs they would record.[6] A typical day's schedule involved Lifeson cooking breakfast for the trio, after which Lifeson and Lee worked on musical ideas while Peart gathered his notes and walked to a nearby cottage to write lyrics,[7] with "Entre Nous" being the only set completed prior to their arrival at Lakewoods Farm. This routine had a productive effect on the three, with "The Spirit of Radio," "Freewill" and "Jacob's Ladder" being put down within several days without considerable effort.[6] Peart attempted to write a song based on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the 14th-century epic set in King Arthur's time, but it was abandoned after it was deemed too out of place with the other material.[6] With some material prepared for Permanent Waves, Rush moved into Sound Kitchen Studio in northern Toronto, Ontario[7] with their producer Terry Brown to put their ideas onto tape. "The Spirit of Radio," "Freewill" and "Jacob's Ladder" were further polished on the warm-up tour during soundchecks, and by early September, "The Spirit of Radio" and "Freewill" were being performed live.[6][7]

In September 1979, Rush headed to Le Studio in Morin Heights, Quebec to record Permanent Waves with Brown and engineer Paul Northfield.[6] Having recorded their previous two studio albums in Wales the band felt it was time for a change and initially chose Trident Studios in London, but cancelled due to the high costs of studio time and accommodation.[7] The idea of working in a busy city environment became something they now wished to avoid and instead sought a remote location.[7] The recording sessions involved the band tweaking the settings of instruments and positioning of microphones. They recorded basic tracks with multiple takes until they captured the best performance. While Lee, Lifeson, and Brown began overdubs, Peart began attempting to write another longer song, and after enduring three days of writer's block, "Natural Science" was born. Fin Costello was then brought in to photograph the band in the studio. Cover art director Hugh Syme was also brought in and recorded a piano solo on "Different Strings". Music was composed for "Natural Science", with some parts reused from the discarded "Green Knight". The water sounds at the beginning of the song were created by splashing oars in the private lake, performed by Brown and studio assistant Kim Bickerdike, and the natural echo outside was used to record various instruments. The rough mixes on the album were complete, and the final mix was completed in two weeks at Trident Studios.[6] Upon the album's completion, Lifeson felt unsure about the record and for a period of time, could not listen to it due to his feeling that it failed to present any fresh ideas. His opinion changed when he first heard the album on the radio after its release, realising he had overreacted.[7]

Music and lyrics[edit]

"The Spirit of Radio" featured the band's early experiments with a reggae style in its closing section, which was explored further on the band's next three albums, Moving Pictures, Signals, and Grace Under Pressure. The group had experimented with reggae-influenced riffs in the studio and had come up with a reggae introduction to "Working Man" on their tours, so they decided to incorporate a passage into "The Spirit of Radio," as Lifeson said, "to make us smile and have a little fun."[7] Peart wrote the lyrics with Toronto radio station CFNY-FM in mind which had adopted the title as its slogan.[8]

The song "Jacob's Ladder" uses multiple time signatures, and possesses a dark, ominous feel in its first half. Its lyrics are based on a simple concept; a vision of sunlight breaking through storm clouds. The title is a reference to the natural phenomenon of the sun breaking through the clouds in visible rays, which in turn is named after the Biblical ladder to heaven on which Jacob saw angels ascending and descending in a vision. Early in Rush's 2015 R40 Live Tour, Geddy Lee incorrectly stated that the song had never been played live before, but was corrected by fans on the internet.[9] The live albums Exit...Stage Left (1981) and R40 Live (2015) include performances of "Jacob's Ladder".

"Entre Nous" (French for "between us") did not receive heavy radio airplay and was not performed live until the Snakes & Arrows Tour in 2007.[8][10]

While the band began stepping back from the epic song format on this album, the closing track "Natural Science" is more than nine minutes long and is composed of three distinct movements. The lyrics are driven by concepts of natural science. It was featured, with a different arrangement, on the 1996 Test for Echo Tour, the 2002 Vapor Trails Tour, the 2007–2008 Snakes & Arrows Tour and the 2015 R40 Live Tour.


The cover art sparked some controversy because of the appearance of the "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline on the newspaper. After a complaint from the Chicago Tribune, artist Hugh Syme changed the text to "Dewei Defeats Truman." Some later versions of the cover, such as for the Rush Remasters CD release, have the headline blanked out and it appears simply as a white box. The billboards in the distance were changed from Coca-Cola (which objected to the use of its logo) to include each band member's name in similar typestyle.[citation needed] The "200 Gram Vinyl LP w/Download" 2015 reissues use the altered "Dewei Defeats Truman" newspaper art while leaving the Coca-Cola signs with the band's names unchanged.[citation needed]

The background scene comes from a photo, taken by Flip Schulke, of the Galveston Seawall in Texas during Hurricane Carla on September 11, 1961. The woman in the foreground is Canadian model Paula Turnbull,[11] and the man waving in the background is Syme.[12]


A remaster was issued in 1997. In particular:

  • The tray has a picture of the star with man painting (mirroring the cover art of Retrospective I) with "The Rush Remasters" printed in all capital letters just to the left. All remasters from Rush through to Permanent Waves are like this.
  • It includes the original back cover of the album, showing the band in the recording studio, as well as the inner-sleeve pictures, credits, and lyrics which were missing from the original CD.

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab released gold CD and "audiophile" LP remasters in early 2008.

Permanent Waves was remastered again in 2011 by Andy VanDette for the "Sector" box sets, which re-released all of Rush's Mercury-era albums. Permanent Waves is included in the Sector 2 set.[13]

Permanent Waves was remastered for vinyl in 2015 by Sean Magee at Abbey Road Studios as a part of the official "12 Months of Rush" promotion.[14] The high definition master prepared for this release was also made available for purchase in 24-bit/96 kHz and 24-bit/192 kHz formats, at several high-resolution audio online music stores. These masters have significantly less dynamic range compression than the 1997 remasters and the "Sector" remasters by Andy VanDette.[15]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Neil Peart, except "Different Strings" by Geddy Lee; all music composed by Lee and Alex Lifeson.

Side one[16][17]
1."The Spirit of Radio"4:59
3."Jacob's Ladder"7:28
Side two
4."Entre Nous"4:37
5."Different Strings"3:50
6."Natural Science"
  • I: "Tide Pools"
  • II: "Hyperspace"
  • III: "Permanent Waves"



Additional musicians


  • Deborah Samuel – photography
  • Fin Costello – photography
  • Flip Schulke – photography
  • Terry Brown – arranger, producer, mixing
  • Paul Northfield – engineer
  • Robbie Whelan – assistant engineer
  • Craig Milliner – mixing assistant
  • Adam Moseley – mixing assistant
  • Paula Turnbull – cover girl
  • Robert Gage – hairdresser to the cover girl
  • Ray Staff – mastering on original album
  • Bob Ludwig – remastering


Year Chart Position
1980 Billboard 200 4[18]
UK Albums Chart 3[19]


Country Organization Sales
U.S. RIAA Platinum (1,000,000)
Canada CRIA Platinum (100,000)
UK BPI Gold (100,000)


  1. ^ "About Permanent Waves". Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  2. ^ Prato, Greg. "Permanent Waves – Rush". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2011-11-20.
  3. ^ Fricke, David (1 May 1980). "Permanent Waves". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2011-11-20.
  4. ^ "Rush: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2013-02-21.
  5. ^ Clouse, Matthew. "Rush: Permanent Waves Album Review". Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Peart, Neil (1980). "Personal Waves – The Story of an Album". Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Sharp, Keith (February 1980). "F.M. Radio Earns Plaudits from Rush". Music Express. Vol. 4 no. 11. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  8. ^ a b Ladd, Jim (March 1980). "An interview with Neil Peart". Innerview. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  9. ^ "From Rush With Love". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  10. ^ "Power Windows...Tour Archives". Archived from the original on 2008-06-01. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
  11. ^ Windows, Power (2009-11-24). "Rush News from Power Windows: Permanent Waves Album Cover Details Explained". Retrieved 2012-03-05.
  12. ^ "Art for art's sake: Permanent waves". 2009-09-15. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
  13. ^ "Andy VanDette On Remastering 15 Rush Albums". 2011-11-23. Archived from the original on 2014-08-23. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
  14. ^ "12 MONTHS OF RUSH: 14 ALBUMS FROM MERCURY ERA FOR RELEASE IN 2015". Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  15. ^ "Rush – new 2015 vinyl and hi-res reissues thread". Steve Hoffman Music Forums. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  16. ^ Power Windows: A Tribute to Rush Archived 2012-10-29 at the Wayback Machine Permanent Waves Liner Notes, Accessed October 8, 2012
  17. ^ Original Permanent Waves CD booklet
  18. ^ "Permanent Waves chart position in the US". Billboard.
  19. ^ "Rush chart positions in the UK". The Official Charts Company.