The Spirit of Radio

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"The Spirit of Radio"
UK 7" single
Single by Rush
from the album Permanent Waves
ReleasedDecember 1979 (promo)
February 1980 (single)
StudioLe Studio (Morin-Heights, Quebec)
  • 4:56 (album version)
  • 3:40 (US/Canada single edit)
  • 3:00 (UK single edit)
Rush singles chronology
"The Spirit of Radio"
"Entre Nous"


""The Spirit of Radio" (Live)"

"One Little Victory"
Music video
"The Spirit of Radio" on YouTube

"The Spirit of Radio" is a song by Canadian rock band Rush, released from their 1980 album Permanent Waves. The song's name was inspired by Toronto-based radio station CFNY-FM's slogan.[3][4] It was significant in the growing popularity of the band, becoming their first top 30 single in Canada and reaching number 51 on the US Billboard Hot 100. It remains one of their best-known songs and was a concert staple.


The introduction of the song was composed in a mixolydian mode scale built on E; most of the rest, barring repetitions of the introductory guitar riff, is in conventional E major.[5]

Guitarist Alex Lifeson explained the song's opening riff as "I just wanted to give it something that gave it a sense of static – radio waves bouncing around, very electric. We had that sequence going underneath, and it was just really to try and get something that was sitting on top of it, that gave it that movement."[6]

"The Spirit of Radio" features the band experimenting with a reggae style in its closing section. Reggae would be explored further on the band's next three records, 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", and as Lifeson said, "to make us smile and have a little fun".[7]

Lyrically, the song is a lament on the change of FM radio from free-form to commercial formats during the late 1970s. The Toronto-based station CFNY-FM—which had not abandoned free-form programming—is cited as an inspiration for the song. The reggae finale also has lyrics inspired by the song "The Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel.[8]

Single release[edit]

Rush had grazed the UK Top 40 two years earlier with "Closer to the Heart", but when "The Spirit of Radio" was issued as a single in February 1980, it reached number 13 on the UK Singles Chart in March.[9] It remains their biggest UK hit to date (the 7" single was a 3:00 edited version which has not appeared on CD, as of 2011).[10] In the US, the single peaked at number 51 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980 and number 22 in Canada, and in 1998 a live version of the song reached number 27 on the Mainstream Rock Chart.

Promotional 12-inch copies were released in the United States in late 1979 with the B-sides of "Working Man" and "The Trees", and the song being incorrectly titled "The Spirit of the Radio".[11]


Cash Box said that "Geddy Lee's high vocals and the band's electrically charged instrumental should click on AOR lists."[12]

"The Spirit of Radio" was named one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and was among five Rush songs inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on March 28, 2010.[13] Record World called it a "crafty rocker that's an out-of-the-box AOR-pop smash."[14]

Classic Rock readers voted "The Spirit of Radio" the fourth best Rush song.[15]

Odyssey ranked "The Spirit of Radio" number 11 on their ranking of every Rush song, and rated it 10/10. They also considered it to be the second best song from Permanent Waves, only behind "Freewill".[16]

The song was covered by the British alternative rock band Catherine Wheel in 1996, with their version appearing both on their B-sides and rarities album Like Cats and Dogs and on the CFNY-branded compilation album Spirit of the Edge, Vol. 2.[17]

Music video[edit]

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Permanent Waves, on June 12, 2020 Rush produced an animated music video by Fantoons Animation Studio featuring themselves as they appeared around 1980 as well as nods to Guglielmo Marconi (an Italian inventor instrumental in the development of radio) as well as radio djs from the time that were influential in Rush's development. The video also pays homage to Rush's drummer, the late Neil Peart, "whose music and lyrics continue to capture the hearts and imaginations of the fans".[18][19]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1980) Peak
Canada Top Singles (RPM) 22
UK Singles (OCC)[20] 13
US Billboard Hot 100[21] 51

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McPadden, Mike (January 13, 2015). "11 Classic Rockers Who Went New Wave For One Album". VH1. Archived from the original on June 25, 2022. Retrieved September 30, 2023.
  2. ^ a b Popoff, Martin (January 5, 2024). "The Top 20 unlikely Progressive Rock hits, ranked". Goldmine. Retrieved January 7, 2024.
  3. ^ "Catchphrase". CFNY-FM. Retrieved October 30, 2008.
  4. ^ Kinos-Goodin, Jesse (13 November 2014). "Neil Peart on the 10 best Rush songs ever". CBC. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  5. ^ "The Spirit of Radio". Musicnotes. 13 September 1999.
  6. ^ Prato, Greg (2006-05-03). "The Story Behind The Song: The Spirit Of Radio by Rush". Classic Rock. Retrieved 2022-01-05.
  7. ^ ""F.M. Radio Earns Plaudits from Rush" - Music Express, February 1980". Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  8. ^ Prato, Greg (2006-05-03). "The Story Behind The Song: The Spirit Of Radio by Rush". Classic Rock. Retrieved 2019-01-05.
  9. ^ "UK Singles Chart runs". April 8, 2011. Archived from the original on March 10, 2010. Retrieved August 4, 2011.
  10. ^ "Rush – Spirit Of Radio". Retrieved 5 August 2011.
  11. ^ "Photographic image" (JPG). Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  12. ^ "CashBox Singles Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. February 9, 1980. p. 17. Retrieved 2022-01-01.
  13. ^ Infantry, Ashante (January 20, 2010). "New home a place to sing praises of our songwriters". The Toronto Star. Retrieved June 16, 2010.
  14. ^ "Hits of the Week" (PDF). Record World. February 9, 1980. p. 1. Retrieved 2023-02-16.
  15. ^ "The 50 greatest Rush songs ever". 11 June 2015.
  16. ^ "A Definitive Ranking of All Rush Songs". 20 July 2017.
  17. ^ Greg Quill, "Rush: writing new history Canadian rock institution gets 'humbling' honour for indelible songs like 'Spirit of Radio'". Toronto Star, March 28, 2010.
  18. ^ "The Spirit of Radio Video". Retrieved 2022-02-08.
  19. ^ "Universal Music Rush The Spirit of Radio". Retrieved 2023-08-17.
  20. ^ "Rush: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  21. ^ "Rush Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved February 3, 2019.

External links[edit]