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 HeightsQuebec, Canada, and released on February 12, 1981.

Moving Pictures became the band's biggest selling album in the US rising to #3 on the Billboard charts and remains the band's most popular and commercially successful studio recording to date. 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.

Following the formula of their previous album, Permanent WavesMoving Pictures follows a more radio-friendly format and includes several of the band's signature tracks, including the hits "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight", the FM rock radio standard, "Red Barchetta", and the band's highly praised 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]

The album cover art is a visual pun of movers physically carrying paintings, while several songs from the album are connected to motion pictures, with "moving pictures" meaning movies. This second meaning is explicitly shown on the back of the album, where a movie crew is seen filming the scene from the front cover. A third meaning is taken from bystanders who are watching the movers and are visibly emotionally moved by the paintings, making them "moving pictures".


 [hide*1 Background


Work on the album began in August 1980 at Stony LakeOntario. "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.[6][7]

Moving Pictures was played live in its entirety to open the second set during each show of Rush's 2010-11 Time Machine Tour.[8] This was the first time Moving Pictures was played live in its entirety.


One of Rush's best-known songs, "Tom Sawyer", is a mainstay in Rush's 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[9] by Richard S. Foster. Instead of the MGB roadster in the story, Peart has reported that the car that inspired the song's title is a Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta.

Next is the Grammy-nominated instrumental "YYZ". The track's title is the IATA Airport Code for Toronto Pearson International Airport. It 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 their live album All the World's a Stage (as well as the famous line byWilliam Shakespeare).

Side two of the original vinyl release opened with "The Camera Eye", to date Rush's final song lasting longer than ten minutes, once a common length surpassed in their recorded output. 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 of 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", features voices during the intro (that according to Alex Lifeson on In the Studio with Redbeard, which devoted an episode to Moving Pictures, were recorded outside Le Studio in sub-zero temperatures with the band and crew ranting and raving in a humorous way) and sound effects made by Lee's Oberheim keyboards, before jumping into the rock section of the song. It features graphic designer and musician Hugh Syme on keyboards (Rush's longtime artwork creator), and the entire drum part was recorded twice in one verse, with a percussion section created by recording each sound differently. "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 last track on the album is "Vital Signs", which starts off with a distinctive sequencer part made by Lee's OB-X synthesizer, showing distinct reggae flavour. Reggae influences began on Rush's previous album Permanent Waves and would later creep into tracks found on the band's next studio releases, Signals and Grace Under Pressure

Cover artwork[edit]Edit

[1][2]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.[10] The album cover was taken in front of the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen's ParkToronto. 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.

In an interview with Mike Dixon, easily recognizable as one of the movers on the Moving Pictures and Exit...Stage Left album covers, he discusses the various 'actors' on theMoving Pictures cover, beginning with the mover on the far left, his friend Bobby King. Bob King was on Hugh Syme's design team, and is credited for assisting Hugh on A Farewell to KingsHemispheres and Archives. Dixon goes on to tell how Bob King is not only one of the movers, but is also the original Starman on 2112, as well as Dionysus on theHemispheres cover (i.e., the naked guy). In addition, the mover holding the Starman painting is Kelly Jay, who sang for the Toronto band Crowbar (Crowbar performed with Rush at the Minkler Auditorium in 1973, an advertisement for this show is in the Different Stages linernotes collage). Dixon also confirms photographer Deborah Sammuels is the Joan of Arc character and that her relatives are the family on the right (this conflicts with information provided in the Rush biography Chemistry, which states "Hugh borrowed friends, neighbours and even his hairdresser's parents").[11]

Track listing[edit]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) 4:37
2. "Red Barchetta"   6:12
3. "YYZ(Lee and Peart) (Instrumental) 4:25
4. "Limelight"   4:23
Side two
No. Title Length
5. "The Camera Eye"   10:58
6. "Witch Hunt(Part III of Fear) 4:46
7. "Vital Signs"   4:47





Year Chart Position
1981 Canadian Albums Chart 1[12]
Billboard 200 3[13]
UK Albums Chart 3[14]

Sales certifications[edit]Edit

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


  • 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]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.[16]

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab issued a Gold CD remaster in 1992 that is currently out of print.[17]

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.[18]

Two disc 5.1 Surround Sound release[edit]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".[19]

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.

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