Permanent Waves is the seventh studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released on January 1, 1980. It was recorded at Le StudioMorin HeightsQuebec, and mixed at Trident Studios in LondonUKPermanent Waves became Rush's first US top five album hitting #4 and was the band's fifth gold (eventually platinum) selling album. The album also marks a distinct transition from long, conceptual pieces, into a more accessible, radio-friendly style and consequently, a significant expansion in the band's sales with hits such as "The Spirit of Radio" and "Freewill" seeing considerable radio airplay.


 [hide*1 Background


The writing of the album began in July 1979, at a farmhouse at Lakewoods Farm in Ontario on Georgian BayLake Huron while Neil Peart started his lyrics in a cottage near there. Rush began with an instrumental jam, which they nicknamed "Uncle Tounouse". Parts of this were used in the songs on the album. While Peart worked on lyrics, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson would work on musical ideas in the basement. Within a few days they had put together "The Spirit of Radio", "Freewill" and "Jacob's Ladder", which came very naturally to them, and it was recorded on a Slider JVC mobile unit. "Entre Nous" was the only lyric completed ahead of time.

Peart was working on making a song out of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the medieval epic from King Arthur's time. Based on the story written in the 14th century, he was trying to keep its original style. It was deemed too out of place with the other material and was discarded. They moved into Sound Kitchen studio in Toronto to record demos, joined by producer Terry Brown. "The Spirit of Radio", "Freewill" and "Jacob's Ladder" were further polished on the warm-up tour during soundchecks.

The album was the first to be released in the 1980s, being released on the first of January and its opening track warmly greeting listeners with the lyrics "Begin the day with a friendly voice...". In 1982, Lee told Rolling Stone magazine that the album's title referred to "a theory that was going [within the band] about, like, culture waves; and there was a night when Neil said that a big album was like a permanent wave and I told him, 'that's our title.'"[citation needed]

Rush headed to Le Studio in Morin Heights, Quebec and began 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 epic song to replace the discarded "Green Knight", 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 added a piano solo to "Different Strings". Music was composed for "Natural Science", with some leftover parts from "Green Knight". The tide pool effects for 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 a week at Trident Studios, London.[4][5]


"The Spirit of Radio" featured the band's early experiments with a reggae style, which was explored further on Moving Pictures and Signals.

A notable track on Permanent Waves is "Jacob's Ladder", a song style reminiscent of their earlier heavy progressive rock period. Exploring odd time signatures, the song possesses a dark, ominous feel. The song's 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.

"Entre Nous" ("Between Us") is similar in style to "Freewill", yet it did not receive heavy radio airplay, and was not featured in concerts until the Snakes & Arrows Tour.[6] While the band began stepping back from the epic song format on this album, "Natural Science" does clock in at over nine minutes and is composed of three distinct movements. The lyrics are driven by concepts of natural science. It was featured, with a different arrangement, on every tour from 1996 to 2002, and was also featured on their 2007-08 Snakes and Arrows tour.

Cover artwork[edit]Edit

The cover art sparked some controversy because of the appearance of the "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline on the newspaper. Because of pressure from the Chicago Tribune, Hugh Syme changed the text to "Dewei Defeats Truman". The billboards in the distance were changed from Coca-Cola (who objected to the use of their logo) to include each band member's name in similar typestyle.

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 pictured in the foreground is model Paula Turnbull.[7] The waving man in the background is Syme.[8]

Track listing[edit]Edit

All lyrics written by Neil Peart, except where noted; all music composed by Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee.[9] [10]

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "The Spirit of Radio"   4:57
2. "Freewill"   5:24
3. "Jacob's Ladder"   7:26
Side two
No. Title Length
4. "Entre Nous"   4:36
5. "Different Strings" (Lee) 3:48
6. "Natural Science

  • I: Tide Pools - 2:19 (0:00 - 2:19)
  • II: Hyperspace - 2:48 (2:20 - 5:07)
  • III: Permanent Waves - 4:10 (5:08 - 9:17)"  



Year Chart Position
1980 Billboard 200 4[11]
UK Albums Chart 3[12]

Sales certifications[edit]Edit

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


"The Spirit of Radio"
  • Released: 1980
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Rush and Terry Brown
  • Chart positions: #51 US Hot 100; #13 UK
"Entre Nous"
  • Released: 1980
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Rush and Terry Brown
  • Chart positions: #110 US Hot 100
  • Released: 1980
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Rush and Terry Brown
  • Chart positions: #109 US Hot 100

Remaster details[edit]Edit

remaster was issued in 1997.

  • 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.
  • 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. 

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.