Rush Wiki
Permanent Waves
Album by Rush
Released January 1, 1980
Recorded September - October 1979 at Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec
Genre Prog-Rock
Length 35:35
Label Mercury Records
Producer Rush and Terry Brown
Professional reviews
Rush chronology
Permanent Waves
Moving Pictures

Permanent Waves is the seventh studio album by the Canadian rock band Rush, released January 1, 1980. The album was recorded at Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec, and was mixed at Trident Studios in London, UK. Permanent Waves became Rush's first US Top 5 album hitting #4 and was the band's fifth Gold (eventually Platinum) selling album. The album also marks a distinct transition from heavy metal and progressive rock into a more accessible, radio-friendly style and consequently, a significant expansion in the band's record sales with perennial favorites such as "The Spirit of Radio" and "Freewill" seeing considerable radio airplay.


"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 art 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. 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 has been played, with a different arrangement, on every tour from Test for Echo onward.

Cover Art[]

The cover art sparked some controversy due to the appearance of the "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline on the newspaper. Due to 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 waving man is cover artist Hugh Syme.


The writing of the album began in July 1979, at a farmhouse at Lakewoods Farm in Ontario on Georgian Bay, Lake Huron while Peart started his lyrics in a cottage near there. They began with an instrumental jam, which they nick-named "Uncle Tounouse". Parts of this were used in the songs on the album. While Peart worked on lyrics, Lifeson and Lee 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 complete ahead of time.

Neil 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.

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.'"

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 Terry 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 producer Terry 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.

Track listing[]

All songs written by Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart except where noted.

  1. "The Spirit of Radio" – 4:57
  2. "Freewill" – 5:24
  3. "Jacob's Ladder" – 7:26
  4. "Entre Nous" – 4:36
  5. "Different Strings" (Lee, Lifeson) – 3:48
  6. "Natural Science" – 9:17
    • I. "Tide Pools" – 2:21
    • II. "Hyperspace" – 2:47
    • III. "Permanent Waves" – 4:08


  • Geddy Lee - Bass guitars, Oberheim polyphonic, OB-1, Mini-moog, Taurus pedal synthesizers, vocals
  • Alex Lifeson - Six and twelve string electric and acoustic guitars, Taurus pedals
  • Neil Peart - Drums, tympani, timbales, orchestra bells, tubular bells, wind chimes, bell tree, triangle, crotales


  • Erwig Chuapchuaduah - Steel drums on 'The Spirit of Radio'
  • Hugh Syme - Piano on 'Different Strings'


  • Rush and Terry Brown - Arrangements
  • Paul Northfield - Engineer
  • Robbie Whelan - Engineer assistant
  • Terry Brown - Mixing engineer
  • Adam Moseley, Craig Milliner, Geddy Lee and Steve S. Hort - Assistant mixing engineer
    • Mixed at Trident Studios, Soho, London, England November 1979
  • Bob Ludwig and Brian Lee - Mastering
    • Mastered at Gateway Mastering Studios, Portland, Maine
  • Hugh Syme - Art direction, graphics
  • Hugh Syme and Neil Peart - Cover concept
  • Fin Costello, Flip Schulke and Deborah Samuel - Photography
  • Peter George - Color collaboration
  • Mike Deere - Pilot of Juliet Foxtrot Kilo
  • Ray Danniels - Management
    • SRO Management, Inc., Toronto, Ontario
  • Howard (Herns) Ungerleider - Road manager, lighting director and assistant to Mr. Shreve
  • Concert Lighting by See Factor International

    • Concert Sound by National Sound and Electrosound
  • Liam (Punjabi) Birt - Stage right technician
  • Skip (Slider) Gildersleeve - Stage left technician
  • Larry (Shrav) Allen - Center stage technician
  • Tony (Jack Secret) Geranios - Guitar and synthesizer maintenance
  • Ted (Theo) McDonald - Electrical technician
  • Gred (Gordie) Connolly - Stage monitor mixer
  • Harry (Tex) Dilman - Projectionist
  • Sam (Shreve) Charters - Personal shreve
  • Bill Collins - Concert rigging
  • Tom (Whitney) Whittaker, Pat (No. 9) Lines, Arthur (Mac) MacLear, Gene Guido and Tim Lewis - Driver
  • Moe Kniffman, Nick Kotos, George (Ike) Guido, Bob (Puppy) Cross, John LeBlanc, Bill Churchman, Dave (Shreve 1) Donne, Fuzzy Frazer, Dave Burman, Helmut, Nick Prince, Graham (Wild Man) Hewitt, Sgt. Rock & Easy Co., Second City Television, Lakewoods Farm, The Sound Kitchen, Lefty, D.K.D., Steve Herns, Le Studio: Andre, Yael, Pam, Kim, Carole, and Roger, Andre & La Barratte, the Wines & Crew, FM & Crew, Wireless & Crew, The Maxoids, Marvin Gleicher, Brian Robertson, Jimmy Bain, Michael Schenker, the Projectors, Peter Mensch, the P.M., Bob (the Grove) Snelgrove, the inmates of the Great Fog, Gerry Griffin, Lee Scherer, and their families and friends at NASA, Henry Spencer and baby, Le Mont St. Michael, the Montcalm, vin-du-hairface, volleyball, Space Invaders (10p), euchre, Malibu Grand Prix, hockey- Steve Shutt and Larry Robinson (thanks for the sticks!), M*A*S*H, The Jack Secret Show, Rickey, Lucy, and Ethel, (Where's Fred?), Neal and Larry at the Percussion Centre, all at Oak Manor, and all at Trident - Honorable mention
  • Gibson, Moog, Tama drums, Rickenbacker, and Sunn amplification - Appreciation to the fine people and instruments

  • Daisy the Dog - Inspiration, vocal coaching
  • Ou la la - Cover girl couturiere
  • Executive Production by Moon Records


Country Chart Position Date
U.S. Top LPs & Tapes (Billboard 200) 4
U.K. Albums 3 January 26, 1980
Canada RPM 100 Top Albums 3 April 12, 1980
Netherlands GfK Dutch Album Top 100 38 February 16, 1980
Norway VG-lista Topp 40 Album 21 January 21, 1980
Sweden Sverigetopplisten Albums Top 60 26 February 8, 1980


Country Organization Sales Date
U.S. RIAA Gold (500,000) March 17, 1980
U.S. RIAA Platinum (1,000,000) November 9, 1987
Canada CRIA Platinum (100,000)
U.K. BPI Silver (60,000) February 19, 1980
U.K. BPI Gold (100,000) July 22, 1981


A remaster was issued in May 6, 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 Labs released gold CD and "audiophile" LP remasters in early 2008.

Compact Disc[]

Country Label Catalog Year
United States Mercury 822 548-2 1987
United States Mercury P2-22548
United States Mercury P2-34630
United States Mercury 314 534 630-2 1997
United States Mercury D-102059
United States Mercury D-118701
United States Mercury UDCD-772 2007
Canada Anthem ANMD-1081 1997
Canada Anthem VANK-1021
Canada Anthem ANMD-1021
Canada Anthem ANC-1-1021
Canada Anthem ANK-1021
Argentina Mercury 534 630-2
Brazil Mercury 822 548-2
Brazil Mercury 534 630-2
Germany Mercury 534 630-2 1997
Germany Mercury 822 548-2 1987
Japan Epic/Sony 25-8P-5075 1988
Japan Atlantic AMCY-288
Japan Atlantic AMCY-2295 1997
Japan Atlantic WPCR-13478 2009
Russia RNCCD-04000403
United Kingdom Mercury 534 630-2 1997


Country Label Catalog Year
United States Mercury SRM-1-4001 1980
United States Mercury MFSL-1-302 2008
Canada Anthem ANR-1-1021 1980
Columbia Mercury 9111-065 1980
Netherlands Mercury 9111-065 1980
Japan Epic/Sony 25-3P-221 1980
United Kingdom Mercury 9100-071 1980

Cassette Tape[]

Country Label Catalog Year
United States Mercury 822 548-4 1980
United States Mercury MCR4 1-4001 1980
Canada Anthem 4AN-1-1021


Country Label Catalog Year
Canada Anthem 8AN-1-1021


"The Spirit of Radio"
  • Released:
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson & Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Rush and Terry Brown
  • Chart positions: #51 US Hot 100, #13 UK
  • Released:
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson & Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Rush and Terry Brown
  • Chart positions: #9 US Hot 100, #5 UK
"Entre Nous"
  • Released:
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson & Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Rush and Terry Brown
  • Chart positions: