Rush's 2112 and Moving Pictures albums (documentary)

2112 front cover


2112 is the fourth studio album by the Canadian rock band, Rush. Released in 1976, the album features an eponymous seven-part suite written by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, with lyrics written by Neil Peart telling a dystopian story set in the year 2112. The album is sometimes described as a concept album although the songs on the second side are unrelated to the plot of the suite. Rush repeated this arrangement on the 1978 album Hemispheres. 2112 is one of the two Rush albums listed in the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (the other being Moving Pictures). In 2006, a poll of Planet Rock listeners picked 2112 as the definitive Rush album. In 2012, the album came in at #2 on Rolling Stone's list for "Your Favorite Prog Rock Albums of All Time", as voted for in a reader's poll, being one of three Rush albums included on the list (the others being Moving Pictures and Hemispheres). The Toronto dates of the 2112 tour were recorded and released as All the World's a Stage in September 1976.


Due to the relative commercial failure of their previous album, Caress of Steel, the band's record label at the time, Mercury, pressured them not to do another album with concept tracks. Caress of Steel contains two multi-part epics: the twelve-minute "The Necromancer" (side 1) and the side-long epic "The Fountain of Lamneth" (side 2). By their own recollection, the band ignored this advice and stuck to their principles; the resulting album would become their first major commercial success, and ultimately a signature record. 2112 was released in March 1976 and landed on the Billboard Hot 100 album chart, becoming Rush's first album to reach the Billboard Top 100. 2112 would eventually be certified gold on November 16, 1977, along with the band's then current releases A Farewell to Kings and the live All the World's a Stage. 2112 reached platinum status on February 25, 1981, shortly after the release of Moving Pictures in 1981, the latter being their biggest selling record to date. The 2112 suite story: In the year 2062, a galaxy-wide war results in the union of all planets under the rule of the Red Star of the Solar Federation. By 2112, the world is controlled by the "Priests of the Temples of Syrinx," who determine the content of all reading matter, songs, pictures and every facet of life. A man discovers an ancient guitar and learns to play his own music. Thinking he has made a wonderful discovery that will be a boon to humanity, he goes to present the guitar to the priests of the Temples, who angrily destroy it and rebuke him for unearthing one of the silly whims that caused the collapse of the previous civilization. He goes into hiding and dreams of a world before the Solar Federation. Upon awakening he becomes distraught and commits suicide. As he dies, another planetary battle begins resulting in the ambiguous ending "Attention all planets of the Solar Federation: We have assumed control." This spoken section was created by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson with a tape recorder. On the album, Peart credits "the genius of Ayn Rand." Rand, a Russian-born, Jewish-American novelist and creator of the philosophy of Objectivism, wrote a novella titled Anthem (itself adopted as the title of another Rush track, from the album Fly By Night) from which Peart borrowed the broad strokes of the plot. This caused the band significant negative publicity, labelling the band as right-wing extremist, the British NME even making allusions to Nazism. The other tracks on the album stand alone from the title track, with Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson writing lyrics for one song each, "Tears" and "Lessons," respectively. All other lyrics were written by Neil Peart. "Tears" would be the first Rush song to feature an outside musician; Hugh Syme, the Canadian graphic artist who designed all of Rush's album cover art since 1975's Caress of Steel, contributes a multi-tracked Mellotron string and flute part to the track. He would play keyboards on a number of Rush tracks in the future. "A Passage to Bangkok" and "The Twilight Zone" are songs typical of this time period of Rush. "The Twilight Zone" was written and recorded in one day. "Something for Nothing" closes out the album. 

Something for nothing

The Starman emblem was adopted by Rush fans as a logo since its first appearance on the back cover of 2112. Neil Peart described the Starman in an interview with Creem magazine: "The naked man means is the abstract man against the masses. The red star symbolizes any collectivist mentality." With regard to the album, the collectivist mentality referred to is depicted as the Red Star of the Solar Federation, which according to the plot is a galaxy-wide confederation that controls all aspects of life during the year 2112. The figure in the emblem is depicted as being the hero of the album. The logo also appears on six other Rush album covers: on the backdrop behind Peart's drumkit in All the World's a Stage, their first live album released in 1976; in one of the pictures that is being moved on Moving Pictures; on Retrospective I; on Archives, a compilation album released in 1978; on their 1981 live album Exit...Stage Left, in the background amongst symbols from all their previous work; on their 2003 compilation The Spirit of Radio; and on their 2004 EP album Feedback.

2112 back cover

Track listing:
1. 2112 (20:34)
I. Overture (4:33)
II. The Temples of Syrinx (2:12)
III. Discovery (3:29)
IV. Presentation (3:42)
V. Oracle: The Dream (2:00)
VI. Soliloquy (2:21)
VII. Grand Finale (2:17)
2. A Passage to Bangkok (3:32)
3. The Twilight Zone (3:16)
4. Lessons (3:51)
5. Tears (3:30)
6. Something for Nothing (4:00)


Geddy Lee–lead vocals, bass guitar
Alex Lifeson–guitar
Neil Peart–drums, percussion

Additional musician:
Hugh Syme–mellotron on "Tears"

Arranged and produced by Rush and Terry Brown
Recorded, engineered and mixed by Terry Brown
Mastered by Brian Lee and Bob Ludwig

Moving Pictures front cover


Moving Pictures is the eighth studio album by Rush. The album was recorded and mixed from October to November 1980 at Le Studio located in Morin Heights, Quebec, Canada, and released on February 12, 1981. Moving Pictures became the band's biggest selling album in the United States rising to No. 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 Waves, Moving Pictures it's in 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". In 2012, Moving Pictures was listed as the number 10 "Your Favorite Prog Rock Albums of All Time" by Rolling Stone.


Rush began to work on the album in August 1980 at Stony Lake, Ontario. "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 Geddy 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 other tracks took many. Due to problems with equipment failures, they finished the recording three days behind schedule. Moving Pictures was played live in its entirety to open the second set during each show of Rush's 2010-2011 Time Machine Tour. 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 by Richard S. Foster. 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 by William 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 novels of John Dos Passos. The sixth song, "Witch Hunt", features voices during the intro (recorded outside Le Studio) and sound effects made by Geddy Lee's Oberheim keyboards, before jumping into the rock section of the song. It features graphic designer and musician Hugh Syme on keyboards 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 Geddy Lee's OB-X synthesizer, showing distinct reggae flavour.


Hugh Syme's album cover for the Moving Pictures album 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. The album cover was taken in front of the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen's Park, Toronto. 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 appears to show a witch being burned at the stake, likely referring to the song "Witch Hunt" on the album.

Moving Pictures back cover

Track listing:
1. Tom Sawyer (4:31)
2. Red Barchetta (6:10)
3. YYZ (4:23)
4. Limelight (4:20)
5. The Camera Eye (11:01)
6. Witch Hunt (Part III of Fear) (4:46)
7. Vital Signs (4:47)
Bonus Tracks
8. Broon's Bane (1:38)
9. The Camera Eye (Single Cut) (6:12)


Geddy Lee-lead vocals, bass, bass pedals, minimoog, Oberheim 8-voice synthesizer, OB-X, moog taurus
Alex Lifeson-guitar, moog taurus
Neil Peart-drums, timbales, gong, bells, glockenspiel, wind chimes, bell tree, crotales, cowbells, plywood

Hugh Syme-synthesizer on "Witch Hunt", art direction, cover concept and design.
Paul Northfield-engineering
Deborah Samuel-photography
Robbie Whelan-assistant engineering
Bob Ludwig-mastering and remastering
Peter Jensen-digital mastering and editing

The video below is a Classic Albums Documentary about the making of Rush's 2112 and Moving Pictures albums.