It was 40 tears ago today — February 12th, 1981 — that Rush released its breakthrough eighth album, Moving Pictures. The set, which followed the previous year's Permanent Waves, peaked at Number Three on the Billboard 200 albums chart, stayed in the Top 10 for 13 weeks, and remains the trio's most popular and commercially successful outing to date. To date, Moving Pictures has sold over four million copies in the U.S. alone.
The album's third track, “YYZ,” was nominated for a Best Rock Instrumental Performance Grammy. The title is the IATA Airport Code for Toronto Pearson International Airport. It is played repeatedly in Morse code at the beginning of the song.
The track “The Camera Eye” was the last Rush song to clock in at over 10 minutes. Until it was brought back on the 2010/2011 “Time Machine” tour, it had not been played live since 1983. The “Time Machine” tour saw Rush perform Moving Pictures in its entirety,
Back in 2011, Rush released a 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of Moving Pictures. The package included an audiophile surround sound mix, music videos, rare photos, liner notes, and more. The set was released in two versions: as a digitally remastered CD and DVD, and a digitally remastered CD and Blu-ray disc. Both featured the complete album and three music videos, “Tom Sawyer,” “Limelight” and the previously unreleased clip for “Vital Signs,” in both a 5.1 surround sound mix supervised by guitarist Alex Lifeson and in newly remastered stereo from the original analog master tapes.
1981's Moving Pictures remains Rush's biggest album to date, while “Tom Sawyer” remains their best-known song. Alex Lifeson recalled for us the impact the record had on the Canadian band's career at the time: “That took us up to the next level. After the release of that album, we were headlining everywhere we were going, and, y'know, our audiences increased by a large percentage. And it just gave us that much of a push forward into what was coming.”
Moving Pictures, like most of Rush's earlier albums, was produced by Terry Brown. Bassist Geddy Lee admitted to us that Rush has always preferred an outsider to helm its recording sessions: “It's very helpful having a producer. It's very educational, and it's impossible to always be diplomatic with each other. It's kind of a psychological role that they play — to keep the atmosphere in the studio amenable and smooth and positive and moving forward in a creative fashion, (and) to make a creative environment possible for the musicians and the engineers in the room.”
Not too long ago, Rush's late, great drummer and lyricist Neil Peart spoke with George Stroumboulopoulos and shed light on the importance of the Moving Pictures sessions: “We had been together for six years, and had had enough success that the industry wasn't leaning on us anymore about what we were going to do. And there was a real maturity (and) coming of age for us as a band, because we had been doing so much experimenting of all kinds as individual instrumentalists and as a group of instrumentalists. . . There was nothing self-indulgent, or so-called pretentiousness about it. It was true boyish enthusiasm that was involved in creating all those things.”