Rush's Permanent Waves: a 40th anniversary worth celebrating

A lavish reissue for one of prog giant Rush's most pivotal records, Permanent Waves

Rush: Permanent Waves 40th Anniversary
(Image: © UMC / Mercury)

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“I’ll be honest,” says Geddy Lee, smiling although he’s complaining. “I’m fed up that every time I turn around that it’s the fortieth anniversary of something we’ve done.” 

You can see his point. It seems like not a month goes by before more repackaged and/or remixed Rush goodies come along. As a band who simply don’t have a catalogue of songs and out-takes waiting to be rediscovered, Rush’s history isn’t the easiest seam to mine. 

This reissue, though, has added poignancy, being the first major one since we lost drummer/ lyricist Neil Peart, and Permanent Waves is the album that redefined who and what Rush were as a band. 

Admittedly there’s the usual abundance of dexterous showing off, and no one had cut their hair yet, although Peart had dispensed with his Victorian dad moustache, but Permanent Waves was a band marching into a new decade; new studio; new sensibilities. It took the world by storm, and was usurped commercially only by Moving Pictures a scant 13 months later.

This 2015 remaster of the original gleams brilliantly. That a band could write songs like Entre Nous and Jacob’s Ladder in the same sessions at a cottage in the wilds of Ontario, on a pair of acoustic guitars, tells you something about where they were at musically – at the height of their powers. 

As is the way of things now, this reissue comes in four different editions, including a 180-gram vinyl one. Terry Brown has reworked an entire disc of unreleased live tracks from the Permanent Waves tour and that is where the real gold lies, and where we’ll return in a moment. 

If you want to use up all that cash you’re not spending while in lockdown, there’s an edifice-like edition that includes a hardcover book, new artwork, tour programmes, laminates and a trove of other goodies, not least copies of some of Peart’s handwritten lyric sheets. 

If you can live without that, though, then revel in the live disc instead: Rush in brilliant headlong flight in 1980, playing the kind of gems they only unearthed for the final R40 tour. 

Manchester, London and Missouri provide a truly thrilling show with a daunting sounding Cygnus XI, a breathless Beneath, Between & Behind and a version of Xanadu so good that you can almost hear people in the stalls combusting at the sound of a band reaching the higher plane and about to go higher still.

Philip Wilding

Philip Wilding is a novelist, journalist, scriptwriter, biographer and radio producer. As a young journalist he criss-crossed most of the United States with bands like Motley Crue, Kiss and Poison (think the Almost Famous movie but with more hairspray). More latterly, he’s sat down to chat with bands like the slightly more erudite Manic Street Preachers, Afghan Whigs, Rush and Marillion.