Great Rock Albums of 1981: Rush- Moving Pictures


Sorry but I’m going to have to relate yet another experience from my military days to this album. Mess duty in the service involves long hours in sweaty conditions in order to feed marines who really don’t want to eat the military slop and are first to complain if you do anything wrong. I was on one of the serving lines during those five weeks of mess duty in 1981 and was in a constant struggle between those who complained that we weren’t giving them enough food and superiors who complained we gave them too much. No wonder I wanted to smash my head against the wall at times. Then one evening meal, the mess sergeant had the local radio station playing in the mess hall when the song “Tom Sawyer” came on.  I was hooked on it straight away and every time I heard it, I would be uplifted by the fast guitar and the drums after the guitar solo. Now, it would be untrue for me to say that “Tom Sawyer” got me through mess duty, I would have made it through anyhow. However, it did give me a massive boost and made a crap duty a little bearable.

Naturally, I went and bought the album. I was already taken by the opener to “Moving Pictures” so that was a bit of a given there. My worry back then (and I would get burned on this two years later) was that if I bought an album on account of one song and the rest of the album sucked, then I would be a little miffed at wasting my money. Needless to say, that is definitely not the case with my all time favourite Rush album. “Red Barchetta,” a song about an restored antique car is also a cool song with some great guitar riffs and I’ve always considered the instrumental “YYZ” a great song to have on in the car while on a long trip. The music in that song just brightens the journey up throughout its duration. “Limelight” is another great one for me and I can understand why after listening to these first four songs, some people back then thought Rush was heavy metal. They should have listened more to the last three songs. Side two, (since I mainly bought cassettes back then, is more of a progressive rock sound. Still, all three of those songs, especially “Witch Hunt,” are all good listeners.

Some of my favourite Rush lyrics appear on this album. Most songs have something for me.

Tom Sawyer- His mind is not for rent to any God or government

Red Barchetta- lyrics about cruising in an old car with your old uncle definitely work here.

Limelight- All the world should be a stage and we are merely players, performers and portrayers

Vital Signs- Everybody’s got mixed feelings on the function and the form, everybody must deviate from the norm

Witch Hunt- The entire song made perfect sense to me a few years later when the likes of the PMRC emerged. Did they foresee their coming with this song?

Track Listing:

1. Tom Sawyer

2. Red Barchetta

3. YYZ

4. Limelight

5. The Camera Eye

6. Witch Hunt

7. Vital Signs



Geddy Lee- vocals, bass, bass pedals, synthesisers

Alex Lifeson- all guitars, moog Taurus

Neil Peart- drums, percussion, all bells

“Moving Pictures” highlights the problem I had with people’s mind set throughout the 80s. This is the tendency to put music into nice, neat little categories and because of tracks like “Tom Sawyer” and “Limelight” on this album, people believed that Rush was heavy metal. I believe it is that categorising that influenced them into a more synthed out sound later on. So, when you dust this album off to play it again, (I know some of you haven’t stop listening to it and I don’t blame you) do so without trying to categorise. Just enjoy it for the great album it is and appreciate what fine musicians the members of Rush are.

Next post: Rory Gallagher- Stage Struck

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12 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1981: Rush- Moving Pictures”

  1. M y buddy Tom thinks this is the greatest album of the 1980’s. And don’t worry about sharing military stories, they are infinitely interesting and add background!

    Red Barchetta is a personal favourite today, I love the lyrics. I’m a sci-fi fan anyway and this has just a hint of “future world” when the “motor law” has been passed.


  2. Excellent write-up. Thanks for including the military anecdote. I’m sure the Rush fellas would appreciate knowing that their music made your life at the time a little more bearable.

    I came to Rush in 1980 with the release of Permanent Waves. The first time I heard “Entre Nous” I was hooked. At the time we didn’t distinguish between hard rock, metal, prog, etc. They were just a cool band with amazing musicians. Moving Pictures was the first newly-released Rush album after I was already a fan (I bought it the day it was released), so I was fortunate to get into them at the perfect time. Saw them on that tour (with the sadly forgotten Canadian trio FM opening) at Madison Square Garden. There haven’t been many shows since that came close to that one.

    “Camera Eye” has always been a particular favorite. As an unapologetic fan of extended prog-rock suites, it ticked all the boxes for me. But every song on Moving Pictures is a classic in my eyes (and ears).


    • Those were the good old days when people just listened to music they liked and didn’t differentiate. I am envious because I never had the opportunity to see Rush live. I hear they’re awesome! I remember FM and yes, every song on this album is a classic.


  3. Interesting stuff.
    Good album too.


  4. Great review…..I remember being 15 and getting Moving Pictures a few months before the release of Signals…..I was blown away by Camera Eye….just blew my mind that 3 dudes could play like that for 8 minutes and not lose focus whereas me being 15 I could lose focus quite easily( ask my grade 10 Biology teacher).actually the album is gold esp side 2!


  5. It’s hard to describe the buzz that was in the air at school when we found out the video for Tom Sawyer was going to be on Top of the Pops (weekly chart rundown show on the BBC). Rush on Top of the Pops. Rush in the charts!

    By the time I got round to hearing this album I had just left school and with more money in my pocket a fair amount of cash went on Rush 12″ singles and videos. Limelight is still one of the great live opening numbers in rock. (And I’ve seen them live three times.)

    Moving Pictures was part of a quad of great Rush albums along with Signals, Power Windows and Hold Your Fire. What a legacy.



  6. The lyrics on this album rocked. I’m always one listening to the song first then hearing the guitar riffs, slamming drum beat, and then the distinguishable Geddy Lee vocals. I then listen and write down the lyrics and dissect them to figure out their meaning. I wrote a lot of poetry in school. Thank you for covering this Canadian rock band as I never thought they were heavy metal. But had the greatest story telling lyrics banked up with incredible sound. 😊🎶


    • Spot on about the lyrics, I always enjoyed the story behind “Red Barchetta” and like you tried to decipher the meaning of the lyrics in “Tom Sawyer.” The one line in “Limelight” has always stuck with me as well.

      Liked by 1 person

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