Saturday, February 9, 1980

Rush “The Spirit of Radio” hit the chart

The Spirit of Radio


Writer(s): Neal Peart, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson (see lyrics here)

First Charted: February 9, 1980

Peak: 51 US, 60 CB, 57 HR, 1 CL, 27 AR, 13 UK, 22 CN, 3 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 40.9 video, 80.84 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The Canadian rock band Rush built a faithful following with six studio albums released in the 1970s. While all have since gone gold or platinum, none fared particularly well on the charts at the time. Their highest peak had been with 1977’s A Farewell to Kings, which reached #33. However, 1980’s Permanent Waves took the band to a new level.

The album reached #4 on the Billboard album chart, the first of six consecutive top-ten albums for the band. The album was preceded by the single “The Spirit of Radio,” which became the band’s highest of three entrants (#51) on the Billboard Hot 100 up to that point. While it may not have looked impressive from a chart standpoint, that song and “Free Will” from the same album, became classic rock staples.

The title of the song was inspired by the slogan from CFNY-FM, a radio station in Toronto. Guitarist Alex Lifeson said the opening riff of the song was designed to sound like “static – radio waves bouncing around, very electric.” WK Lyrically, the song “is a lament on the change of FM radio from free-form to commercial formats during the late 1980s.” WK

Drummer and lyricist Neal Peart parodied some lyrics from Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.” He took the phrase “For the words of the prophets were written on the subway walls, and tenement halls…and echo with the sound of silence” and turned it into “For the words of the profits are written on the studio wall, and concert halls…and echo with the sound of salesmen.” SF

He explained that the song was “a tribute to all that was good about radio, celebrating my appreciation of magical moments I’d had since childhood, of hearing ‘the right song at the right time.’ However, [the song’s] celebration of the ideals of radio necessarily seemed like an attack on the reality – on the formulaic, mercenary programming of most radio stations.” SF


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First posted 7/22/2022; last updated 7/28/2022.

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