Hemispheres 40th Anniversary Edition

CD One

CD Two

    Live at Pinkpop Festival: June 4, 1979
  • A Passage To Bangkok*
  • Xanadu*
  • The Trees*
  • The Sphere A Kind Of Dream*
  • Closer To The Heart*
  • La Villa Strangiato*
  • In The Mood*
  • Drum Solo*
  • Something For Nothing*
    Live in Arizona - November 20, 1978
  • 2112*
    1. Overture (4:32)
    2. Temples of Syrinx (2:13)
    3. Discovery (3:29)
    4. Presentation (3:42)
    5. Oracle: The Dream (2:00)
    6. Soliloquy (2:21)
    7. The Grand Finale (2:14)

Blu-Ray (Super Deluxe Edition Exclusive)

  • Audio Options
    • 96kHz 24-bit 5.1 Surround Mix
    • 96kHz 24-bit Original Stereo Analog 2015 Remaster
  • Previously Unreleased Bonus Videos
    • Circumstances (1978 Promo Video)
    • The Trees (1978 Promo Video)
    • La Villa Strangiato (1978 Promo Video)
    • La Villa Strangiato (Live at Pinkpop Festival: June 4, 1979)

Hemispheres 40th Anniversary Linernotes

By Rob Bowman

Hemispheres was the final installment in a trilogy of late '70s progressive metal albums in which Rush discovered its sound, took on headliner status and proved itself to have staying power as one of the most creative, technically precise and virtuosic rock bands of all-time. It was probably the most difficult, and certainly the most complex, album they ever made. 2112, released in April 1976, was the first Rush album to contain a side-long suite. A work of astonishing maturity and invention, it flew in the face of everything the group's American label, Mercury Records, had hoped for. At the time, Rush's career hung in the balance and, if the album had not been a success, the group's career might have gone down in flames. Fortunately, for all concerned, it proved to be the group's breakthrough record, reaching #6 in their native Canada and #61 in the United States. The group consolidated its success in September that year with the release of the double live album, All the World's a Stage, for the first time penetrating the Top 40 on Billboard's album charts while reaching #5 in Canada. On the supporting tour the group played their first gigs in England.

Further progress was made with A Farewell to Kings. Released in September 1977, the album featured two extended ten-plus minute compositions in "Xanadu" and "Cygnus X-I Book I: The Voyage," as well as the radio friendly "Closer to the Heart." Continuing to work the road incessantly in support of the album, Rush played 130 gigs in the United States and Canada. They also expanded their activities across the pond, playing 12 concerts in England plus a couple in Scotland. By tour's end they had reached the U.K. charts for the first time, peaking at #22. In the U.S., A Farewell to Kings bettered All the World's a Stage, reaching #33, while in Canada the album just missed the Top 10, settling at #11.

The A Farewell to Kings tour wrapped up April 8, 1978 in Halifax ten days after Rush was named "Group of the Year" at the Canadian Juno Awards. After taking a month off the road, the group headed out May 10th for twelve American dates in support of Archives, Mercury's repackaging of the group's first three albums, Rush, Fly By Night and Caress of Steel. Finishing up May 28th, a few days later the three members of Rush headed to Wales, planning to return to Rockfield Studios where they had recorded A Farewell to Kings a year earlier.

"We expected we would have material written by the time we got there," explained bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee to me in 2018. "But, as it turned out, we did not have any material written-nothing. We had some ideas in our head that we had talked about but we didn't think it was going to be that difficult. It was the most unprepared we'd ever been for an album and [the title track] was a very complex concept which is why it was such a difficult record to make."

Guitarist Alex Lifeson, in a 2015 interview with Guitar World, recalled working on the album's nine-and-a-half minute instrumental "La Villa Strangiato," during sound checks. "I don't think that's true," responded Geddy. "Maybe bits of it were. We always jam at sound check and we save the tapes of our jams because sometimes there's a moment of spontaneous combustion that you want to exploit later on. I would usually sift through those tapes and pick the best bits out. So we may have jammed bits of that in sound check but [we had] nothing that we could have called the beginning of a song at that point."

Realizing that they needed time and a place to work up material before they went into the studio, Alex, Geddy and drummer/lyricist Neil Peart arranged to rent a house for three weeks just a few miles down the road from Rockfield Studios.

Writing issues persisted. When they emerged from the house and entered the studio proper, the side-long title piece, "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres" (simply called 'Hemispheres" on the record's label and typically referred to as such by the band and fans ever since), was not yet complete.

Part of the problem, of course, was that Peart had set himself a difficult task by writing the words "To be continued after the printed lyrics for the concluding song on the previous album, "Cygnus X-1 Book 1; The Voyage."

"I think Neil [felt obligated to that]," reflected Geddy. "I think in his mind he had already gone to this place. I think he was already thinking about the second part of the story. [Putting 'to be continued' on the record] was more whimsical to Alex and I than it was to Neil."

Neil told Graham Hicks of Musical Express: "To finish the tale of 'Cygnus X-1 Book II,' took me hours of tearing my hair out. It was only half written when we went into the studio. It came half close to killing me!"

Terry Brown recalled, in conversation with me in the summer of 2018, that this was not unusual: "Lyrically Neil was always fine tuning and coming up with new drafts. That was just the way he worked. While we'd be overdubbing he would be in his room at his desk writing lyrics for that tune and then he'd come over with a big smile on his face and say, 'OK, here's the final lyric, what do you think?'"

"Hemispheres" proved to be a daunting piece of music.

"We sort of approached it as we had approached '2112,'" explained Geddy. "We had the story and we were basically writing a soundtrack for this story. 'Hemispheres' was an opera and we had to pay strict attention to doing the overture for it and using those kinds of recurring themes. That was very compositional. It was more a traditional piece of music that needed a beginning, middle and an end and recurring themes. [In the lyrics] each side of the brain had a certain approach and that had to be expressed musically and it had to be balanced. It's so strict having to work toward a concept and you cannot serve the concept unless you work to it as if it's a soundtrack. It was quite a big deal. So that was the thing to write first.

"We had a strong story and we wanted to tell the story and this was the best way to tell it. We wanted to continue this thing that we had started on 'Cygnus.' It also opened up a whole range of rhythmic ideas that we hadn't gone to. It's a darker record. We were just drawn to getting inside that sort of dark sound. It was [also] a bit of a formula at that point which is why it was the last of the side-long pieces for us for a very, very long time. This was something that was becoming too comfortable."

What eventually emerged was an 18 minute, 8 second side-long epic, divided by sub-titles into six sections: "Prelude," "Apollo (Bringer of Wisdom)," "Dionysus (Bringer of Love)," "Armageddon (The Battle of Heart and Mind)," "Cygnus (Bringer of Balance)" and "The Sphere (A Kind of Dream)."

The original science fiction story concerned a space traveller boldly hurtling his way into the black hole Cygnus X-1. For Book II the story had morphed into a treatise on the inner and social worlds of mankind, using Greek philosophy as the basis for the central metaphor of the narrative.

"The basic idea for the piece," explained Neil Peart to Bill Banasiewicz, "Came from a book I was reading, [Adam Smith's] Powers of Mind. It was just an incidental thing, but it was something I had read before, so I tied it into a whole lot of things and it's the basic constant conflict between thoughts and emotions, between your feelings and your rational ideas. Apollo and Dionysus have been used in a lot of books to characterize these two elements, the rational side and the instinctive side. I've always been interested in the ways these two themes transmit themselves into people in political life or in social life. All these conflicts-whether the instinctive way is right or the rational way is right-are always going on between people. The basic theme of 'Hemispheres' is that conflict. 'Armageddon' [the fourth section of the piece] is really the focus of that. It's the climax of that conflict and our hero Cygnus comes in and breaks up the conflict. One of the main points that I wanted to make is that the battle is inside each of us. It's not some abstract, cosmic battle."

To set Neil's lyrics musically, Rush deployed what had now become the standard conventions of their composition strategy; multiple key signatures, ambiguous tonal centers, tritone relationships, shifting meters (at various points in the piece they play in 12/8, 9/8. 7/8, 5/4 and 4/4), multiple themes that reoccur at significant distances often in different guises, substantial changes in dynamics, atypical melodic patterns, and the juxtaposition of Lee's rich baritone and strained counter tenor voices, all executed with virtuosic, extraordinarily precise musicianship.

Since A Farewell to Kings, the three members of the group had all expanded their timbral arsenal. Alex had acquired a Roland GR-500 guitar synthesizer as well as a set of Moog Taurus bass pedals which he would often use to create a harmony part underneath the bass lines Geddy routinely played on his own Taurus pedals. Alex also made extensive use of a Roland Boss Chorus device, significantly widening his sound which, in the context of a three piece band, had a dramatic effect. Geddy added an 8-voice polyphonic synthesizer to his set up, allowing him to play woodwind and string sounding harmonic pads as well as the lead synth lines on his Mini Moog that he had started developing on A Farewell to Kings. Neil added a gong which he used to great effect for the climax of "Cygnus (Bringer of Balance)," tympani and crotales, the latter being small chromatically tuned brass discs about 4 inches in diameter.

"The chemistry in the band," stressed Peart to the Los Angeles Times, "Is so good that we didn't want to upset it by adding a fourth member so we decided we would all learn to play other instruments. Now we have a more varied sound."

"The deciding factor was really that the expansion we needed was more textural than anything else," added Neil in an interview printed in Musicians Only. "The music demanded depth rather than growth. Some of the band's gear was obtained as the need for a certain effect became evident in a particular song. For instance, I'd never felt the need for a gong until we came to 'Hemispheres.' It just didn't seem justified for one little sound. Well, not little, of course, but a single, isolated effect. 'Hemispheres' needed a gong, though, and a tympani, so that was added. Now they are naturally part of the arrangements in anything else we do."

Geddy had actually acquired the Oberheim 8-voice synth a year earlier after touring with Bob Seger and seeing the possibilities that Seeger's keyboard player, Robyn Robbins, was getting using a 4-Voice Oberheim.

"I had one of the first Oberheim Eight-Voices with the different modules; it was huge!" relayed Geddy to Greg Armbruster in 1984. "But before I brought it into the band, I used to have it set up every night in a tuning room backstage. I used to play with it and try to figure out some of the fundamentals of synthesis."

"I use it as a secondary method of writing," he explained in a 1979 interview with Beat Instrumental, "Because I don't feel that I'm astute enough or adept enough as a keyboardist to actually start composing songs around the instrument. I use it strictly as an over-dub instrument and I write melody lines and bass lines to go in among the music and around the main themes of the songs. This is because of my limited knowledge at this point of keyboard playing. It has the potential and right now the only thing I need to make that the ultimate instrument is my knowledge, and as that grows the more I can use it. There are aspects of its [uniqueness] that will allow me and our three-piece band to go way beyond the limits of a three-piece band."

Prior to the sessions at Rockfield, the band was having the Oberheim customized in Miami so that the keyboard could, when needed, be operated by foot pedals. Unfortunately, when it was shipped to Wales they were in for a surprise.

"It didn't work," exclaimed Geddy. "It was a complete disaster. That was this whole other fly in the ointment. I had this giant white elephant sitting in the studio the whole time staring at me. Part of [the idea] was to be able to write with the live performance thing in mind, so that I could figure out parts that I could operate with my feet and integrate them right in the recording from the get go, rather than recording all these parts and then figure out later how to reproduce them. That was a whole other keyboard nightmare that was happening while we were writing this album. It was a funky time."

For most of the Rockfield sessions, the studio's resident wizard plus Geddy's keyboard tech, Tony Geranios, worked at rebuilding the foot pedal interface so that Geddy could ultimately work with the instrument the way that he had hoped to.

The band's new toys are evident right in the first few seconds of "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres" as the piece fades in, a flanged cymbal is heard, followed by harmonic pads on the Oberheim over which a chorused guitar repeats an extended F# chord with an added 7th and 11th. This F# chord would figure prominently throughout the side-long piece.

The "Prelude" has two instrumental sections which book end two verses whose lyrics set the stage for the struggle between the "Gods of Love and Reason": Dionysus and Apollo. Four instrumental themes are introduced before the vocal enters. The first (0:17) consists of a galloping motive 6 bars long in 12/8; the second (0:29) is 4 bars long (the first two bars are in 4/4, the third in 3/4, the fourth is back in 4/4) and is a quarter note riff doubled by guitar and bass; the third (0:36) is in 12/8 and lasts 12 bars; the fourth (0:59) alternates bars of 3/4 with 7/8 and then at 1:17 shifts to a much less active 4/4 with a heavily chorused guitar providing a sense of momentary tranquility. This is then repeated in varied form until 1:56 when a new quieter section begins featuring overdubbed triangle which quickly gives way to Neil's ride cymbal, an engaging four note guitar melody and, eventually, bass as the piece builds in both volume and activity. The first verse begins at 2:58, Geddy straining in his upper range. After the second verse the band reprises the third theme in 12/8 for a minute before segueing to "Apollo (Bringer of Wisdom)."

"Apollo (Bringer of Wisdom)" and "Dionysus (Bringer of Love)" are set to virtually the same music, at various times in 7/8 and 4/4. It might seem uncharacteristic for Rush to repeat such large sections but clearly the group chose to set these two sections of Neil's lyrics in a way that would present the arguments of both Gods as being of equal weight. In both cases, the constant motion of adjacent extended chords creates tension.

"You're very much aware of when a part needs tension," relayed Geddy explaining the group's writing process. "And you look to create it. Sometimes it's accidental and sometimes it's intentional. You do intellectualize it sometimes but you try not to let that get in the way of instinct."

Both "Apollo (Bringer of Wisdom)" and "Dionysus (Bringer of Love)" end with an instrumental section, the first being a ferocious Alex guitar solo consisting of a melange of aggressive pitch bends in the context of dramatically shifting registers. The second instrumental section is quite brief in comparison.

"Armageddon (The Battle of Heart and Mind)" (9:05) opens up with two 4 bars sections, the meter for each bar unit being, in order, 12/8, 9/8, 12/8 and 12/8, followed by two bars of reduced activity in 4/4 which then leads into Alex's second solo over the same 4 bar pattern of 12/8, 9/8, 12/8, 12/8.

Following the solo, Geddy sings of the "universe divided" in the third person in 12/8. The instrumental part between the verses reprises the third theme of the "Prelude." At 10:57, the protagonist of "Cygnus X-1 Part I: The Voyage" is finally reintroduced reminding listeners of his spaceship's, the Rocinante, journey into the "timeless space" on the other side of the black hole. It is revealed for the first time that the space traveler survived his ordeal. We also find out that, amongst all the chaos portrayed in "Armageddon," some people did not side with either God and were presumably beginning to think that a balance of the two hemispheres, the right and left brain (represented respectively by Apollo and Dionysus), was the path to a full, balanced life. The band sets this section in a traditionally tonal manner, underscoring musically the notion of balance that the lyrics are leading up to. Following the vocal, Geddy deploys his Oberheim synth to reinforce the harmonic motion. The band then plays the ascending chromatic chords (11:48) that were originally heard at 7:09 in "Cygnus X-1 Book 1: The Voyage."

The fifth section, "Cygnus (Bringer of Balance)," starts at 12:02 with more references to "Cygnus X-1 Book 1: The Voyage" via the oblique chords heard originally at 9:45 in the earlier piece. The next 45 seconds are heavily synth-based, extremely ethereal, and are very reminiscent of early Pink Floyd. Alex's Roland GR-500 guitar synth conjures up harmonic washes behind the disembodied spirit of Cygnus. The latter is sung by Geddy in his natural baritone voice draped in echo, further creating an aura of disembodiment. The sounds of thunder are then introduced as Cygnus intones "I see the Gods in battle rage on high/Thunderbolts across the sky/I cannot move, I cannot hide/I feel a silent scream begin inside."

The 4/4 and 7/8 sections of the "Prelude" are reprised in "Cygnus (Bringer of Balance)" as Apollo and Dionysus come to grips with what Cygnus exemplifies. The section concludes with Geddy, representing the now united Gods, intoning "We will call you Cygnus/The God of Balance you shall be." Before the Gods reach their dé´¥nte, Alex contributes a brief third guitar solo. The section ends at 16:40 in unison with a delayed perfect cadence stretched out with a slowly building roll on the tympani climaxed with the mighty crash of Neil's new gong processed with a flange effect.

After several seconds of silence, the final section, entitled "The Sphere (A Kind of Dream)," unfolds with Geddy singing one of the most beautiful melodies Rush has ever composed accompanied solely by electric 12-string rhythm guitar sans distortion plus a hint of synth. Neil's lyrics match the majesty of the melody and provide a perfect ending and a sense of release to what truly has felt like a mighty battle of opposed ideologies: "Let the truth of Love be lighted/Let the love of truth shine clear/Sensibility/Armed with sense and liberty/With the Heart and Mind united/In a single perfect sphere."

Listening to "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres," I can't help but marvel at the ability of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart to conjure up unbelievably complex, yet readily accessible and exceedingly satisfying music that represents sonically the equally complex ideas embedded in Neil Peart's lyrics. Forty years on this recording still feels like a particularly impressive accomplishment.

It is interesting to note that, while the similarly complex and lengthy "2112" has been played regularly over the years in whole or in part, "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres" would only be played in its entirety on the fall 1978/spring 1979 tour whose purpose, of course, was to promote the then-current Hemispheres album. Even on that tour, for many of the later dates, the piece was played in abridged form. After 1979, the "Prelude" was the only section of "Hemispheres" ever played onstage and then only on the 1994, 2004 and 2015 tours.

Side two of Hemispheres provided a change of pace with two shorter songs, "Circumstances" and "The Trees," and a nine-and-a-half minute tour de force instrumental, "La Villa Strangiato."

"The last thing we wrote was 'Circumstances,"' Geddy told me, "We just needed another track and we wanted something concise because we had just written these huge long pieces and felt the record was a little out of balance. We wanted something that was a bit tighter. It was a bit of [an afterthought]. There's always one song on every one of our albums that we write sort of spur of the moment. The first one was 'Twilight Zone' [from 2112]. We said, 'Okay, we need another song, let's write this.' Twilight Zone' we wrote in a day and recorded it the next day. 'Vital Signs' was very much that kind of song. 'New World Man' was that kind of song and, in its own way, 'Circumstances' was that kind of song on this record."

"Circumstances" is a pretty straight forward heavy metal verse/chorus song. The music was written in one evening with Neil penning the lyrics by the start of the session the next day. The verses refer to Neil's experiences when he went to London in his early twenties trying to kick start his career prior to joining Rush. The chorus reflects on how no one is in total control of their destiny as circumstances both open up and close doors. The French couplet, "Plus ca change/Plus c'est la meme chose," which is followed by its translation into English, "The more that things change the more they stay the same," made the song an instant favorite on Quebec radio stations.

Much of the intro, vamps between verses (both of which mix 4/4 and 3/4 bars), and the chorus of "Circumstances" feature Geddy and Alex doubling up on what for Rush were typically busy, angular and arresting riffs. The long instrumental solo section is divided into two, the first half featuring glockenspiel and a delightful melody that Geddy plays on the Oberheim synthesizer, the second featuring Geddy and Alex playing an extended line in unison with Neil precisely marking every accent. The instrumental interlude is in 6/8, reverting back to the earlier 3/4 and 4/4 time signatures for the 3 bar vamp and final chorus.

The instrumental accompaniment during the verses is particularly exciting with Geddy playing an extraordinarily active bass line, Neil playing cross rhythms and fills while Alex contributes a heavily overdubbed muscular rhythm part.

"We can't play anything that's too simple for too long," stressed Geddy in an interview for Keyboard magazine in 1984. "We start getting hyper. It's been said that we have a hyperactive rhythm section and I think it's true, but there's nothing we can do about it. We have to play like that because it's really us. Sometimes it might suit the song for us to calm down a bit and let the thing just ride, but boredom sets in and that's it. You've got to play something. Maybe that's our bane; maybe that's the one thing that will keep us back from making the ultimate song or album that we feel is in us."

An incredibly fun blast of energy, "Circumstances" was clearly a minor song from Rush's vantage point as they dropped it towards the end of the Hemispheres tour and it was only briefly brought back in 2007 for the Snakes and Arrows tour.

In contrast, "The Trees" proved to be a favorite song of both the band and their fans and was consequently played on every date of the Hemispheres tour and would reappear in the band's sets in 1982, 1986, 1992, 1994, 1997, 2002, 2004, and 2008. It was the second song written for the album.

At 4:45, "The Trees" contains four verses, the first and third consisting of four lyric lines while the second and fourth are eight lines long. The song is a simple allegory. There is unrest in the forest as the maple trees feel that the oak trees are blocking the sunlight. The oaks, of course, don't see what the problem is. In the end the maples form a union and get a law passed making sure that "the trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe and saw."

"Lyrically, the song's a piece of doggerel," claimed Neil Peart in a Modern Drummer interview published in 1980. "I certainly wouldn't be proud of that. What I would be proud of is taking a pure idea and creating an image for it. I was very proud of what I achieved in that sense. . . . I wrote The Trees' in about five minutes. It's simple rhyming and phrasing, but it illustrates a point so clearly. I wish I could do that all the time. It was just a flash. I was working on an entirely different thing when I saw a cartoon picture of these trees carrying on like fools. I thought, 'What if trees acted like people?' So, I saw it as a cartoon, really, and wrote it that way. I think that's the image that it conjures up to a listener or a reader. A very simple statement."

"I suppose it's basically about the crazy way people act, this false ideal of equality they try and create, he added, speaking to John Hamblett for a piece in NME. "I simply believe that certain people are better at doing certain things than other people. Some people are naturally talented-they have a gift or whatever-and some people aren't. This doesn't mean that these people are greater human beings, by virtue of that talent, it merely means they are more talented."

Neil summarized his approach to the lyric in Musical Express, "Fantasy has a big advantage in lyric writing. It's a way to put a message across without being oppressive."

Ironically, some right wing American politicians such as Rand Paul began quoting the songs in speeches and playing the song as walk up music when they would come up to the podium. Peart was so vexed with this misuse of his work that he had Rush's lawyers send Paul a cease-and-desist order, requesting the politician stop citing the lyrics in his speeches or playing the song at his rallies.

Musically, "The Trees" is quite effective in conveying Peart's allegory. The song starts off with four bars in 6/8 consisting of beautiful classical guitar played by Alex on his Gibson Dove. Producer Terry Brown thinks that the part was recorded outside in the courtyard at Rockfield to take advantage of the space's natural acoustics. The opening verse is four bars long sung over the same classical music that Alex had just played, only this time Geddy comes in with an initially sparse bass line. The verse is followed by the same four bars played instrumentally with Geddy adding a much more fulsome bass part. The foregoing serves as the A section.

After one-and-a-half bars of new acoustic music and a half bar pause, the B section kicks off in 4/4. The texture changes from the pastoral quality of the A section to fierce hard rock power chords accompanied by Neil's propulsive drumming. Geddy is singing an octave and a half above the baritone voice he had used for the first verse. After a four bar introduction, the second longer verse is sung over 16 bars adding new secondary dominant chords to the harmonic lexicon.

The transition back to A, played this time in a hard rock style, involves two bars of 4/4 followed by two bars of 6/8 with Neil contributing Keith Moon like fills on his tympani drums. The effect is electric as Peart deftly references one of Rush's primary influences. The A section is eight bars long in 6/8 and is followed by a new instrumental section in 4/4. After a 4 bar transition and a brief retard, there is a beautiful pastoral instrumental interlude of eight bars consisting of a clarinet-like setting on the Oberheim and Neil playing 16th note temple block fills while Alex fills in the texture with guitar figuration. At 2:17, as the Oberheim melody concludes, the group shifts into 5/4 for the next four sections (four, twelve, eight and eight bars long respectively), each section building in intensity. During the second eight bar sections, Alex takes a classic magisterial solo.

At 3:29, the group shifts back to 6/8 for a virtuosic, extraordinarily exciting, series of four, two-bar sections. In the last half-bar of each section either the bass plays an ascending run (the first and fourth time) or the guitar plays a descending run (the second and third time) in stop time. Neil accompanies the breaks on temple blocks the first and second time through. After a transitional section of four more bars in 5/4, the time shifts to 4/4 for the final B section as Geddy sings the climactic eight lyric lines over 16 bars. After the last word, "saw," there is a very quick fade. If you turn up the volume for the next ten plus seconds you can hear bird sounds from what producer Terry Brown remembers as a sound effects record combined with Neil's crotales.

"The Trees" and "Circumstances" were released together as a single soon after the album came out, "The Trees" being the A-side in the United States while "Circumstances" was the A-side in Canada. Neither release charted. "Circumstances" would again appear in 7-inch form in the United States and the United Kingdom as the B-side of "The Spirit of Radio" in 1980.

Hemispheres closes with the group's first instrumental (discounting the "Overture" from the "2112" suite), the nine-and-a-half minute magnum opus "La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self-Indulgence)." While accounts vary, all three members plus producer Terry Brown recall that the piece was incredibly difficult to get a perfect take recorded from start to finish. Geddy has stated that they attempted a full forty full takes. Neil has said that it took more time to nail "La Villa Strangiato" than it did to record the whole Fly By Night album.

Terry Brown thinks that they ended up using parts of three different takes. Geddy felt that it was one take with two approximately forty second segments spliced in from other run throughs. Alex believes that his classical guitar intro was cut as a separate piece, while the rest of the recording was done in a single take.

"That song was recorded in one take all the way through," Alex stressed via email in 2018. "We ran it a second time over the first take--tape was expensive--and you can actually hear, if you listen very closely, the original guitar solo ghosting under the re-recorded one from the print-through. It was quite the feat to play that all the way through on record."

Just as "2112" represented an important breakthrough for the band, "La Villa Strangiato" was a massive step forward into uncharted terrain. The recording set the precedent for later instrumental classics such as "YYZ" from 1981's Moving Pictures, "Where's My Thing?" from 1991's Roll the Bones, "Leave That Thing Alone" from 1293's Counterparts and "The Main Monkey Business," "Hope" and "Malignant Narcissism" from 2007's Snakes and Arrows.

The piece came about largely as a reaction to having had to work so damn hard on such a heavy concept for the title track.

"It was a reaction to such a heavy concept," affirmed Geddy. "It was definitely, 'Fuck the heavy concept, let's have some fun.' La Villa Strangiato' is basically a loose association of crazy ideas that worked under this grand theme and the grand excuse that it's suppose to represent Alex Lifeson's dreams. When he told them to us we considered them to be nightmares. When we were living together working on an album, every morning he'd be 'I had this dream' and Neil and I both would cup our ears instantly and go, 'NO! Don't tell us.' The guy has the wackiest fucking dreams of anyone I've ever met in my life.

"'La Villa Strangiato' was fun. It was bits and bobs. It was just let's take these great instrumental ideas we have and loosely connect them with a theme like a dream. Anything works in a dream sequence. We had rhythmic ideas we wanted to put down. We had all kinds of wacky bits that we felt were fun and we gave them names afterwards. We had fun with [the names]. Like the word 'Strangiato,' we didn't even know there was such a word. We just invented it. 'Strange village' is what it's suppose to represent but it's not one language; it's French, Spanish and Italian."

At the time Alex was spending a lot of time listening to classical music while Geddy was exploring jazz fusion, becoming particularly enamored with Weather Report. Both of these influences are manifest on "La Villa Strangiato."

The piece is divided into 12 sections, each one designated by a hilarious and/or enigmatic title. The name of the first section, "Buenas Noches, Mein Froinds!," mixes Spanish with German for the first three words. The fourth word, "Froinds," obviously means "friends," but is not a word in any language that I have ever heard.

"It's a word that we used to use," laughed Geddy. "Part of the Rush lexicon always slips into our songs somewhere!"

Only twenty-seven seconds long, "Buenas Noches, Mein Froinds!" features Alex playing broken diminished chords on his nylon string classical guitar before resolving the part with a dramatic two octave flamenco-influenced descending passage.

Durrell Bowman (no relation to the author of these liner notes) in his Ph.D. dissertation and his book Experiencing Rush, states that "Lifeson bases his simple, opening classical-guitar gesture on the melody of 'Gute Nacht Freunde,' by A. Yondrascheck."

I cannot hear any similarity between the two pieces so I checked with Alex who emphatically stated that this was not the case and that he had never heard "Gute Nacht Freunde."

"I recall playing that intro on the final day as we were moving out of Rockfield and heading back to London," asserted Alex. "I was in the studio with all the horrible, bright lights on, road cases everywhere waiting to be moved [out of the studio] once I finished. [I was] alone on a hard, plastic chair facing a couple of mics and Terry's reflection in the studio control room. I don't think I did more than a few takes."

In conversation with Jimmy Leslie for the September 2018 issue of Frets magazine Alex added: "Part of my classical studies included flamenco guitar, and it made sense to bring some Latin style to a piece with that title." Apparently he played the flamenco-like passage with a pick, stating in a 1980 interview published in Guitar Player that, "My fingers aren't that quick, yet."

In many ways "Buenas Noches, Mein Froinds!" simply serves as an introduction to section II, "To Sleep, Perchance to Dream ..." which, in turn, is simply a minute-and-a-half intro to section III, "Strangiato Theme." The title "To Sleep, Perchance to Dream ..." obviously is taken from Hamlet's famous soliloquy "To be or not to be."

"To Sleep, Perchance to Dream ..." is in 4/4 and features a descending ostinato guitar figure outlining a C 9th chord while Neil plays orchestral bells on beat one and two of every bar. Over the course of the section's approximately 90 seconds Geddy adds little squiggly synth figures in the low end and then quick little seven note melodic fills with his right hand on his Oberheim while holding a chordal patch with his left hand. Alex is playing a bass line with the Moog Taurus pedals while continuing to play the descending ostinato on guitar and Neil adds a ride cymbal and eventually snare and bass drum before coming in with the full kit for the "Strangiato Theme."

The "Strangiato Theme" has two parts. The first consists of slashing syncopated chords played by Geddy and Alex in unison, reinforced by cymbal accents from Neil. After running through the sequence four times, they continue to play the chords but each articulation climaxes with a frantic finger-melting descending half bar guitar part which is breathtaking in its freneticism. The second part features Alex playing an intriguing solo melody over C and F# chords which have a dissonant tritone relationship. The unison syncopated chords from the beginning of the section return followed by a reprise of the guitar melody. The "Strangiato Theme" closes with the earlier heard slashing chords before section IV, "A Lerxst in Wonderland," begins.

At two minutes and thirteen seconds, "A Lerxst in Wonderland" is the longest section of "La Villa Strangiato." Set in 7/4, after a short introduction consisting of alternating chords a minor sixth apart, Alex crafts one of the finest guitar solos of his life. The solo begins quietly with a series of notes that fade in via the use of a volume pedal. This part of the solo sounds very much like the sort of thing Jeff Beck was playing on albums such as Blow by Blow. Neil provides a wonderfully syncopated groove under Alex. About forty-five seconds in, Alex starts using a regular attack, delivering gorgeous blues-inflected lines that build in intensity via volume, register, and rate of articulation while Geddy adds string-like patches using the Oberheim synth while playing a bass line on his Moog Taurus pedals.

"I always enjoy playing that solo," relayed Alex Lifeson in 1984. "I like the changes and it's a very emotive, bluesy kind of solo. It stays the same every night. The band is in the background, modulating between two notes, and it gives me a chance to wail."

At 5:14 Alex drops to his lower register, playing a repeating riff that speeds up for the last five seconds to usher in section V, "Monsters!"

"Monsters!" is twenty-one feverish seconds during which Alex plays a melody used in at least forty Loony Tunes cartoons that is called "Powerhouse" and was originally written by Raymond Scott in 1937. Scott's melody is in 4/4 but here it is recast in 7/8 for four bars before shifting to the original 4/4 for two, four-bar sections. In each of the latter sections Alex is doubled by Geddy. They play the Raymond Scott melody that starts on the downbeat of one for three bars and then play a brilliant responsorial phrase, starting on the off-beat after one, in the fourth bar. All this is accompanied by Neil playing a Gene Krupa-like dancing tom tom part. The overall effect is marvellously kinetic.

"When we were kids that was music in one of the cartoons we saw," smiled Geddy. "I think Bugs Bunny used it. That whole section was very cartoon-like. It's a great little vibe to play to."

"Monsters!" slams into section VI, "The Ghost of the Aragon." As far as I know the members of Rush have never explained the title and in 2018 Geddy couldn't remember its origin. My best guess is it refers to an in-joke that involves the Aragon Theater in Chicago where Rush had played eight times between 1974 and the spring of 1978. Thirty-six seconds in length, the section is set in 4/4 and opens with a mind-numbing virtuosic bass solo that ascends and then descends followed by a series of chromatic descending chords covering the span of an octave. After a repeat of the descending chromatic chords, Neil plays a big-band inspired drum solo interspersed with unison riffs from Alex and Geddy. A final drum roll leads the way to section VII, "Danforth and Pape." There are moments in "The Ghost of the Aragon" where Rush are extraordinarily reminiscent of the best jazz fusion bands of the era.

"Danforth and Pape" is named after cross streets at the center of Greek town in Toronto. Forty-one seconds long, the sections stays in 4/4 and features Alex playing a hard rock solo once again over chords outlining a tritone filled in by other chromatic and extended harmonies. Geddy and Neil both contribute extremely syncopated parts.

Section VIII is entitled "The Waltz of the Shreves." The rather strange word "Shreves" was the nickname of the group's first road assistant hired to take care of laundry, make sure there was beer on the bus, and so on. The name stuck and was used for every assistant thereafter. At twenty-three seconds, the section is short and, as a waltz, is in 3/4 (subdivided into 9/8). The three members of Rush play through the waltz in hard rock glorious unison.

Section IX, "Never Turn Your Back on a Monster," clocks in at eleven seconds and is simply a 6/8 variant of the riff pattern from the "Monsters!" section. Section X, "Monsters! (Reprise)," is exactly what it says, the eight bars of the "Monsters!" theme taken from Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse" played in unison in 4/4 with every fourth bar being the off-beat responsorial reprise. Neil is like a demon flying through this section.

After Section XI, "Strangiato Theme (Reprise)," the piece concludes with Section XII, "A Farewell to Things," obviously a pun on the title of the group's last album, A Farewell to Kings. "A Farewell to Things" is comprised of four quick statements of the 7/8 version of the "Monsters!"/"Powerhouse" theme, followed by two 6/4 bars made up of the chromatic descent from "The Ghost of the Aragon" and a final one bar bass solo which clearly nods to the opening bass solo of "The Ghost of the Aragon," ending on a staccato note played in unison by all three members on an off-beat. What an insane roller coaster ride and what an amazing rush!

At the time Alex referred to "La Villa Strangiato," in an interview with Geoff Barton of Sounds, stating, "it's really peculiar, really off the wall and totally unlike anything we've ever done before." He told Guitar Player, "After we were finished, none of us thought we'd ever be able to play it again. But now I can do it while watching TV."

In 2018 Terry Brown reflected about recording "La Villa Strangiato": "There's a lot of wacky stuff in that tune. It's not exactly what you'd call your average instrumental. We were constantly pushing the envelope and going for something a little more outside and yet very melodic. It's like good jazz players who play outside but just mesmerize you with melody and tonality. They were always coming up with stuff that was a little off the wall and unusual. It was a challenge getting it on tape to make it feel like it was a really great rock piece and yet it had all these weird little angles to it. I loved it."

In an interesting interview with Greg Armbruster printed in Keyboard in 1984, the writer asked Geddy, "In order to improve your technique, do you make it a point to write beyond your ability to play?"

While Geddy didn't specifically mention either song by name, it would seem that his response was applicable to both "Hemispheres" and "La Villa Strangiato": "I think you have to-that's how you get better. In the earlier days, around Hemispheres times, we always did that. I'd write a part and go, 'Wow! This is tough to play.' We would have to play it a lot in order to play it well. During this period, that was all we had to do: figure out something that was hard to play and in an odd time signature. We would write fourteen different pieces, or bits, that were in different time signatures and stick them all together to create a concept."

Neil Peart succinctly referred to this period as Rush's postgraduate study in musicianship.

Several years after the album came out, Rush received a letter requesting compensation from a publisher who represented the Raymond Scott composition "Powerhouse." While the statute of limitations to sue had apparently expired, Rush and/or Anthem Records, feeling it was the fair thing to do, made a one-time only payment to Scott.

If you have gotten this far in the liner notes and have spent quality time with pieces such as "La Villa Strangiato," it should be quite apparent just how incredibly complex this music is. It should be equally evident how unbelievably precise Rush is in their execution of this music. While the parts are all developed and learned by ear, the music is written as if it is notated.

Most rock musicians, such as Keith Richards or Jimmy Page, play what I think of as functions in different pieces where, although what they play has to satisfy the piece's needs in terms of rhythm, harmony or melody, there is lots of room for variation and, arguably, neither of them ever plays precisely the same thing from one performance to another (although, of course, it is always close enough to be recognizable and satisfying).

The members of Rush conceive of their music very differently. Although nothing is notated, they write as classical composers such as Beethoven did. What is eventually settled on is the piece. That doesn't mean that in subsequent tours they might not rewrite or rearrange certain compositions but, again, once they have done so, the piece is fixed for the rest of that tour. This aesthetic was shared by a handful of other prog groups but, generally, it is not one embraced by most bands operating in the arena of rock music.

John Reuland has called this an "aesthetic of replicability," writing in Rush and Philosophy that the group's recordings "are constructed as artifacts that, importantly, are meant to sound as if they can be reproduced exactly." This approach, perhaps not surprisingly, has led to thousands of aspiring guitarists, bassists and drummers spending countless hours attempting to replicate exactly what Lifeson, Lee and Peart are playing on record. For example, Robert Freedman estimates that there are between 600 and 700 youtube clips of amateur musicians, solo or in bands, attempting to replicate note-for-note the parts of Rush's 1981 instrumental "YYZ" from Moving Pictures.

The majority of these musicians, of course, will never get beyond the amateur level. Some though, such as Dream Theater's drummer Mike Portnoy, would become very accomplished professional musicians.

Portnoy recalled in a 2015 interview with Prog, "If I had to pick the quintessential Rush song, for me it would have to be 'La Villa Strangiato.' When I was a teenager in the early '80s and in the heat of my deepest Rush influence, that was THE benchmark for instrumental prowess. Not only for us drummers, but also for fellow bass players (that quick bass and drum breakdown) and guitarists (perhaps still Alex Lifeson's greatest recorded solo). As I also stated in the Beyond the Lighted Stage film, to us blossoming musicians at the time, 'La Villa'... was the ultimate musical challenge to learn, as no other instrumental song in rock history had that level of technical precision."

Portnoy added in conversation with Martin Popoff, "Nobody was making music that technical and musically challenging. All three of them were exploring their instruments beyond anything anybody was doing. And Neil Peart was working with all kinds of percussion. His kit was no longer just a drum kit. It was like a drum village, with everything from tubular bells, glockenspiels, and every kind of handheld percussion instrument. All three of them were raising the bar. Neil had the fire and reckless abandon of Keith Moon, but it was a very controlled version of Keith Moon. It was the energy of Keith Moon mixed with kind of the militant technical prowess of maybe Michael Giles from King Crimson-a great combination of the two."

Steven Wilson feels similarly, telling Team Rock, "The closing track la Villa Strangiato' is perfect, I think. I've never known how to pronounce it, but it's the height of Rush as a technical rock band, and Alex Lifeson's solo has to be one of my top five guitar solos ever. And yet it never seems like they're showing off. The music always seems to be the main thing for them, rather than the technique."

The original plan had been to cut all the tracks and overdub the vocals before leaving Rockfield but, between the band being slow to complete the writing process for the album and the complexity of recording the two longer pieces, sessions got delayed and it was only on the last day at about 5 am in the morning that Geddy made one attempt at cutting a vocal. No one remembers what song it was but, in any event, it was not a keeper. So while the two weeks booked in London at Advision were supposed to be designated for mixing, the first piece of business needed to be getting finished vocal tracks recorded for "Hemispheres," "Circumstances" and "The Trees."

Arriving at Advision ready to work, the band and Terry Brown discovered they had a big problem.

"One thing that's unique to Hemispheres," rues Geddy, "Is I didn't do any sort of rough vocal tracks because it took so long to write and it was a very difficult album to record. We ended up eating up all the time we had booked in Wales. By the end of the time we had booked [at Rockfield] we had to leave and move into a mixing room but we didn't have the record finished. We had no vocals on the thing by then.

"When we should have been mixing, we were just beginning to record vocals. I was singing for the first time on these backing tracks that we had recorded and didn't realize that we had written everything in a very difficult key for me to sing. I didn't discover that really until the first day at Advision studios in London when I went in to do the first [vocal]. When you're sitting down and working them out just casually, you're singing sort of falsetto and you figure, 'Yeah that's not a problem, I can do this melody, blah, blah, blah' and then when you actually get in the room with the headphones on and things are blasting, you go 'Holy shit, this is a whole fucking different key than I thought we were in.'

The natural question, given that this was Rush's sixth studio album, is why hadn't they checked that the keys worked for Geddy's vocals prior to recording the backing tracks.

"We worked in a vacuum," Geddy replied. "A lot of what is typical and traditional producer/arranger type stuff we didn't know. We were making the shit up as we went along. As experienced as we were as members of Rush, we were inexperienced in the wider world of song writing protocol.

"That experience with Hemispheres is what planted the seed in my mind that maybe it was time to start working with other producers because we went through this whole process without ever checking what key I had sung in. That's the first thing a producer does. Not to slam Terry in any way, but a traditional producer will come in and say, 'What key is the song in and are you happy with that key?' That conversation never happened and it was partly due to the way we worked. We never had a problem before with that."

Ironically, there was a silver lining. "It helped me create my singing style in that period because it was so effing high," mused Geddy.

That still begs the question why were the keys on this record that much higher than the keys the group had used for their first five studio albums?

"We very much were all about music first," stressed Geddy. "The way we wrote was music first. We responded to the keys that we happened to be writing in. We took a slightly different approach [with Hemispheres in terms of keys] and that's what sounded fresh to us. Sometimes the inversions that Alex would come up with, or if we pushed ourselves into a different range, [led to us] creating something that sounds fresh, something that sounds new and we were drawn like moths to the flame to anything that sounded new and different for us. We were so fearful of repeating ourselves in any way, shape or form that we just moved towards the new and the fresh because that got our juices flowing and that got us excited and that was the case with Hemispheres."

The vocal sessions were consequently intense. Alex had never seen Terry Brown so frustrated, recalling to Bill Banasiewicz, "At this point, Broon [Brown's nickname] was almost getting out of his mind and Terry never gets angry. I've never seen him like that before or since."

"When we went to Advision," Brown affirmed to me, "Geddy had a few hissy fits and got upset. He was pissed off at everybody including himself. It was a little tense. I remember Ged throwing his arms in the air in the studio and going, 'I can't fucking sing these songs. This hurts!' and getting mad. [I said], 'Well, we're gonna do this so you might as well get used to it.' So there was a little bit of aggro but nothing out of the ordinary. It was a bit of a shock to us all. Once we got it done and we got it on tape all those things disappeared into the ether. The angriness, the upsets, the angst all disappeared because we got great vocals. He knuckled down, we worked really hard and those vocals sound amazing."

It would be hard to disagree!

With the vocals finished, it was time to mix and yet more problems emerged. "It sounded really horrible," Brown sighed to me. "I was devastated. It was like I can't mix this to save my life."

Alex concurred, telling Paul Elliott, "[Advision] was where we'd mixed A Farewell to Kings and we'd been very happy with how that came out. But with Hemispheres, nothing ever sounded good there." Exasperated, the group, plus Brown, looked to see what other studios in London were available. They booked an hour at Trident to check out the sound of the mixing desk.

"We brought our tapes in," recounted Geddy, "Just to play them in the control room to listen to see if we were crazy or not. Sometimes you need to take it into a new room just to get some kind of perspective. So we played it back in the room and it was like, 'Oh my God!' Terry looked at us and said, 'Okay, it seems clear what we can do here. This seems right.'

Trident didn't have availability for a few days so everyone headed to Toronto to clear their heads before flying back to London for a second attempt at mixing the record.

Even the sessions at Trident started out as a bit of a slog as Brown had to get used to a different console and seven foot high Cadac studio monitors that were full of sand with two 12" inch speakers in each.

"We were listening at very high volumes," sighed Brown still shaking his head. "You could feel your hair blowing back. It turned out great but it was hard. I don't know what it was but it drained the energy from all of us. There's no question about that."

Fortunately, after a few days the mixing sessions came together.

"I think what happened," reasoned Geddy, "Was when we got into Trident, there was something about the way that board sounded that reproduced the tones we needed. Trident has an amazing sound. Every studio sort of has its own tone but the Trident desks were known for a particular tone. It has a richer bottom end. Somehow we were able to get all the instruments to sit very clearly in the soundscape, whereas the room at Advision was not letting us do that. Trident was just the right room. That room suited the material that we had been working on so hard for so many months. Mixing it became a pleasure."

As you can hear, the end results were masterful.

As was now standard practice, Hugh Syme designed the cover. After a series of conversations with Neil about the subject matter of the central piece, "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres," Syme came up with the brilliant juxtaposition of a naked archetypal man standing on one of three brains gesturing toward a rather straight looking business man in a suit with a bowler hat and a walking stick.

"When speaking to Neil in 1978 about the disparity/dichotomy between the left and right spheres of the brain," Syme relayed to me in the summer of 2018. "We developed the notion that we are comprised of balance or tension between that of reason and rationale [and] heart or emotion. Neil and I, appreciating Renb Magritte's surrealist works, opted to tip our hat to Magritte's Son of Man for our dapper Apollonian man of reason and constraint on the far (left) side of the brain while the man on the opposite (right) side of the brain was represented by our spirited dancer figure, Dionysus-unfettered by the trappings or constraints of clothing or reason-apparently beckoning the man in the black suit, bowler hat and cane. The hope being that we as individuals can come to a place of balance and harmony as we endeavor to coexist with heart and mind - united in a single, perfect sphere."

As Syme was working with a gatefold sleeve, he elected to actually have three brains in a grand panorama that one would see when the album was opened up. The idea of a trio of elements would continue to be important in Rush iconography with the three arches on Moving Pictures and the three spheres on Hold Your Fire.

"In those days," continued Syme, "We always presumed that the end user would appreciate the art as a continuous composition once the jacket was unfolded. Or we would produce an in-store poster of the same [image]. The fact that one 'main brain' is featured on the cover is just a function of the gatefold sleeve. They were always meant to be seen as a trio of brains - in perspective rather than 'two floating away' from the fore brain."

In 2016 Geddy and Alex spoke about Hemispheres to Team Rock. "We spent a lot of time deep in that Hemispheres record." said Geddy. "It was very ambitious, hard to record, hard for me to sing. It was even hard to mix. It really took a chunk out of us."

"There were some great songs on Hemispheres," added Alex. "I still think that la Villa Strangiato' is one of the best things we've ever done. But we came out of that record feeling that we were becoming a bit formulaic."

Geddy agreed, closing by saying, "The title track ('Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres') was another side-long piece. It was in a sense a different version of `2112'. The notes were different, the story was different, but structurally we started feeling that we were repeating ourselves. So we thought, this isn't healthy for us. We've got to break out of that. We needed a new direction, and we found it with Permanent Waves."

Neil clearly felt the same way, explaining to Martin Popoff, "Farewell and Hemispheres are very much of a period. And, in fact, they represent a period to themselves. It was with A Farewell to Kings where we started with a lot of the textural experimentation. And we took it to its apogee absolutely with Hemispheres, then decided tacitly-or, no, vocally-that we wouldn't do this anymore. That Hemispheres was the end, that we didn't want to do side-long pieces, the overblown arranging, anymore."

Hemispheres was released just before Halloween in October 1978. For a short time, in Canada, there was a red vinyl version with a poster. In December, Anthem Records issued a limited edition picture disc and, in response to programmer demand in both Canada and the U.S., the company manufactured a promo only version in which the side-long title cut was segmented and banded into its various sections for radio play.

Ultimately the album provided Rush with their best showing yet on the U.K. charts, peaking at #14. In contrast, on the Canadian and American charts Hemispheres was a bit of a disappointment, stalling at #14 and #47, while A Farewell to Kings had reached #11 and #33. In March 1979 for the second year in a row, Rush was named "Group of the Year" at the Canadian Juno Awards.

Bonus Material

The bonus CD and vinyl in this set consists of what was originally a radio broadcast of the final show on the Hemispheres tour, the group's June 4, 1979 appearance at the Pinkpop Festival in Holland. Although the show, due to festival time constraints, is about half the length of a typical concert on the tour, the band delivered a stunningly authoritative set.

The first Pinkpop festival was held nine years earlier in May 1970. The name Pinkpop means "Pop at Pentecost," Pentecost being the Christian feast day held seven weeks after Easter Sunday. Headliners in earlier years included Beck, Bogart and Appice, Status Quo, the Jack Bruce Band, Uriah Heep, the Kinks and Thin Lizzy. As I write this in the summer of 2018, the 49th edition of Pinkpop just passed, making it the longest running music festival in the world.

By 1979 the festival had become the highlight of the Dutch summer concert season. Staged at Burgmeester Damen Sportpark in Geleen, the 52,000 official tickets had sold out quickly. According to police estimates, another 20,000 fans managed to gain access to the festival grounds via counterfeit tickets that had been produced at a nearby high school. British DJ John Peel was in charge of emceeing the event and playing music over the P.A. between each band.

For Rush, the Pinkpop festival was a big deal. It was the final performance on a 140 date tour that had started October 14, 1978, two weeks before the album was released, and lasted nearly eight months. In that period the band took a week off for Christmas, another in February and one more in April, the latter separating their last North American gig in Providence from the first show in Europe in Newcastle. The wives of all three members flew over for Pinkpop.

In later years Rush turned down most festival offers, perhaps most famously the Monsters of Rock Festival at Donnington Castle in the U.K.

"They weren't big on festivals," explains tour manager and lighting director Howard Ungerleider. "I remember them passing on a lot of festivals because they thought festivals were impersonal and we couldn't deliver our production that we really were proud of. We always had to use what was provided [in terms of sound and lighting gear at festivals] and they weren't big on that."

Despite the band's later feelings about such events, in June 1979 Pinkpop presented Rush with a rare opportunity for massive exposure at a time when their management was pushing hard to break the band in new territories. The festival was important enough that, despite the fact that Alex Lifeson had banged up his ring finger on his left hand five days earlier causing the band to cancel dates on May 31st in Mannheim, June 1st in Zurich and June 2nd in Munich ("He had this sort of blood blister that was so painful he couldn't press the neck," recalled Geddy), they had no intention of cancelling Pinkpop on the 4th.

Pinkpop 1979 started at 11 am with Massada, a Latin-funk pop band who had hit the Belgian and Dutch charts with a massive hit single, "Latin Dance," the year before. As was the case with every artist on the bill, Massada had precisely an hour to showcase their wares. The Average White Band continued the funk tip after Massada before giving way to the Police and Dire Straits. Both of the latter bands had released their debut album the year before, the Police riding high on the success of "Roxanne" and "Can't Stand Losing You." Dire Straits, oddly enough, didn't bother to play "Sultans of Swing" during their 14-song set.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions took the stage at 4:30. Partway through their set the skies opened up and the audience suffered through a brief, although brutal, rain storm. Not easily deterred, Costello played right through the storm, climaxing his 19-song set with the anthemic "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding."

Rush took the stage at 6 pm. Fans have debated for years whether or not they opened with "Anthem" as they had at every other show on the Hemispheres tour. There are no audience tapes extant to confirm or deny whether or not "Anthem" was played. Whatever the case, it was not included on the radio broadcast of the festival and so it does not appear here. Perhaps due to a need to change tapes, the Pinkpop tape is also missing the first two sections of "2112" containing the "Overture" and "The Temples of Syrinx." Consequently, so as to provide listeners with a full performance of "2112" from the Hemispheres tour, following the Pinkpop recording a performance of "2112" from the Tucson Community Center show in Arizona on November 20, 1978 has been included.

With several days rest due to Alex's banged up finger, at Pinkpop Geddy was in superb voice. "This was a great show," recalled the singer and bassist in conversation with Andy Greene. "It was one of our first big pop festivals, and I love Holland. The Dutch are great fans of ours. There were such interesting other bands on the bill, like the Police. I remember watching them backstage; they were just coming out. 'Roxanne' was a big hit. Peter Tosh was on that show. It was kind of interesting for us to be in the context of these other artists."

There are many highlights from Rush's set that day. The version of "The Trees" is simply mind-blowing due to the trio's sheer force of power. Mid-set they segue from "The Sphere (A Kind of Dream)" via a newly written synth line into "Closer to the Heart." The latter, in turn, segues, via a similarly gorgeous synth bridge into a wild impassioned electric guitar solo replete with flamenco flourishes that begins an extraordinarily muscular "La Villa Strangiato."

Rush closed their Pinkpop set, as per usual, with "In the Mood" from their first album before Geddy Lee declaimed "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Professor on the drum kit" to introduce Neil's drum solo. As per usual, Neil's showcase is inventive, timbrally rich, rhythmically precise and full of electronic effects.

"'My electronics are an Eventide Instant Phaser and DDL [digital delay] and a Mutron Phaser." explained Neil at the time to Musicians Only, "They're controlled from offstage. The drum solo is to a fixed pattern, so I don't need triggering in the drums or anything to achieve those effects. I use my kit as another instrument rather than [just] something to give a kick to the rhythm."

The chanting of the crowd between the solo and a blistering encore of "Something for Nothing" from 2112 is proof positive of just how captivating Rush's set was that day.

"There was something about Rush," muses tour manager Ungerleider. "There was an electricity. You knew something was different. There was a power when you heard the Who play live that no other band really had. With Rush there was that same feeling. Rush had this electricity. It was like a wall of power that came off the stage. It was impeccable. It was so intense."

How Peter Tosh followed Rush that day I do not know.

The Blu-ray Audio disc included in this set contains the entire Hemispheres album newly mixed in 5.1 surround sound by Rich Chycki, along with bonus videos of "La Villa Strangiato" from the Pinkpop festival plus the 1978 promotion videos Anthem Records filmed for "Circumstances," "The Trees" and "La Villa Strangiato." The videos were shot in the auditorium at Seneca College in Toronto, not too far from where Alex and Geddy grew up. Besides being curios of their time, the videos are fascinating as they afford the viewer close up shots from angles that one would not normally get in a concert hall, providing a window on what sounds emanate from Alex's triggering of his Moog Taurus bass pedals, which synthesizer Geddy is using to generate certain sounds and what an incredible array of percussion instruments Neil had at his disposal at any given moment.

Hemispheres was an ambitious record to make that, in "The Trees" and "La Villa Strangiato," contained two of Rush's most beloved recordings. The album represents the final statement in what is often thought of as the group's prog metal trilogy that began with 1976's 2112 and continued with 1977's A Farewell to Kings. Forty years on, it is an album that still reveals new musical pleasures with every focussed listening. I truly marvel at what Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart were able to achieve at so young an age.

All quotes, unless otherwise attributed, are from interviews conducted by Rob Bowman in the summer of 2018.

Rob Bowman wishes to thank: Terry Brown, Andy Curran, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Holly Quibell, Hugh Syme, Meg Symsyk and Howard Ungerleider.

Original Album Credits

Alex Lifeson
Six and twelve string electric and acoustic guitars, classical guitar, Roland guitar synthesizer, Taurus pedals

Neil Peart
Drums, orchestra bells, bell-tree, tympani, gong, cowbells, temple blocks, wind chimes, crotales

Geddy Lee
Bass guitar, Mini-Moog, Oberheim polyphonic, Taurus pedals, vocals

Produced By Rush And Terry Brown

Arrangements by Rush and Terry Brown
Recorded at Rockfield Studios, Wales, during June and July 1978
Engineered by Pat Moran
Vocals recorded at Advision Studios, London
Engineered by Declan O'Doherty
Mixed at Trident Studios, Soho, London, August 1978
Engineered by Terry Brown with invaluable assistance from John Brand
Tape Operators (Trident): Simon Hilliard, Mike Donegani, and Reno Ruocco
Remastered at Abbey Road Studios by Sean Magee

Management: Ray Danniels, SRO Productions, Toronto
Executive Production: Moon Records
Roadmaster and Lighting Director: Howard (Herns) Ungerleider
Concert Sound Engineer and Crew Co-ordinator: Major Ian Grandy
Stage Manager: Michael (Lurch) Hirsh
Stage Right technician: Liam (Leaf) Birt
Stage Left technician: Skip (Slider) Gildersleeve
Centre Stage technician: Larry (Shrav) Allen
Guitar and synthesizer maintenance: Tony (Jack Secret) Geranios
Concert sound by National Sound and Electrosound (U.K.)
Concert Lighting by See Factor
Concert visuals produced by Rush and Nick Prince
Projectionist: Harry (keep the change) Dilman
Those daring drivers!: Bruce (The Pin) Aldrich (Howdy howdy!), Jwerg (Ah think Ah see the problem!) Hoadley, Mike (Say Guy!) Morrison, and Tom (Zig-Zag) Whittaker

The Wonderful Persons List: Austen Fagen, Abe Schon, The UFO'S, the Max Websters, the Pat Travers Band, the Monks, Bert the driver, Fin Costello, Ruke Bernstein, Joe Bombase, Young Ward, Jerry Mickelson, Amy Granat, Bubble and Squeak, all at SRO, and all at Rockfield, Advision, and Trident

© 1978 Mercury Records © 1978 Anthem Entertainment

40th Anniversary Credits

Blu-Ray Audio

HD 5.1 Surround Mixing by Richard Chycki
Blu-ray Authoring Facility: Post Production Inc.
Menu Design: Eliot Gurrin
Audio Engineer: Michelle Harrison
Authoring: Marcus Ionis
© 2018 ole Media Management L.P. / UMG Recordings, Inc.

Executive Producers: Andy Curran and Jeff Fura
Universal Canada Product Manager: Ivar Hamilton

Mastered by Sean Magee and James Clarke at Abbey Road Studios
5.1 Surround mastering by Andrew Walter at Abbey Road Studios

Art Direction, Illustrations and Design: Hugh Syme
Photos: Rush Archives
UMe Production Manager: Howard DeLoach
UMe Product Manager: Kristina Waters

Management: Ray Danniels at SRO Management, Inc., Toronto

A very special thank you to: Pegi Cecconi, Richard Chycki, Ray Wawrzyniak, Hugh Syme, Francois Lamoureux (the vault-meister), Robert Ott, Andrew Daw, Andy Hawke, Sylvia Lindae, Jennifer Essiembre, Dante Berardi Jr, Mhairi Holmer, Adrian Battiston, Jason Klein, Cory Barnes, Jennifer Correia, Craig MacGregor, Sean Magee, Andrew Walter, Lucy Launder, Peach Kazen, Simon Gibson,John Virant, Adam Jones, Patrick McLoughlin, Meghan Symsyk, Frank Weijers, Hein Fokker, Joke Verhoog, Derek Tokar, Michele Horie, Maciej Zielinski, Scott Esterson, Phil

Producer's Note: The original Pinkpop Festival recording was unfortunately the victim of the recording engineer not being able to change the tape reels in a manner upon which the entire concert was unsuccessfully captured. This tape reel change happened during the band's performance of "2112" and a large portion of the song does not exist. The remainder of the Pinkpop Festival show is a brilliant snapshot of the band's Hemispheres tour setlist and in an effort to fill the "2112" void we discovered another concert that featured the entirety of the song from the Community Center in Tucson, Arizona. This recording is still with its quality challenges and we've restored this performance of "2112" to its maximum potential.

Made possible with the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation


Recorded at Burgemeester Damen Sportpark, Geleen, Netherlands

A Passage To Bangkok
(Geddy Lee - Alex Lifeson - Neil Peart)

(Geddy Lee - Alex Lifeson - Neil Peart)

The Trees
(Geddy Lee - Alex Lifeson - Neil Peart)

Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres - The Sphere A Kind of Dream
(Geddy Lee - Alex Lifeson - Neil Peart)

Closer To The Heart
(Geddy Lee - Alex Lifeson - Neil Peart - Peter Talbot)

La Villa Strangiato
(Geddy Lee - Alex Lifeson - Neil Peart)

In The Mood
(Geddy Lee)

Drum Solo
(Neil Peart)

Something For Nothing
(Geddy Lee - Neil Peart)


Recorded at the Community Center, Tucson, AZ


(Geddy Lee - Alex Lifeson - Neil Peart)

(Geddy Lee - Alex Lifeson - Neil Peart)

(Alex Lifeson - Neil Peart)

(Alex Lifeson - Neil Peart)

(Geddy Lee - Alex Lifeson - Neil Peart)

(Geddy Lee - Alex Lifeson - Neil Peart)


As an adolescent inductee into the progosphere of Rushdom since 2112, imagine the excitement of placing the red vinyl Hemispheres LP on my Lenco turntable, spinning up the weighty platter and adrenalizing as the vinyl surface noise quickly gave way to the swirling, flanged cymbal swell that introduces "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres." The band was pounding out shot after shot to punctuate that renowned, should-be-patented Lifeson chord, the venerable F#7add11. My headphones were overflowing with musical depth, not to mention they were pretty loud! Once again, I would happily lose myself in my music with thanks to the three travelers from Willowdale. Hemispheres was such a powerful progressive rock statement - a wonderfully complex musical journey that is every bit as relevant and fulfilling today, 40 years later. With my history of working with Rush as an engineer and mixer dating back to 2004, I could not be more honored to have the band's behest and blessing to remix Hemispheres in 5.1 surround from the original analog multitrack masters.

Just like any of the Rush studio 5.1 remixes on which I've worked in the past, all audio consistently remains in a high definition 96kHz124-bit WAV format using Avid ProTools as my digital workstation of choice. Embracing modern audio resolution gives the satisfaction of knowing the listener has the opportunity to hear what is heard in the mix studio, reliving this piece of art with great integrity and detail. I also chose to completely eschew modern loudness standards. In fact, the mix reference I requested was a high-res 96kHz/24-bit transfer from the original unmastered stereo analog mix masters. The 5.1 mixes echo the dynamic range of the original mixes.

So, how does one approach the remixing of an iconic album to make it a satisfying, immersive experience? The prime directive was to maintain the integrity of Hemispheres' essence that producer Terry Brown and the band had worked so hard to achieve, never compromising the original focus. The relative sparsity (by today's multi-hundred track standards) was advantageous to the creation, of a 3-dimensional sound field with great breadth, enveloping the listener. Space was our friend as were select vintage pieces of vacuum tube analog equipment. I chose to structure core elements, more or less, in the front theater and add combinations of spacious 3D atmosphere and poignant directional elements for excitement - again, all while staying true to the original mixes.

Hemispheres was captured by the band recording live together and overdubbing extra instrumentation and vocals on the performance they thought best captured the song. All of the performances, including the outtakes are quite remarkable. In fact, the Vault Edition of "The Trees" was one such example of the band's consistently stellar performance level. With much of "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres" recorded in smaller pieces, the process entailed aligning a copy of the aforementioned unmastered stereo mix to the appropriate multitrack and massaging all of the elements into their respective places in the mix, all the while referring back to the original stereo version. The 5.1 mixes were then assembled just as the original stereo versions were 40 years ago.

Conversely, "La Villa Strangiato" cycles through various themes in a single continuous take. And given that effects and ambiences weren't printed to the multitrack, re-creating vintage reverbs and ambiences so they ebb and flow just like the original versions was an exciting adventure. I still get lost in the drama and depth of Al's solo for "La Villa..." every time I hear it. It's easily one of the most passionate expressions on this album.

Richard Chycki / August 2018


  • Released November 16, 2018.
  • On April 22, 2017, UMe/Anthem/ole released a 5000 copy limited edition 12" single of Cygnus X-1 (Books I and II) on 180g vinyl for Record Store Day, with new artwork by Hugh Syme. Featuring "Book I: The Voyage" on side A and "Book II: Hemispheres" on side B, this was the first time these tracks were released as a single. The new artworks were later included in the linernotes of their respective 40th Anniversary Editions.
  • Click here for the 'Hemispheres 40th Anniversary Edition' Transcript Archive.

In Their Own Words

How interested are you in the ongoing Rush archival projects that have been coming out? "Not so much. (laughs) Alex gets more involved with them, and it's more a record company and management idea. Dwelling on the past is not so much fun - dwelling on Rush's past...As long as they do it with a high level of quality and the fans appreciate them and having these obscure tracks here and there, that's fine. They pass everything by us to make sure we sign off on it, and there are discussions that go on from time to time. As long as it's a quality thing they're releasing, I'm good with that." - Geddy Lee, For Bass Players Only, December 24, 2018
"Hemispheres- 40th Anniversary will be available to fans in four distinct configurations, including the (1) Super Deluxe Edition, (2) two-CD Deluxe Edition, (3) three-LP Deluxe Edition, and (4) Deluxe Digital Edition. The Super Deluxe Edition includes two CDs, one exclusive Blu-ray Audio disc, and three high-quality 180-gram black vinyl LPs. The set encompasses the Abbey Road Studios 2015 remastered edition of the album for the first time on CD, along with previously unreleased and newly restored bonus content consisting of the band's masterful June 1979 Pinkpop Festival performance in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, the Pinkpop recording engineer failed to capture the first several minutes of "2112," so an amazing, unreleased performance of the song during the Hemispheres tour from Tucson, Arizona in November 1978 appears here in its place. The third bonus disc is the album newly mixed from the original multitracks in 5.1 surround sound on a Blu-ray Audio disc, along with four bonus videos: three shot in 1978 as promo videos, and one of "La Villa Strangiato," originally shot at Pinkpop with newly restored stereo audio. The Super Deluxe Edition of Hemispheres-40th Anniversary will also include several exclusive items, including a 40-page hardcover book with unreleased photos and new artwork by original album designer Hugh Syme; an extensive, 11,000+-word essay by Rob Bowman; The Words & The Pictures, a replica of the band's rare 1979 UK tour program; a 24x24-inch wall poster of the newly created Syme art; a Pinkpop Festival replica ticket; a Pinkpop Festival replica cloth VIP sticky pass; and a replica 1978 "Rush" Hemispheres iron-on patch. The second configuration of Hemispheres-40th Anniversary will be released in a two-CD Deluxe Edition digipak that includes the newly remastered Hemispheres album; the Pinkpop Festival performance and "2112" from Arizona; a 28-page booklet with unreleased photos and new artwork by Syme; and an edited, 5,700-word version of Bowman's aforementioned essay. The third Hemispheres configuration will be offered as an audiophile black vinyl 180-gram three-LP Deluxe Edition featuring the same audio content as the two-CD edition housed in a slipcase with double-gatefold packaging, along with a 24-page booklet with unreleased photos and Syme's new artwork and the 5,700-word version of Bowman's liner notes. Gatefold 1 features the original album with Syme's 40th anniversary artwork, while Gatefold 2 contains the Pinkpop Festival and Arizona bonus content. A 5x5-inch digital download card sticker of Syme's new 40th anniversary art is also included. The fourth configuration, the Deluxe Digital Edition, is the digital equivalent to the two-CD Deluxe Edition." - 40th Anniversary Edition Press Release, PRNewswire, October 5, 2018


Smartphone Wallpaper

Our RUSH smartphone wallpapers have been modified for an 18:9 aspect ratio to fit "most" Smartphones.