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Neil Peart explains 10 great Rush songs

Canadian rock icons Rush have always been connected to Hamilton – from family ties to formative shows just before the band’s career took flight. But did you know the city also helped inspire one of Canadian music’s biggest hits?

'The Spirit of Radio' inspired by the glow of the city from the Hamilton Escarpment

Canadian rock legends Rush are featured at CBC Music as the band celebrates the 40th anniversary of the band’s self-titled debut. What's your favourite Rush song? (Danny Moloshok/Associated Press)

Canadian rock icons Rush have always been connected to Hamilton – from family ties to formative shows just before the band’s career took flight.

Guitarist Alex Lifeson’s cousin Jed is downtown’s renowned “dancing guy,” and the band played a six-night stand at a basement bar called Duffy’s Rockpile near Gore park back in the early 70s just after releasing their first album.

But did you know the city also helped inspire one of Canadian music’s biggest hits?

CBC Music sat down with Hamilton-born drummer/lyricist Neil Peart as part of the website’s “Rush week” and asked him to provide some context for their picks for the 10 best Rush songs of all time.

The Spirit of Radio from 1980s Permanent Waves made the list. Peart says the song was inspired by driving on the Escarpment and listening to Toronto radio station CFNY 102.1.

“We were working at a farmhouse out in the country in western Ontario and commuting home on weekends,” he said. “I remember coming home very late and CFNY Radio was on the air, and as I was cresting the escarpment with all of the lights below of Hamilton and the Niagara Peninsula, where I lived at the time, with a fantastic combination of music that was on at the time.

CFNY’s motto at the time was “the spirit of radio.” Obviously, it stuck with him.

“The song itself, musically, is switching between radio stations, with a reggae section at the end, the second verse is new waves, I’m playing like a punk drummer there, and that was all intentional,” Peart said. Considering Hamilton’s renowned punk scene at the time, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that influenced Peart too.

For more on Rush as CBC Music celebrates the 40th anniversary of the band’s self-titled debut, visit the CBC Music website.

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