The Morse Code Geddy Lee And Neil Peart Hid In A Rush Song

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Although Geddy Lee was the lead singer of Rush, the musician wasn’t only getting the praises with his vocal performances since he is a celebrated bass player as well. In fact, Lee’s style, technique, and skill on the bass have inspired many legendary rock musicians such as Cliff Burton, Steve Harris, and many more.

Since he’s regarded as one of the greatest bass players of all time, fans always mention their favorite song that represents Lee’s impeccable skills. While many tracks hold a special place in his fans’ hearts, there’s one particularly unique song named ‘YYZ‘ in which the musician didn’t only prove himself to be a fantastic bassist, but he also did it with the help of a distinct Morse code, and his bandmate Neil Peart.

Rush’s ‘YYZ’ Was A Live Show Staple

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Rush’s ‘YYZ‘ was featured in their eighth studio album entitled ‘Moving Pictures’ on February 12, 1981, as the album’s third song. The instrumental piece is one of the band’s most famous songs and was a staple of the band’s live performances. Moreover, the song was released within the live album ‘Exit…Stage Left’ and the concert video recording ‘A Show of Hands.’

‘YYZ’ which was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Rock Instrumental category in 1982, was also performed during a Foo Fighters concert at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on March 22, 2008. The performance featured Lee and Lifeson while Taylor Hawkins was playing the drums. In addition to Foo Fighters, Peart performed it with the Buddy Rich Big Band alongside bassist Jeff Berlin in October 2008.

Rush Used Morse Code In ‘YYZ’

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One of the biggest reasons ‘YYZ’ was one of the most popular songs on Rush’s setlist is that the track reflects Geddy Lee’s instrumentalist genius. However, the song also hides some secret messages. First of all, the song’s title is the IATA airport identification code of Toronto Pearson International Airport, which is close to the band’s hometown. Secondly, the song’s beginning part was directly inspired by the YYZ identifier code in Morse.

The band was first introduced to the rhythm while Alex Lifeson was controlling a plane and flying the band to Toronto Airport following a recording process. They heard the melody coming from the identifier while being tuned in for Toronto Airport. Geddy Lee and Neil Peart, who were sitting at the back, really liked the sound and brilliantly turned the code into the song’s rhythm. Lifeson himself once detailed the song’s source of inspiration and said that this song has always represented the feeling of coming home.

Recalling the first time they heard the Morse code, Lifeson said:

“It’s interesting. We were coming back from the studio when we were making the record. A friend of mine, who was actually my flight instructor, came out and picked us up in a small plane. On the way back, they had tuned in the identifier for Toronto Airport, so we heard the rhythm. It was Neil and Geddy who were in the back and said, ‘That’s a really cool rhythm in that identifier.’ That’s how that whole beginning part came about to play the Morse code of YYZ, and it’s always about coming home.”

You can listen to ‘YYZ,’ Lee’s isolated bass parts, and the making of the song below.