This piece is 20 minutes long and takes up an entire side of the album. It was the second time Rush did this, the first being "The Fountain of Lamneth" from the album Caress of Steel.
The song is considered a "suite" and divided into 7 chapters: I) Overture, II) The Temples of Syrinx, III) Discovery, IV) Presentation, V) Oracle: The Dream, VI) Soliloquy, VII) Grand Finale. In the printed lyrics, each chapter begins with a text story, describing the events. Part one is the overture of the year 2112. Part two is about the Temples of Syrinx and the Priests that rule them. Part three is about a man who discovers an "ancient device" that is actually a guitar. Part four is the presentation (hence the part title) of the device to the priests. The priests say that there is no need for this ancient way, and crush it to pieces beneath their feet. Part five is about the man going back to his cave by the waterfall and falling asleep, dreaming of the "elder race" (the oracle) leading him back to his world. In the year 2112 the elder race of man live on a planet far far away from the Federation. Part six is about the man being unable to live under the Federation's control any longer. His only hope is that with his death he will pass into the next world. Part seven is the instrumental Grand Finale. (thanks, Tyler - Houston, TX)
The lyrics are based on the novella Anthem
by Ayn Rand, a writer and philosopher who grew up in Russia, but moved to the US as a young adult. She often wrote about the concept of "Objectivism," which focuses on reason, self-interest, and objective reality. The narrator of this story is never named. (thanks, adam - mechanicsburg, PA)
There was no complete live recording of this song until the release of the 1998 Different Stages: Live three disc set. An abbreviated version appeared on the 1976 live disc All The World's A Stage.
The first words sung - "And the meek shall inherit the earth" - are a reference to a passage in The Bible: "Blessed are the meek, for the meek shall inherit the Earth." (thanks, Jeff - Haltom City, TX, for all above)
This was considered a "concept-album" and was an example of "Prog-Rock" (progressive rock), a grand style of music popular in the '70s with bands like Yes.
This song is actually a criticism of the music industry, and how they try to control song length and style. (thanks, Michael Polsky - Toronto, Canada)
There is a hidden feature (Easter egg) on the Rush In Rio
DVD. On the second disc, select the 2nd multi-angle video and let it begin. Then go back to the menu then select the 1st multi-angle video. Let it begin, then go back to the menu, then 1st again, then 2nd again: "2nd-1st-1st-2nd." It will open a video from 1975, "Anthem."
This song was recorded live for the first time in it's entirety for the Test For Echo tour and released on the 3-CD set Different Stages in 1998. (thanks, Mike - Mountlake Terrace, Washington, for above 2)
The song and album title spawned an image used as Rush's' logo from this time on, known as "The Starman." Long time Rush album artist/designer Hugh Syme is credited with it's creation. See it here
21:12 is military time for 9:12. 9/12 is September 12, Neil Peart's birthday. (thanks, Jake - Bellevue, IA)
On the inside of the CD cover, these words are attributed to "Anonymous, 2112": "I lie awake, staring out at the bleakness of Megadon. City and sky become one, merging into a single plane, a vast sea of unbroken grey. The Twin Moons, just two pale orbs as they trace their way across the steely sky. I used to think I had a pretty good life here, just plugging into my machine for the day, then watching Templevision or reading a Temple Paper in the evening. My friend Jon always said it was nicer here than under the atmospheric domes of the Outer Planets. We have had peace since 2062, when the surviving planets were banded together under the Red Star of the Solar Federation. The less fortunate gave us a few new moons. I believed what I was told, I thought it was a good life, I thought I was happy. Then I found something that changed it all..."
Megadon was a coin-operated arcade game from the '80s that is listed as very rare now. The game merged maze games like Pac-Man with space shooting games, like Space Invaders. (thanks, Ryan - West Chester, OH)
21/12 (December 21st) is the date of the winter solstice, a very important event in some cultures, and the beginning of the lunar Calendar. (thanks, Allen - Coquitlam, Canada)
Bassist Peter Ewers and guitarist Björn Gelotte of the metal band In Flames own a burger joint called "2112" in Gothenburg, Sweden, which was named after this song.