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Album: Moving PicturesReleased: 1981
YYZ is the transmitter code for Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport. Every airport is assigned a unique 3 letter code, and that code is always being transmitted so that pilots can tell, roughly, where they are and verify that their navigational radios are tuned properly. These codes are also written on your luggage tags when you fly. The intro to the song is Morse code for "YYZ."
This was nominated and was the runner up for the Best Rock Instrumental award in the 1982 Grammys. It lost to The Police's "Behind my Camel."
In the March 2004 issue of Guitar World magazine, Alex Lifeson explained the bizarre-sounding harmonics heard before the solo: "I create them by playing off the pick and my thumb. I hold the pick so there's a slight edge of it showing between my thumb and finger. This allows my thumb to mute the string, and that's what causes the harmonic to ring." (thanks, Mike - Mountlake Terrace, Washington, for above 3)
The crashing noise you hear between the breaks of the guitar solo is the sound of windchimes tied to a 2x4 slapped against a wood table. The band confirmed this in an interview on WNEW New York in the winter of 2002. (thanks, Jason - Commack, NY)
Geddy Lee's bass performance on this song has been praised by many websites and magazines as one of the best in Rock history. Some fans believe his bass playing is better when he's not singing. (thanks, Evan - flower mound, TX)
This was one of the few songs used on the PS2 game Guitar Hero 2 that was not a remake by Wavegroup. (thanks, Billy - A Place, AL)
The song has also featured as a downloadable song in the Rock Band series, and as the only instrumental on the Guitar Hero: Smash Hits game. Geddy Lee told the The Plain Dealer newspaper in a 2011 interview how the tune's use in video games has opened up a whole new fan base for Rush: "It's interesting how that song's been reborn through video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. We're getting all these 11-, 12-, 13-year-old kids coming to our shows because they discovered our music through those games. And I think one of the big reasons is 'YYZ.'"