"2112" is the fourth album by Rush, released in 1976. The Toronto dates of the "2112 Tour" were recorded and released as "All The World´s A Stage" in September 1976.
Due to the relative commercial failure of their previous album, "Caress of Steel", the record label is said to have pressured the band not to do another album with "concept" songs. "Caress of Steel" contains two multi-part epics: the 12-minute "The Necromancer" (side one) and the side-long epic "The Fountain of Lamneth" (side two).
By their own recollection, the band stuck to their principles and recorded what would become their first commercial success, and ultimately something of a signature record.
The album "2112" features an epic seven-part suite written by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson , with lyrics written by Neil Part. The suite tells a dystopian story set in the year 2112:
In the year 2062, a galaxy-wide war results in the union of all planets under the rule of the Red Star of the Solar Federation. The world is controlled by the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx, who determine all reading matter, songs, pictures... everything connected with life during the year 2112 ("The Temples of Syrinx").
In the midst of this assembly line living, a man discovers what was once known years before as a guitar ("Discovery"). The man begins to pluck the strings and turn the knobs, discovering that he can make his own music - a music very different from that of the Temples. He rushes to tell the priests of his discovery ("Presentation"), but to the man's dismay, the priests destroy the instrument, saying it doesn't fit the plan of the Solar Federation.
The man returns to the cave in which he found the guitar and, during a dream, is led by an oracle to a 'strange and wond'rous land' ("Oracle: The Dream") where the 'Elder Race', who 'left our planets long ago', has been forced to make their home after being defeated by the priests. He "Sees the work of gifted hands". The protagonist notes that the Elder Race is still waiting to return, and take power over the Priests again. Upon awakening, he can not believe it was a dream—the perceived beauty was so real to him.
He remains in the cave for several days, becoming more and more depressed with each passing hour ("Soliloquy"). The man decides he can not go on as part of the Federation and takes his life to move on to a better one. As he dies, another planetary battle begins ("Grand Finale") resulting in the ambiguous ending 'Attention all planets of the Solar Federation: We have assumed control.' (This spoken section was created by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson reportedly "messing around with a tape recorder").
The other songs on the album stand alone from the title track, with Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson writing lyrics for one song each ("Tears" and "Lessons", respectively). All other lyrics were penned by Peart.
"Tears" would be the first Rush song to feature an outside musician. Hugh Syme, who would play keyboards on a number of Rush songs in the future, (e.g., "Different Strings" on "Permanent Waves" and "Witch Hunt" on "Moving Pictures") contributes a multi-tracked Mellotron string and flute part to the track. "A Passage to Bangkok" and "The Twilight Zone" are songs typical of this time period of Rush. "The Twilight Zone" was written and recorded in one day. "Something for Nothing" closes out the album.
Neil Peart states: "All those paeans to American restlessness and the American road carried a tinge of wistfulness, an acknowledgment of the hardships of the vagrant life, the notion that wanderlust could be involuntary, exile as much as freedom, and indeed, the understanding that freedom wasn't free. In the mid-'70s, the band was driving to a show in downtown Los Angeles, at the Shrine Auditorium, and I noticed some graffiti splattered across a wall: 'Freedom isn't free,' and I adapted that for a song on 2112, 'Something for Nothing'".
The Starman emblem (also known as the "Man in the Star" logo) was adopted by Rush fans as a logo since its first appearance on the back cover of "2112". Peart described the Starman in an interview with Creemmagazine:
"All (the naked man) means is the abstract man against the masses. The red star symbolizes any collectivist mentality."
With regard to the album, the 'collectivist mentality' referred to is depicted as the Red Star of the Solar Federation, which according to the plot is a galaxy-wide confederation that controls all aspects of life during the year 2112. The figure in the emblem is depicted as being the 'Hero' of the album. Hugh Syme, the creator of many of Rush's album covers, commented on the design: "The man is the hero of the story. That he is nude is just a classic tradition (...) the pureness of his person and creativity without the trappings of other elements such as clothing. The red star is the evil red star of the Federation, which was one of Neil's symbols. We basically based that cover around the red star and that hero."