"Permanent Waves is the result of a conversation which I had with Neil out at his home in the country. We spoke all evening about Rush growing up, and how we were going to do these EKG readings of each member as they were recording. We were going to tape their temples and chests and have real heartbeats of them while they were playing. So Permanent Waves was going to be a technical statement, and we were going to treat that with red and gold foil, and do a nice study in design- as opposed to a photographic thing. I walked out and, in the doorway, said 'Wait! Let's try something with Donna Reed, with her permanent Toni hairdo, and have her walking out of a tidal wave situation.' Neil gave me this blank look and said, 'Get out of here.' The following day, he asked me to consider doing just that because he'd discussed it with the band, and they'd all thought it was more likely for a cover than the serious approach." - Hugh Syme, Creem, 1983By now we all know the story behind the "Dewey Defeats Truman" newspaper headline, but what about the rest of the cover?
It wasn't until fairly recently that additional details were hinted at; in the 2006 biography Chemistry, cover artist Hugh Syme confirmed the woman is model Paulla Turnbull, who was later brought back to "reprise her role" on the cover of Exit Stage Left. He also went on to name the photographer who took the photo used for the cover's background shot:
"We finally came across a photo by a man called Flip Schulke. Flip had been known to strap himself to telephone poles to grab the worst of the weather on the Florida coast and this was one of those images. I was able to work with that as a foundation." - Hugh Syme, Chemisty, 2006I must admit that since I first read this three years ago, I've searched often trying to find this background photo plate, and I doubt I'm the only Rush fan out there that may be interested in this topic. According to the Flip Schulke Archives, Flip took first hand photos of at least five hurricanes. Although the exact photo still eludes me, we now know where and when this background photo was taken.
The background scene pictured on the Permanent Waves cover is Seawall Boulevard in Galveston, Texas, photographed by Flip Schulke during Hurricane Carla on September 11th, 1961. Hurricane Carla was the third most destructive disaster in U.S. history, leaving 43 dead. This photo by Schulke taken during the hurricane shows the same street and likely the same debris photographed just to the right of the scene pictured on the cover; notice the granite marker and signal light which can also be seen on the cover. This photo was taken from down the street and to the left looking back towards the granite markers (there are two markers, one can barely be seen behind the woman's right elbow on the album cover).
The building on the left of the cover is Murdoch's Bathhouse, which stood on beach pilings; the cover photo shows waves rushing under the building and splashing over the Galveston Seawall before the building was eventually destroyed by the hurricane. Murdoch's was eventually destroyed once again and has been built and destroyed by hurricane multiple times throughout its history; this closeup photo of the granite markers shows the present state of the most recent incarnation of Murdoch's after being destroyed yet again on Septmeber 13, 2008 by Hurricane Ike (exactly 47 years plus 2 days after the cover photo was taken during Hurricane Carla).
This photo was taken shortly after Hurricane Ike facing in a similar direction as the original cover photo; the granite markers and a modern signal light are pictured with the Flagship Hotel in the background. Built in 1965, this hotel may have been built on the same site which originally housed the buildings shown on the far right of the cover with the Syme added "Lee", "Lifeson" and "Peart" billboards, although no photographic evidence has yet been found to support this; in fact, these buildings may have been added in by Syme as well.