Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tom Sawyer by Rush

Now at first glance, this may seem like an obvious choice being that I am a drummer and such, but the story for Tom Sawyer by Rush goes back much further than that. So let's set the wayback machine to 1982-1983 or so and I was 10-11 years old. Back then I had a friend named Chris who loved just down the block. I used to go over to Chris's house all the time. He was one of the first people I knew that had a personal computer at home. A Commodore 64 I think it was(I would have to look that one up to see if the dates match, so don't hold me to that). So anyway, I used to listen to tapes in his house. I was around music all the time but he had a tape that was much different from the stuff I had heard at my house. This one song in particular had the most amazing beginning with some cool keyboard sounds. The song was talking about some Tom Sawyer person (who I did not know of yet), but the best thing of all was the spectacular drum rolls that filled the middle of the song. Even then, a full 7 years before I would ever pick up a drum stick, I was blown away by this song. I remember asking Chris to play that (and YYZ) over and over again.

Now fast forward to the point where I did start playing drums. I was really into Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and other bands but I never really listened to Rush (mainly because my dad did not like them). Then one day I heard Tom Sawyer on the radio and the light bulb went off, I the memory if that song came flooding in. I immediately went out searching for the album containing that song. When I saw the album cover I vaguely remembered it from when I was younger. The album from front to back is probably their best (I did not say MY favorite). It was then that I switched from a Bonham style of drums to a Neil Peart style and have never looked back.

As a side note, I have practiced the majority of that album (sans Witch Hunt) and to this day Tom Sawyer is still very difficult for me to plays (for the record Neil said it was a challenge for him as well). The constant eighth notes on the hi-hat are a real test of stamina. If I practice often enough (which doesn't happen much anymore), I can build up that stamina but my hand is usually dying by the end of the solo of the song.

Another side note, I was in Best Buy one day and they had Rock Band set up there with a drum set. So I set up Tom Sawyer on expert level and started playing it. By the time the solos came around (which are very hard to do on those little sets and without double-bass) I had pretty much nailed it to that point and had an audience of a few people. It was pretty cool and I got to puff my chest out a bit on that.

Do you have a story about this song? If so please share with me. Thanks.


  1. I remember buying this album in the first few days of it's release in 1981. Being a Rush fan already, I had 2112, All the World's a Stage and Fly by Night at the point. It was in a little record shop not far from were I lived. I had asked a store clerk of how good the record was. The response, I got was, "You can't go wrong with the record". How right he was! It wasn't long before "Tom Sawyer" filled the airwaves. By then, I had fallen in love with entire album.

    I have seen Rush in concert three times. Each time I saw them they played "Tom Sawyer". The last I saw them was at Summerfest last summer, they played Moving Pictures the entirety! Spectacular show! The Big Bang Fireworks were going off behind us. I was in my moment of glory!

  2. I too have seen Rush at least 4 times. I did not get a chance to them until the Roll the Bones tour in 91 or 92. Each time for me was truly special. I saw them at the Marcus too for the first "Evening with Rush" and they played La Villa Strangiato. I was nearly in tears. I found it interesting that for the last couple of tours they opened with Tom Sawyer. I guess their catalog is so big that they can get away with that (opening with their signature song).

  3. Rush also has a sizable cult following. That is to say there aren't many "casual listeners" of Rush. Most of their listeners are fans. Fans have a greater familiarity with the entire scope and breadth of a band's catalog than casual listeners. Given the nature of their fan bases, bands like Rush and Dream Theater can easily get away with playing their songs in any order they like and not have to worry about negative fan reaction. Rush opening with Tom Sawyer isn't as big a deal as say... A Flock of Seagulls opening with I Ran (following that song, the audience would run to their cars like a flock of seagulls) or Asia opening with Heat of the Moment.

  4. Perplexio, excellent point! I never looked at it that way before. I guess being both a Rush and DT fan I just took it for granted. Chalk one up for prog!!