Rewind: Rush – ‘Tom Sawyer’


When the question “musically, who is greatest band of all time?” is thrown out, you’ll often get a decent number of people passionately replying with the Canadian progressive rock trio Rush. Ask those same people for the greatest song, you’ll probably get ‘Tom Sawyer’, the band’s signature tune and one of the most enduring rock songs of all time. With a driving beat from drumming legend Neil Peart, the wailing banshee-like vocals of bassist and singer Geddy Lee, and an all time great guitar solo from Alex Lifeson, the song is endlessly re-listenable, catchy as all hell and damn cool. From Lee’s unconventional delivery, to Peart’s refusal to play the expected and Lifeson’s swagger and gusto, ‘Tom Sawyer’ shows a band at their apex, as timeless as they come and genre defining, ‘Tom Sawyer’ is an utterly transcendental rock song from the living legends.

‘Tom Sawyer’ was released in 1981 via Mercury


About Author


The Edge's Film Editor 2017-2018, David has an unabashed love for all things Dave Grohl, Jack Black and Lord of the Rings. A compulsive liar who shouldn't be trusted, David once beat legendary actor David Hasselhoff in a hot dog eating contest and is best friends with Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, they speak on the phone three times a week.


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    I am a huge Rush fan, since 1978 and hands down they are the best rock band ever as far as musicianship, I like the moniker “The Thinking Man’s Band” best as while they may not have sold hundreds of millions of albums, their use of odd time signatures, progressive styling and intellect make this band far more interesting then the bands that fit the pop profile which accounted for those huge album sales. But Rush for the longest time was “our” band, for the misfits and misunderstood, the non-conformists. They stood up for the individual and did it with insightful lyrics powered by melodic chords that drove loyalty from their fans.

    Hemispheres did it for me and in a huge way. The Trees with its own statement on individuality being solved by forceful means…hatchet, axe and saw…. blew me away. At the time…and yes I still am…I was a fan of bands like Boston, Styx, Journey, April Wine, Bad Company, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin. But this opened up a new world. I immediately bought the entire Rush catalog and became a Rush believer. To this day, All The Worlds A Stage remains my fav live album followed by Cheap Tricks Live At Budokan. 2112 was bombastic and introduced me to a new progressive avenue that A Farewell To Kings broadened. Xanadu remains my fav all time song. Closer To The Heart was as close to a Pop song that Rush would ever come too, but again there was that subject about Individuality and taking charge of your path from 2112 but made into Rush Lite pop song! Fly By Night is such a strong album and you can see the Progressive path being initiated and forged in the song By-Tor and the Snow-Dog! Each song on this album strong, with elements maintained from their amazing debut album but tracking towards their own brand of Progressive metal. Caress of Steel is their most misunderstood album but a favorite of mine. I still rock hard to The Necromancer with one of the best song endings in Rush’s entire library and they have many songs that finish with a unique flourish. I Think I’m Going Bald is also a huge fav of mine! And so relevant to my hairline today! With Rush, the debut album, this caught my ear because I felt it was Bad Company mixed with Led Zeppelin! Working Man is a masterpiece but every song on this album is amazing and already shows the musicianship they possess.

    As for Moving Pictures, Permanent Waves lead to this album. This to me was their break thru album as it reached the masses. Yes, 2112 was what allowed them to become the band they would be and is an important milestone in their career but I always thought 2112 opened the door, Permanent Waves opened a 7 lane freeway! The Spirit of Radio with its great guitar opening and thoughtful lyrics on what radio and music meant to an individual being the bright side of music, while the profits demanded by greedy record executives were the dark side of the business. Yet still music would win fueled by the concert halls filled with adoring fans and the bands that bring their beloved music to them. Entre Nous is also a favorite nugget of mine from this album. But the shorter but still intricate and insightful lyrics on each song from this album show the way to Moving Pictures. My fav is The Camera Eye, followed by Red Barchetta, Tom Sawyer took awhile for me to get. It was so different from anything Rush had done but after hearing it about 20 times during the first day I bought the album, I dug it! It still brings tears to my eyes when I see The Waterboy! The song continues the concept of the individual, of the non conformist who follows his way punctuated by pounding guitar riffs and synthesized bombastic notes that immediately grabs the listener’s attention.

    In finalizing, I am a fan and thru the years. While my favorite period are all the albums from Rush thru Signals…the Terry Brown Period…I have loved every Rush album thru Clockwork Angels. I have seen the band 23 times, my kids first concert was the Test For Echo tour at the old Continental Arena in Rutherford NJ. (My first Rush concert was the Permanent Waves tour in March of 1980 in Rochester NY with my buddies, Jeff, Rick and Lou!) My last show was with both of my grown daughters on the R40 tour in Bristow Va in May of 2015.

    One last thing in the vein of being forthright and honest…yes there is one Rush song in their entire catalog that I absolutely detest, that I refuse to play….Rivendell from Fly By Night! But hey, out of the almost 200 songs Rush has produced that’s pretty good to only have one song that makes me ill!

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