Rush Reboot – Tom Sawyer (1981)

I have decided to share the single-most important song in Rush’s storied history for this week’s Rush Reboot. There is a lot I could say about this song (and album), but there are others who have done it much better. The reason I say it is the single most important is because this song shattered the box they had been placed in for so long. The band gained exposure world-wide across gender and age, and finally started to receive the recognition they so deserved.

There is an excellent article at LouderSound that I will post snippets from before getting to the song.

Tom Sawyer is a real trademark song for us,” says Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson. “Musically it’s very powerful, and lyrically it has a spirit that resonates with a lot of people. It’s kind of an anthem.”

Rush had arrived at a crossroads when they came to write Tom Sawyer. In the 70s they had become the undisputed masters of progressive hard rock, famed for their epic conceptual pieces that played out over entire sides of vinyl. But with their first album of the 1980s – Permanent Waves – came a significant change.

Tom Sawyer was the crystallisation(sic) of this new, modern Rush: a powerful, finely crafted hard rock song with a punchy yet deeply philosophical message. But it was also a song for which Rush were indebted not only to a giant of American literature, Mark Twain, but also to a rather peculiar Canadian named Pye Dubois.

The poem was based on Twain’s 1876 novel The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, which all three members of Rush had studied in school. Peart in particular identified with the book’s central themes of rebellion and independence. From 2112 through to Freewill on Permanent Waves, individuality was a recurring subject in Peart’s lyrics. What Dubois created in Louie The Warrior was, in Peart’s words, “a portrait of a modern-day rebel”. Says Lifeson: “Neil took that idea and massaged it, took out some of Pye’s lines and added his thing to it.” Peart chose the simpler title of Tom Sawyer and completed the lyrics with an element of autobiography. As he put it, “Reconciling the boy and man in myself.”

Hm….”Reconciling the boy and man in myself.” How many times have I touched upon that very subject? Any doubts about Neil’s influence on me should now be put to bed. Without further ado, I give you the song Tom Sawyer from the album Moving Pictures.




Music: Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson
Lyrics: Neil Peart and Pye Dubois

A modern-day warrior
Mean mean stride
Today’s Tom Sawyer
Mean mean pride

Though his mind is not for rent
Don’t put him down as arrogant
His reserve, a quiet defense
Riding out the day’s events –
The river

What you say about his company
Is what you say about society
-Catch the mist – Catch the myth
-Catch the mystery – Catch the drift

The world is the world is
Love and life are deep
Maybe as his skies are wide

Today’s Tom Sawyer
He gets high on you
And the space he invades
He gets by on you

No, his mind is not for rent
To any god or government.
Always hopeful, yet discontent
He knows changes aren’t permanent –
But change is

What you say about his company
Is what you say about society
-Catch the witness – Catch the wit
-Catch the spirit – Catch the spit

The world is the world is
Love and life are deep
Maybe as his eyes are wide

Exit the warrior
Today’s Tom Sawyer
He gets high on you
And the energy you trade
He gets right on to
The friction of the day


  1. Damn Wulf! I had never heard this song, let alone seen the video and I was blown away. The lyrics are awesome and Neil’s powerfully driving drum beat blew me away! His drum breaks from 2:35-2:46 are stunning. I have nothing but respect for his talent and ability and for.your musical tastes. It makes me want to take out a loan and buy my dream drum kit! Thank you for bringing this to my eyes and ears.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, Walt, you are so effing welcome. Neil has said this is one the hardest songs for him to play live and play well. I can’t appreciate his talent like you (being a drummer yourself), but I am still in awe of him as a drummer.

      To share this feeling with you is a gift itself. Thank you so much for letting me know how it has touched you.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I have wondered, as you are such a Rush fan, what you thought about their biggest commercial hit. A lot of folks I know who like Rush do not like this song (overplayed?), I’m glad you’re different. I love this song; I have always loved this song.

    And not just because it starts with the word “Tom” in the title. 😉

    I love it for concepts like this, with which I relate:

    “No, his mind is not for rent
    To any god or government.
    Always hopeful, yet discontent
    He knows changes aren’t permanent –
    But change is”

    I have never heard a stanza better.

    Brilliant. Like you, my brother, brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I held off, as you can tell, on posting this one becasue it is the commercial hit. It can be a polarizing selection. Unfortunately, Rush fans are like any other fan. Some are elitists and some are split across three groups:
      Group 1: Rush and Roll!!! Woohoo
      Group 2: Love all the keyboards
      Group 3: Just love all their stuff

      I know I am a group 3 fan, although I hope I am not an elitist. I believe all the praise I heap upon them is well deserved. Even I have an album that I do not particularly like, although I did feature at least one song from it on a Reboot.

      The thing about this song is how amazingly well crafted it is musically AND lyrically. Walt commented about the drumming in the video he watched, and you are so right about that being one of the best written stanzas ever.

      If you can add a book to your already full reading list, I truly recommend Ghost Rider.

      Thank you for such a wonderful comment, and I did think of you when I typed the title. How could I not? 😉

      Speaking of Tom Sawyer…have you ever seen this intro from their Snakes and Arrows tour? If not…enjoy

      Liked by 1 person

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