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Why Tom Sawyer?


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#1 Justus_2112

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Posted 03 March 2018 - 07:27 PM

I would like to say right off the bat that there is nothing wrong with "Tom Sawyer." It's a great song that can definitely be counted as one of Rush's best.

That being said, I wouldn't say it's their ABSOLUTE best. I don't understand why, of all Rush songs, Tom Sawyer became their big hit. Yet, when a non-diehard Rush fan thinks of Rush, the first song to come to mind is Tom Sawyer. The other songs that were widely successful on the radio ("The Spirit of Radio", "Subdivisions", etc.) make sense, but it seems weird to me that Tom Sawyer became just as big (if not more) than the others. It has a weird topic, and the reference in the title is kinda geeky, and it doesn't really have a message that the common listener could easily pick up and relate to. I think, out of the songs on MP, Limelight seems like it should have gotten as big as Tom Sawyer, based on the patterns of commercially successful rock at the time, with Tom Sawyer being an outlier.

That's just what I think, what do you think?

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#2 Mosher

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Posted 03 March 2018 - 07:51 PM

I understood Tom Sawyer when I first heard it, it isn't as opaque as you say.

In fact, lyrically it's fairly simple (not in a bad way).

I was 11 when I first heard Tom Sawyer, and it was one of the coolest things I'd ever heard. Far cooler than any other Rush song that I had heard (in my opinion at that time). I know this because it was the coolest song by anyone I'd ever heard.

Granted my listening was less broad back then, not a lot to compare to other than other radio songs.

Why Tom Sawyer? For that kid I was, it was everything. It starts with a cool explosive sound, followed by very powerful riffs a kid can memorize and make powerful guitar sounds along with fairly easily. Then the synths placed in that heavy mix made the song modern, new, and even futuristic.

Other bands were doing similar things, but Tom Sawyer was the first one I heard put all of that together. And while it did not make Rush my favorite band (I was years away from knowing all of those other songs were by the same band) it certainly was in high contention for my favorite song for years.

Tom Sawyer no longer is at the top of Rush for me, hasn't been for a long time.

Ubiquitous play undermined any chance it had to retain that status. Even on Moving Pictures, I always like Limelight better and sometimes like Camera, Vital, or Witch better.

Now, Red Barchetta is the hailed song from Pictures that I place far lower. Least favorite on Pictures (although I do like it).

And the rush felt in a live venue when Tom Sawyer begins is magnificent.

Edited by Mosher, 03 March 2018 - 07:53 PM.


#3 Entre_Perpetuo

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Posted 03 March 2018 - 08:36 PM

I totally get your point. TS is actually a really weird song. It doesn't have a chorus, it's got a crazy instrumental breakdown with all sorts of weird time signatures and finicky bits, the "riff" is almost just a chord progression, it's got an incredibly heavy emphasis on groove and feel over structure or melody, it's just a really weird song.

But all the things you can say about it to make it seem weird (though they are all true) go away when it hits you. However strange it is, it's got a strangeness that just works, and it couldn't seem to do anything but work. Ubiquity and popularity followed seemingly without a care for its strangeness, because the music being made was just too good to ignore. Really, that's the story of a lot of Rush in a nutshell. There's kind of no reason the band should have ever gotten to be so popular, so revered, and not to say at all that their popularity and reverence were just granted to them (they were one of the hardest working bands of all time, and it was a long climb to success), but they had something just undeniably good, and as much as the spotlight was held away from them, eventually the music was all that was left to do the talking, and it's overall goodness earned it the kind of popularity and longevity every band strives for.

Tom Sawyer is a weird song that shouldn't have ever been a hit by radio standards. Rush is a weird band that shouldn't have had hits and popularity by radio standards. And yet, here we are, die hard fans, brought together on an internet forum by a band that defied every expectation of their day to become of the the most respected musical acts of all time.

#4 JohnnyBlaze

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Posted 03 March 2018 - 08:43 PM

Mind control mantras/subliminal messaging imbedded in the grooves

#5 J2112YYZ

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Posted 03 March 2018 - 08:47 PM

Simple answer, it was a unique sounding song both musically and lyrically. Like a lot of what Rush did, it didn't sound like anything else out there. Music fans noticed this and that's why the song became so well known and loved.

#6 tangy

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Posted 03 March 2018 - 08:51 PM

Roll the bones...

It was the right song at the right time.

Building on the sucess of the spirit of radio and after years of touring hard they were due?

It was fresh and relatable. It seemed like folks were catching on to how great rush was.

I think recall jimmy page wondering why it was stairway instead of kashmir....

#7 Rick N. Backer

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Posted 03 March 2018 - 09:17 PM

Limelight was actually the first song to get airplay from MP, IIRC.

#8 rocket ignites

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Posted 03 March 2018 - 11:25 PM

I think the intro has a lot to do with TS catching fire.

#9 JARG

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 12:37 AM

View PostJustus_2112, on 03 March 2018 - 07:27 PM, said:

I would like to say right off the bat that there is nothing wrong with "Tom Sawyer." It's a great song that can definitely be counted as one of Rush's best.

That being said, I wouldn't say it's their ABSOLUTE best. I don't understand why, of all Rush songs, Tom Sawyer became their big hit.

I can remember when it came out and people who had previously written off Rush as "too weird" were suddenly going on about how "badass" TS was. For whatever reason, the song broke right at a time when people were hungry for what it delivered.

#10 RUSHHEAD666

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 01:08 AM

View PostJARG, on 04 March 2018 - 12:37 AM, said:

View PostJustus_2112, on 03 March 2018 - 07:27 PM, said:

I would like to say right off the bat that there is nothing wrong with "Tom Sawyer." It's a great song that can definitely be counted as one of Rush's best.

That being said, I wouldn't say it's their ABSOLUTE best. I don't understand why, of all Rush songs, Tom Sawyer became their big hit.

I can remember when it came out and people who had previously written off Rush as "too weird" were suddenly going on about how "badass" TS was. For whatever reason, the song broke right at a time when people were hungry for what it delivered.

That's interesting.  I was 13 years old when the record came out.  it was "Tom Sawyer" that got me into the band.
The great thing for me about falling in love with Rush when Moving Pictures came out is that I had the luxury to go back and explore every record prior to "Moving Pictures."

I sill remember when I was a kid picking up all the Mercury Rush used cassettes at my local record shop.

Pure Bliss.

My parents thought I was crazy blasting "Hemispheres" in my room circa 1981.

Then my poor parents had to listen to my wailing on the drums for 7 more years learning every Rush song.

My parents ROCK!

#11 Fordgalaxy

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 01:54 AM

It got (and still gets) tons of airplay and a lot of people were and are influenced by that.

#12 JARG

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 02:57 PM

View PostRUSHHEAD666, on 04 March 2018 - 01:08 AM, said:

View PostJARG, on 04 March 2018 - 12:37 AM, said:

View PostJustus_2112, on 03 March 2018 - 07:27 PM, said:

I would like to say right off the bat that there is nothing wrong with "Tom Sawyer." It's a great song that can definitely be counted as one of Rush's best.

That being said, I wouldn't say it's their ABSOLUTE best. I don't understand why, of all Rush songs, Tom Sawyer became their big hit.

I can remember when it came out and people who had previously written off Rush as "too weird" were suddenly going on about how "badass" TS was. For whatever reason, the song broke right at a time when people were hungry for what it delivered.

That's interesting.  I was 13 years old when the record came out.  it was "Tom Sawyer" that got me into the band.
The great thing for me about falling in love with Rush when Moving Pictures came out is that I had the luxury to go back and explore every record prior to "Moving Pictures."

I sill remember when I was a kid picking up all the Mercury Rush used cassettes at my local record shop.

Pure Bliss.

My parents thought I was crazy blasting "Hemispheres" in my room circa 1981.

Then my poor parents had to listen to my wailing on the drums for 7 more years learning every Rush song.

My parents ROCK!

I can relate. AFTK was the latest release when I got into Rush.

#13 J2112YYZ

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 05:00 PM

View Postrocket ignites, on 03 March 2018 - 11:25 PM, said:

I think the intro has a lot to do with TS catching fire.

Really? I've never found anything special about the intro. If we were talking about Spirit Of Radio then definitely.

Edited by J2112YYZ, 04 March 2018 - 05:01 PM.


#14 thirteen

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 05:09 PM

{Puts on flame suit} IMO Rush have many songs that are much better than Diane, I mean, Tom Sawyer.
For me, Tom Sawyer sounds too 'disjointed' and doesn't 'flow' (if that makes sense).
Still a good song, just not one of the greats IMO.

#15 jamie

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 05:52 PM

it's just a damn good bop

#16 Geddyleegenes

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 06:48 PM

BAMMM!

That intro just hooks you.

"His mind is not for rent to any God or government"

That's what the song is about.  This teenage guy, this Tom Sawyer dude, he's going to do WHAT HE WANTS and AIN'T NO ONE gonna tell him otherwise.

And THAT'S what I, the listener - is going to do too!

Besides that, the song ROCKS!

And that's why the song nailed it for me 37 years ago.  Maybe that's got something to do with it for others too?!

#17 ReRushed

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 07:21 PM

It's a great song.

#18 Entre_Perpetuo

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 07:31 PM

View PostGeddyleegenes, on 04 March 2018 - 06:48 PM, said:

BAMMM!

That intro just hooks you.

"His mind is not for rent to any God or government"

That's what the song is about.  This teenage guy, this Tom Sawyer dude, he's going to do WHAT HE WANTS and AIN'T NO ONE gonna tell him otherwise.

And THAT'S what I, the listener - is going to do too!

Besides that, the song ROCKS!

And that's why the song nailed it for me 37 years ago.  Maybe that's got something to do with it for others too?!

Why is Tom Sawyer automatically a teenager? I thought I remembered him being like 12 in the books or something.

#19 tas7

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 08:00 PM

Not sure what it was like in the US but in the UK, Rush were terrible at promoting anything. Remember thinking subsequent singles; New World Man, Big Money, Time Stand Still would have charted better than they did but it was like they were released and then nothing.

#20 tangy

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 10:33 PM

View PostGeddyleegenes, on 04 March 2018 - 06:48 PM, said:

BAMMM!

That intro just hooks you.

"His mind is not for rent to any God or government"

That's what the song is about.  This teenage guy, this Tom Sawyer dude, he's going to do WHAT HE WANTS and AIN'T NO ONE gonna tell him otherwise.

And THAT'S what I, the listener - is going to do too!

Besides that, the song ROCKS!

And that's why the song nailed it for me 37 years ago.  Maybe that's got something to do with it for others too?!

Well said!




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