No. 48: Rush, ‘Tom Sawyer’ – Top 100 Classic Rock Songs
The unmistakeable sonic boom synthesizer intro of ‘Tom Sawyer’ launches side one of 1981’s landmark ‘Moving Pictures.’ Thanks largely to this song, the LP reached the top five of the Billboard album charts and would eventually become the band’s bestselling record.
From the band’s perspective, every single second of ‘Tom Sawyer’ would be hard fought for in the studio as they worked to get things exactly right.
What began — as it often does — as simple noodling at soundcheck evolved into a much more complex undertaking. Fortunately their efforts paid off and ‘Tom Sawyer’ was quite well received, to put it mildly.
The positive reception however, came as a complete shock to the band. Rush bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee recalls that “when we wrote it, we had no idea that it would touch such a nerve with people.”
The song that he calls a “quintessential” part of the Rush catalog continues to touch many nerves today. Although South Park’s Eric Cartman had some trouble with the lyrics, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone else who can’t recite the classic opening lines verbatim:
“A modern-day warrior/ Mean mean stride/ Today’s Tom Sawyer/ Mean mean pride.”
‘Tom Sawyer’ also features a particularly epic guitar solo from Alex Lifeson. Oh, and for every frustrated guitar player who spent countless hours in the bedroom trying to get every note exactly right, just know that you weren’t alone.
Although Lifeson has joked in the past about nailing the solo in a short period of time, he’ll admit that in reality quite a bit of tinkering was necessary to finally get a satisfactory take.
The finished results speak for themselves — it’s safe to say Rush got it right all the way around with ‘Tom Sawyer.’
Watch Rush Perform ‘Tom Sawyer’
You Think You Know Rush?
Subscribe to Ultimate Classic Rock on