Five Fave: Rush Songs Not Named “Tom Sawyer” or “2112”

Two weeks after hearing of the passing of Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart, I am still reeling. Like many fans, I have been playing their entire catalog, rediscovering old favorites and digging deeper into albums that were not part of my regular rotation. The finality of a career that spanned my entire lifetime ending stirs up so many feelings.

“Well I guess we all have these feelings we can’t leave unreconciled.” – Neil Peart, Open Secrets

Choosing only five faves from 20 studio albums is no easy task. As the title suggests, everybody knows “Tom Sawyer” and every fan appreciates that the band would not have continued to exist without “2112”. Peart’s lyrics have a lot to do with narrowing my selection, with his philosophical musings and observations completely on point. Many of his thoughts remain on my consciousness on a daily basis, more so than even the Catholic teachings I was raised on. The combination of their unique musical style and thought provoking words are what elevate Rush to legendary status. Here are my Five Fave Rush songs.

#5 – The Spirit Of Radio – Permanent Waves – 1980

“The Spirit Of Radio” is the first Rush song I remember hearing, waking me from my bed as my radio alarm clock played WBAB on Long Island. Bob Buchmann let me know that these magical sounds were produced by a power trio from Toronto, named Rush, and I was hooked. It remains a highlight of any live show, and I have a picture that I took of Geddy Lee singing this framed in my dining room. This one is where the magic started for me.

And the magic music makes your morning mood.

#4 –  BU2B – Clockwork Angels – 2012

“BU2B” aka Brought Up To Believe is the last Rush song I remember freaking out about when I first heard it. The same magic of driving bass, exquisite guitar and incomprehensible drums that I had experienced in 1980 were back in 2012. Lyrically, it continues on the thematic thread that ties much of their work together. To me, it means to lift your head, open your eyes and not take what is handed to you without critical thought. “Clockwork Angels” now stands as the band’s 20th and final studio album, as well as one of their best.

Believe in what we’re told. Blind men in the market buying what we’re sold.

#3 – Limelight – Moving Pictures – 1981

“Moving Pictures” side 1 is by far the most played vinyl record in my childhood basement in the middle of Long Island. “Tom Sawyer” kicks it off, “Red Barchetta” takes you on an exciting ride, “YYZ” has you spazzing out playing air everything, and then “Limelight” tops it all off. Perhaps their tightest song, with Alex Lifeson’s best guitar solo, and clever lyrics pulling from Shakespearean themes and warnings to be careful what you wish for. The line quoted below is most often used to justify Neil Peart’s reluctance to step out from beyond his epic drum kit. Despite the cutting lyrics, which continue to apply to anyone seeking fame, it is also a fun song to sing along with, as portrayed brilliantly by Paul Rudd and Jason Segel in the movie “I Love You, Man”.

Caught in the camera eye, I have no heart to lie. I can’t pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend.

#2 – Roll The Bones – Roll The Bones

“Roll The Bones” is the quintessential Rush song. No other band sounds like Rush, and no other song sounds like “Roll The Bones”. It flawlessly blends jazz, funk, prog, acoustic, and even has a rap breakdown, voiced by none other than Neil Peart! On the R40 tour, the rap was shown as a video lip synched by an array of stars, including Peter Dinklage, Chad Smith, Jay Baruchel, Les Claypool, Tom Morello, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, and Trailer Park Boys actors John Paul Tremblay, Robb Wells, and Mike Smith. Through it all is the lesson that life is a game of chance, so stop fretting over why, and just jump in and live. Anytime I am debating what to do with my life, this song inspires me to action.

Why are we here? Because we’re here. Roll the bones. Why does it happen? Because it happens. Roll the bones.

#1 – Subdivisions – Signals

Every time I hear “Subdivisions”, I am pulled back in time to my childhood bedroom, playing the cassette on my boombox, looking out the window towards an unknown future that seemed so out of reach. The song is musically ominous and desperate, the band’s first (and best) use of keyboards to power a song. The lyrics are pure perfection, portraying the confusion and frustration of growing up as a teen in a relatively small town, without easy access to the bright lights of NYC that were so close, yet so far away. I practiced singing this song endlessly, wearing my “Signals” tour t-shirt with the baseball sleeves, never able to master the passion and range of Geddy Lee.

Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth, but the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth.


(c) Johnnie Crow Photos

RUSH – The Spirit Of Radio – Permanent Waves – 1980

Music: Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, Lyrics: Neil Peart

Begin the day
With a friendly voice
A companion, unobtrusive
Plays the song that’s so elusive
And the magic music makes your morning mood

Off on your way
Hit the open road
There is magic at your fingers
For the Spirit ever lingers
Undemanding contact
In your happy solitude.

Invisible airwaves
Crackle with life
Bright antennae bristle
With the energy
Emotional feedback
On a timeless wavelength
Bearing a gift beyond price –
Almost free…

All this machinery
Making modern music
Can still be open-hearted
Not so coldly charted
It’s really just a question
Of your honesty

One likes to believe
In the freedom of music
But glittering prizes
And endless compromises
Shatter the illusion
Of integrity

“For the words of the profits,
Are written on the studio wall,
Concert hall –
Echoes with the sounds…
Of salesmen.”

RUSH – BU2B – Clockwork Angels – 2012

Music: Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, Lyrics: Neil Peart

WE WERE ALWAYS TAUGHT that we lived in “the best of all possible worlds.” The Watchmaker ruled from Crown City through the Regulators; the alchemist-priests gave us coldfire for power and light, and everything was well ordered. We accepted our various individual fates as inevitable, for we had also been taught, “Whatever happens to us must be what we deserve, for it could not happen to us if we did not deserve it.”

None of it seemed right to me . . .

I was brought up to believe
The universe has a plan
We are only human
It’s not ours to understand

The universe has a plan
All is for the best
Some will be rewarded
And the devil take the rest

All is for the best
Believe in what we’re told
Blind men in the market
Buying what we’re sold
Believe in what we’re told
Until our final breath
While our loving Watchmaker
Loves us all to death

In a world of cut and thrust
I was always taught to trust
In a world where all must fail
Heaven’s justice will prevail

The joy and pain that we receive
Each comes with its own cost
The price of what we’re winning
Is the same as what we’ve lost

Until our final breath
The joy and pain that we receive
Must be what we deserve
I was brought up to believe

RUSH – Limelight – Moving Pictures – 1981

Music: Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, Lyrics: Neil Peart

Living on a lighted stage
Approaches the unreal
For those who think and feel
In touch with some reality
Beyond the gilded cage

Cast in this unlikely role,
Ill-equipped to act
With insufficient tact
One must put up barriers
To keep oneself intact

Living in the Limelight
The universal dream
For those who wish to seem

Those who wish to be
Must put aside the alienation
Get on with the fascination
The real relation
The underlying theme

Living in a fisheye lens
Caught in the camera eye
I have no heart to lie
I can’t pretend a stranger
Is a long-awaited friend

All the world’s indeed a stage
And we are merely players
Performers and portrayers
Each another’s audience
Outside the gilded cage

RUSH – Roll The Bones – Roll The Bones – 1991

Music: Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, Lyrics: Neil Peart

Well, you can stake that claim —
Good work is the key to good fortune
Winners take that praise
Losers seldom take that blame
If they don’t take that game
And sometimes the winner takes nothing
We draw our own designs
But fortune has to make that frame

We go out in the world and take our chances
Fate is just the weight of circumstances
That’s the way that lady luck dances

Roll the bones

Why are we here? 
Because we’re here.

Roll the bones
Why does it happen? 
Because it happens.

Roll the bones

Faith is cold as ice —
Why are little ones born only to suffer
For the want of immunity
Or a bowl of rice?
Well, who would hold a price
On the heads of the innocent children
If there’s some immortal power
To control the dice?

We come into the world and take our chances
Fate is just the weight of circumstances
That’s the way that lady luck dances

Roll the bones..

Jack — relax.
Get busy with the facts.
No zodiacs or almanacs,
No maniacs in polyester slacks.
Just the facts.
Gonna kick some gluteus max.
It’s a parallax — you dig?
You move around
The small gets big. It’s a rig
It’s action — reaction —
Random interaction.
So who’s afraid
Of a little abstraction?
Can’t get no satisfaction
From the facts?
You better run, homeboy —
A fact’s a fact
From Nome to Rome, boy.

What’s the deal? Spin the wheel.
If the dice are hot — take a shot.
Play your cards. Show us what you got —
What you’re holding.
If the cards are cold,
Don’t go folding.
Lady Luck is golden;
She favors the bold. That’s cold
Stop throwing stones —
The night has a thousand saxophones.
So get out there and rock,
And roll the bones.
Get busy!

RUSH – Subdivisions – Signals – 1982

Music: Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, Lyrics: Neil Peart

Sprawling on the fringes of the city
In geometric order
An insulated border
In between the bright lights
And the far unlit unknown

Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided
The future pre-decided
Detached and subdivided
In the mass production zone

Nowhere is the dreamer
Or the misfit so alone

Subdivisions —
In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
Subdivisions —
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out

Any escape might help to smooth
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth

Drawn like moths we drift into the city
The timeless old attraction
Cruising for the action
Lit up like a firefly
Just to feel the living night

Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight

Somewhere out of a memory
Of lighted streets on quiet nights…

Five Fave: Rush Songs Not Named “Tom Sawyer” or “2112” first appeared on Game On Media.