Rush fandom drives people to some insane lengths. Case in point: Back in April, we introduced you to RicKy Syers and his puppet Chopsy doing a cover of “Tom Sawyer” by Rush on a drumset made of tin cans. Take a moment to consider the amount of preparation required for something like that. You have to build a functional drumming puppet, as well as a functional puppet drumset. Then, you have to learn how to play the song note for note, which ain’t easy, as any drummer could tell you. (By the way, Chopsy just put out a cover of Rush’s “2112,” and it’s even more incredible.)
Originally released on the 1981 Rush album Moving Pictures, “Tom Sawyer” is the band’s most recognizable and revered piece of music, and it’s penetrated popular culture in a way that few rock anthems have. To help illustrate our collective obsession with this song, here are some of the best “Tom Sawyer” covers and tributes on YouTube. If we’ve left out any good ones, may our souls be tormented in the afterlife for all eternity.
- We’ll start with a cover by some guys you’ve probably heard of before. The Foo Fighters are out-and-proud Rush fans, and have been playing “Tom Sawyer” during their ongoing Sonic Highways world tour. Though Dave Grohl can’t hope to match Geddy Lee’s reedy, high-pitched vocals, the instrumental performances are impressively faithful.
- For a kinder, gentler take on “Tom Sawyer,” here’s the Montreal Guitar Trio running through their acoustic version of the song. If you want to have your mind blown, skip to the 2:30 mark to see how a group with no drummer pulls off Neil Peart’s famous solo.
- From the video description: “A satirical imitation of the Rush “Tom Sawyer” song. This parody version was written by Angie Budge and Michelle Albrecht to honor their boss Bob Richards, who is a diehard Rush fan. It was recorded for him to be played at our Re/Max First Realty awards cerimony [sic] in St. George, UT.” This video was uploaded five years ago, and somehow only has 956 views. Please do your best to spread awareness. And big ups to Bob Richards.
- Alright, let’s get back to badass drummers because that’s what “Tom Sawyer” is really about, right? Out of all the drum covers on YouTube — there are millions of them — these two are my favorites. Child superstar Avery Molek was 7 years old (?!?!) when he cruised through his rendition, and has apparently been playing gigs at day-care centers since he was 3. Meytal Cohen is an adult, but she seems like a super-cool chick, so she wins.
- Madcap jazz trio The Bad Plus have built a cult following, thanks to their re-interpretations of classic songs, and they tackled “Tom Sawyer” on their 2007 album Prog. Here they are blazing through it during a 2008 gig in Hollywood, complete with a free-jazz breakdown that almost completely flies off the rails.
- This #McConnelling tribute proves that Rush can even make the oldest, most honkey-ass politician seem like a dynamo. Thank you for this, internet.
- Mark Wood is a founding member and former “string master” of Trans Siberian Orchestra, who now heads up the Mark Wood Rock Orchestra, where he teaches young orchestral musicians how to rock harder, or something. Here he is backed by an army of students in 2012, and it’s kind of awesome, actually. If you dig this string arrangement of “Tom Sawyer,” you may also be interested in the Vitamin String Quartet’s version.
- As usual, Chester Cheetah says what the rest of us are thinking.