July 28, 2008

Rush to judgment


A few weeks ago I wrote about the Rush-inspired medley that the Grade 3 Durham Regional Police are playing this year. The band (pipe) starts with “Tom Sawyer,” the (rock) band’s one hit – or the closest thing they’ve ever come to a hit despite a gazillion album sales.

I managed to get a recording of it at Cambridge, so here it is. You can compare it with the original prog-rock song from the Canadian power-trio, as they’re referred to by anyone who cares. The video is from – gulp – 1981.

I also wrote a while back about bands doing new things with familiar melodies, mentioning that Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” might make a good adaptation. That summer I believe Shotts included Coldplay‘s “Kingdom Come” in its medley.

I think that what Durham does works, especially for a non-piping Canadian audience. The band includes lots of content for piping aficionados, and so it can still be new and different and clever while also being “true to the idiom,” as some people like to say.

You might say that the recent pipe band trend of taking a very familiar tune and repurposing it in a new time signature and tempo (see Al-Cal’s take on “Crossing The Minch,” for example) is much the same idea.

I spent much of my lost high school years doing two things: listening to Rush and playing the pipes. I never thought that the two could be merged.



  1. Hey Spongie, let’s not forget about “Fly By Night” (1975), “Closer To The Heart” (1977), “Red Barchetta” (1981), “Limelight” (1981) and “Subdivisions” (After 1981). If I remember right, these tunes also got a fair amount of airplay in their time!

  2. Actually, “Spirit of Radio” was probably the most played tune on U.S. radio, then Tom. Those other songs – while classics – are way behind. (The Catherine Wheel’s cover of “Spirit” is terrific, by the way.)

    “Spongie”?! There’s only one Spongie in the piping world, and it ain’t me!

  3. Thanks for the update. I can only really comment on the Canadian air play. I didn’t realize that “Spirit Of Radio” got that much air play (though I quite like it). However, my favourite theme album is 2112.

  4. I am going to date myself here – but Rush played at one of my high school dances when I was a teenager … man I feel old. One of the all time great bands – and for me you have to include “Trees” and “Farewell to Kings” as two of their greatest pieces.

  5. You are just too cool for words, JK Cairns. But dancing to Rush is like grooving to “The Blind Piper’s Obstinacy.” You’d probably need a little something to get into the rhythms.

    Any Rush fans out there besides me make the correlation between the “catch the spit” lyric in Tom and a water-trap?

    It’s all adding up . . .

  6. Just to make everyone feel a little bit older:

    Geddy Lee, lead singer of Rush, turns 55 today (july 29, 2008).

    The only “closer to the heart” for him will be a pace-maker in a couple years.

  7. Had the good fortune to see the boys live in suburban Atlanta last week. I’ve seen them a dozen or so times over the years, and they still sound great!

    Looking forward to Durham’s rendition of ‘Natural Science’ in a medley to come! 😉

  8. Back in the day, urban legend had Neil Peart friends with Alex Duthart. With Peart learning some Highland snare work from him and then using it in Rush music. …Any truthto this? Who knows.

  9. I’ll vouch for Spirit of Radio in the US. and how about Geddy singing “Great White North” with Bob and Doug? I guess that’s not technically Rush, but it was pretty big in the US 🙂
    I’ll rest my Rush-loving credentials on the fact that I still have my original, 1974-vintage “Geddy Lee Model” (that’s what the guys at the guitar whop call it) black Rickenbacker 4001 bass that I bought new when I was 13…a couple years before I bought the pipes I have now. It and the 200 watt Kustom amp with the dual 15″ EV speaker cabinet took all my paper route money. Still buy the same John Entwistle-model Rotosound round wound strings for it (please don’t ever stop making those, Rotosound), nothing else sounds like it. The ole Rick appeared in several concerts in Missisauga, Toronto and environs when my high school jazz band were on tour through Ontario 1978-ish, which seemed appropriate for the “Geddy Lee Model”. Last played in anger with the Toronto Police Pipe Band at the PPBSO Windsor branch Two Band Night, and at one of the PPBSO Highland Balls (or whatever we’re calling them now) when we were Champions Supreme and rocking on the B Side Reel set a couple years ago. So there’s another angle mixing of Rush-related stuff and pipe bands…
    Bonus rock n’ rolll points for the pipe band that marches into the circle with WHO—> painted in white letters on the back of their day jackets…



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