In high school I was often found listening to records in my living room, air drumming, trying to reverse engineer what I was hearing on my favorite records. Mostly I was trying to learn records by Mötley Crüe, Metallica, Slayer, and Rush.
One day I went over to this guy’s house who said he had a drum set. I hadn’t ever played a real kit but was dying to get behind one. He said he could show me some stuff and let me play a little.
We get there and he says he can play “Tom Sawyer.” I was salivating at the idea of watching him play it up close. He dove in and fucked it all up. It was horrible. I didn’t even know how to play and I could tell it was completely wrong. I thought if he could fuck it up that bad and still boast about it, I couldn’t do much worse.
Shortly afterward I got a kit, and “Tom Sawyer“ was one of the first songs I began teaching myself. It was hard. Really hard. But the Mötley Crüe songs were too easy, and I knew I wanted to be better than that. So I learned it. It just about killed me, but I learned very last beat. And once I knew I could play that song, I knew I could play anything.
I went on to write, record, and perform music full-time for most of my adolescence and early adulthood. It was a period of my life that I will never forget. It helped shape who I am today. And I don’t know that it would have happened without the influence of Neil Peart.
So, thank you, Neil. Your footprint lives on. You fucked shit up like no other.
As an aside, “Tom Sawyer” is widely revered by drummers and considered one of the greatest drum tracks of all time. There’s no doubt that it deserves these accolades. However, my favorite track by Neil is “Working Man,” on Rush’s self-titled debut. By my account, it’s a track that was a catalyst for many punk/hardcore drum styles of the 70s and 80s.