These Go To Eleven: 11 Rush songs for 2.1.12 - Reverb

These Go To Eleven: The 11 best Rush songs for 2.1.12

Hopefully most of you know that today’s date is Feb. 1, 2012. Or 2.1.12. If you’re a Rush fan, there’s a good chance that you’re geeking out over the fact that it’s as close as you’re going to get to the year 2112 — barring any success achieving the same immortality already enjoyed by Rock Gods Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart.

“2112” is, of course, the conceptual title track of the veteran Canadian rock trio’s masterful prog rock epic and breakthrough album from 1976 that, when boiled down from it’s far-out, intergalactic plot, basically sets the idea of individual versus the state. More important: it freakin’ rocks!

But if you’re a Rush fan, you knew that too. Heck you probably know how to air drum the entire 20 minutes, 33 seconds of bafflingly great paradiddling by superhuman stickman Peart.

Anyway, we’re Rush fans, too. That’s why we want to celebrate the day with this 11-song Rush mix tape of some of our favorite tracks. Enjoy, or tear us apart in the comments.

11. “Caravan”

The guys showcased this hard-edged, brand new tune from their forthcoming “Clockwork Angels” LP on their recent Time Machine tour. If its serpentine passages are any indication, sounds like the boys will be dallying in some extended prog-rock workouts for the first time in a while. That’s a good thing.

10. “Spirit of Radio”

In 1980, the band shed many of its earlier heavy prog-rock inclinations to take a cue from dynamic new wavers such as the Police, Ultravox and Talking Heads to create the album “Permanent Waves.” That classic LP was highlighted by this FM staple that managed to embrace the sounds of the future while still sounding uniquely Rush.

9. “One Little Victory”

Following a series of tragic events that took Neil Peart’s wife and daughter in the late 1990s, devastating the drummer/lyricist, it looked like the band would understandably never perform again. However, after years of soul-searching, Peart was ready to return. The result was 2002’s “Vapor Trails.” This opening track, powered by his jackhammer drumming and guitarist Alex Lifeson’s heavy distortion, proudly announced that they were back and they weren’t taking any crap.

8. “Marathon”

Many view Rush’s mid-to-late ’80s keyboard-heavy work as the group’s nadir. Though, as fans are quick to point out, Rush’s low point is still better than most other groups’ highs. This tune, from 1985’s “Power Windows,” features a fantastic instrumental workout and is one of the highlights from the heavily hair-sprayed “me” decade.

7. “Closer to the Heart”

This tune, from 1977’s “A Farewell To Kings,” is as close to a radio-friendly ballad that Rush ever achieved. As well as being a concert staple and a great sing-along, this was the song that Rush fans could play for their girlfriend to see if they could get into the group too — or at least understand the rabid fixation you and the other dudes harbored. Usually, they couldn’t.

6. “Working Man”

From their 1974 debut album, this was the track that set everything in motion. The heavy, heavy Zeppelin-esqe riffs along with Geddy Lee’s blue-collar lyric hit a nerve in the hard-working town of Cleveland, Ohio where a local DJ had been spinning the platter. It provided not only the catalyst for the group to take their music on the road in the U.S., but gave them an all important record deal.

5. “Subdivisions”

Driven by Geddy Lee’s keyboard lines and empathetic vocals, this tale of isolation in the suburbs from 1982’s “Signals” is a rocking, rallying cry for outsiders everywhere. Add in Peart’s usual killer drum fills (about 20 of them in this song) and a quick but anthemic Alex Lifeson solo and you’ve the song that resonates the deepest with Rush fans — who much like the band they adore, are a collection of misfits and dreamers.

4. “Freewill”

When musicians cite Rush’s influence, they typically note Peart’s drumming or Lee’s bass playing. In addition to being a great song about individual freedom, “Freewill” showcases Alex Lifeson (that other guy in the band). Consistently one of the most underrated lead guitarists in rock history, his blistering solo on this song alone is evidence his name should be mentioned in the same breath as the Van Halen, Satriani and Vai.

3. “La Villa Strangiato”

This maniacally brilliant instrumental from 1978’s ambitious “Hemispheres” LP is the go-to-track if one wants to highlight the technical proficiency of each member of the band. From Lee’s jaw-dropping dexterity in balancing, boggling bass work while playing keys and foot pedals to searing leads from Lifeson and smoothly flowing time signature jumps and rumbling fills from Peart, “La Villa” is the place to be for Rush showcasing its very best.

2. “Tom Sawyer”

The definitive Rush song from the definitive Rush album, 1981’s “Moving Pictures.” This is the one that everyone knows, whether a fan or not. And for good reason, it’s the perfect summation of the band as created at the peak of its powers. We’ll let the music do the rest of the talking.

1. “2112”

Not only the reason why we’re celebrating today, but the reason Rush has been able to follow its unique path to this day. After releasing three albums by 1975, the band was going nowhere. Rather than succumb to pressure from the record company to commercialize or be dropped, the group decided to go out swinging and do things its own way. The result: a cult phenom that became a huge success.

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Michael Behrenhausen is a Denver-based writer, musician and regular Reverb contributor. The worst crime he ever did was play some rock ‘n’ roll.

  • Steve

    Interesting list…my 11 song countdown for this special day would be…
    11. Entre Nous
    10. Far Cry
    9. ByTor and the Snow Dog
    8. Between Sun and Moon
    7. Vital Signs 
    6. Bravado
    5. Xanadu
    4. The Camera Eye
    3. Presto
    2. Natural Science
    1. 2112

    • Mbehrenhausen

      Nice list Steve!

      It was of course nearly impossible to limit it to 11 songs. But my editors wouldn’t let me list the 2,112 things I love about Rush, so I had to work within tighter confines.

      You have a couple personal favorites that I really wanted to include: “Natural Science,” “By-Tor and the Snow Dog,” and “Xanadu.”

      Good thing is, I’m sure every Rush fan has their own 11 that they’ll always cherish.



  • Melissa W

    happy 2.1.12 to all of us awesome Rush fans! :)  No list is wrong, there is so much variety in life, and in people and that is what Rush delivers, something for anyone who is willing to be a thoughtful listener.  Thanks, Cheers, Peace and RushON!!!

  • Candace Horgan

    Michael, you bad boy you! You missed Natural Science and Xanadu. For my money also, Witch Hunt and Losing It are the two most profound lyrics Neal Peart has written.

    Here’s mine:

    11) Cygnus X-1
    10) Limelight
    9) Lakeside Park
    8) Distant Early Warning
    7) Witch Hunt
    6) Losing It
    5) Subdivisions
    4) Xanadu
    3) 2112
    2) Natural Science
    1) La Villa Strangiato

  • Dad of two American Soldiers

    I have been blessed with a life full of Rush….Thanks to all involved in bringing this music to the world.

  • EBehrenhausen

    As much as I try to pretend like I dislike them, mainly due to their nerdy caché and the fact that I like to make fun of my husband’s fondness for a band that sings about trees, I can’t help but like Rush. I’ve had “Subdivisions” in my head all day, which is normally filled with angry rambling thoughts and lists of what I have or haven’t finished at work. Thanks for the momentary distraction. Rock on, Rush!

  • Miketodd2112

    I once had a friend tell me if RUSH was Heroin i would of overdose many years ago…i been blessed with their music it puts me in such a awesome mood! Geddy Alex and Neil are sheer magic together! The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a joke for Not having them in there…My only guess is that who ever votes for this stuff does not play a musical instrument! The thought that goes into their music over whelms me at times! I was lucky to meet and greet them last year from a contest from KLOS but no Neil who is my idol! But had front row pit to see him up close he is truly one of a kind! Im sooo happy they are putting out new material Caravan is a great song and very very hard to play on Drums! Rock on RUSH! Music Gods imho

  • Alex

    Xanadu(Exit Stage Left)
    La Villa Strangiato(Rio)
    Natural Science (Rio)
    Witch Hunt(Grace Under Pressure Live)
    Middletown Dreams
    Working Man
    By Tor & The Snow Dog
    Between the Wheels
    The Camera Eye

  • Anonymous

    I agree and disagree with the list somewhat.
    -Caravan is so new, it can’t be considered a Top 20 song just yet, maybe somewhere down the road
    Replace with say Red Barchetta.
    -Spirit of Radio is probably one of the funnest and coolest songs ever played at a concert, any concert. Seeing a full crowd, including 500,000 in Toronto in 2003 all clapping and cheering in unison during the chorus, is on of the most chilling things a rock fan can go through.  
    -One Little Victory is a terrific song, and given the circumstances and timing, very appropriate.
    – Marathon, terrific song, well palced in the list
    – Closer to the Heart, an instant classic, grew tired of the different versions over the years but always come back to enjoy the original studio version.
    – Working Man, first hit, good song, enjoy it from time to time, but would prefer to replace it with say The Pass  
    – Subdivisions, favorite Rush song of all time, Belongs in the Top three for sure
    – Freewill, Awesome song, Gedddy can still hit his range on this today…
    – Villa Strangiato, Must have on a Top 10 list, Showcases Alex’s true talents
    – While Tom Sawyer is their biggest hit, I agree it belongs on this list but in all honesty it is overplayed and you do hear it quite often to the point you do get tired of it at times.
    – 2112, True Classic, nuff said. 
    Notable favorites, Bravado, Xanadu, The Trees, Dreamline, Presto, Afterimage, Kid Gloves 

  • Dyweasel

    11.  Workin’ Them Angels
    10.  Digital Man
    09.  Xanadu
    08.  By-Tor and the Snow Dog
    07.  The Spirit Of Radio
    06.  Subdivisions
    05.  Tom Sawyer
    04.  The Big Money
    03.  YYZ
    02.  Anthem
    01.  2112

  • Jcap0505

    No YYZ, it has to be on there somewhere…

  • Darklordz63

    Iliked every song  on this list but you could have left marathon out for  half a dozen other tunes but like you said its not rushes best era but its better then some others best songs and to the Rcok and Roll Hall of Shame   they to sit down and at least listen …………

  • Anonymous

    Not a bad list, but not a ton of overlap with my own rush songs list