By-Tor and the Snow Dog: Background

The song is the band’s “brisk, slashing, progressive-metal blueprint.”—Martin Popoff, Contents Under Pressure

“‘By-Tor and the Snowdog’ marks the beginning of a Rush tradition of extended story songs, in this case a battle between By-Tor and the Snowdog. The song has bite in more ways than one. Howard Ungerleider [the band’s long-time roadie] came up with the title one night at a party at Rush manager Ray Danniels’ house.

Snow dog at guard. Graham Whieldon

“‘Ray had these two dogs. One was a German Shepherd that had these fangs, and the other was this little tiny white nervous dog. I used to call the Shepherd By-Tor because anyone who would walk into the house would get bitten by him. Ray would go, “The dog is trained fine; don’t worry about it.” Well, the night of the party, we were sitting down eating our steaks when the Shepherd started biting my leg. I started screaming and calling the dog By-Tor. Now, the other dog was real neurotic, constantly barking and jumping all over you. And since he was a snow dog, I started calling the pair By-Tor and the Snowdog.”‘—Bill Banasiewicz, Rush Visions

“We must have been high one day, imagining a song about these two dogs. And then Neil went ahead and wrote it. But the guys at our record company weren’t happy. They signed the band that was on the first album, and they said, ‘This is not the same – what is this By-tor shit? You were talking about Working Man and now you’re talking about this crazy stuff.’ It was a bit of hiccup in the plan they had for us. … The title of the first part of By-tor and the Snow Dog is a mystery to all three members of Rush. Geddy: “I don’t know what ‘tobes’ are. I assumed that Neil knew, and there must be such a place in mythology. I just went with it.” Alex: “I think the Tobes of Hades is kind of like the waiting room to Hell!” Neil: “Nobody know what it means – that’s what I love about it. But it’s something that my friend’s father used to say: ‘It’s hotter than the Tobes of Hades!'”—Geddy, Alex, and Neil,¬†Prog Magazine, Issue 35, April 2013

“My friend’s dad always said ‘colder than the Tobes of Hell.’ That’s all. I don’t know what it means.”—Neil in Backstage Club (1990), quoted in Merely Players

“‘Eth’ is an Old English name, probably for demonic power. Styx was a river in Hades, the underworld. This song is an 8-minuter demonstrating the band’s early musical unity and prowess. The song is the first to be broken up in sections: Section III was originally called ‘The battle.'”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

One of the memorable riffs in the piece, during which the two dogs go at it, was originally part of Alex’s solo in the live version of “Working Man.” More on this or watch 30-second video.

More about “By-Tor and the Snow Dog”

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~ by rvkeeper on January 11, 2011.

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