Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Neal Peart
Original Release: Moving Pictures
Definitive Version: Different Stages, 1998, because they throw in a little Cygnus X-1 at the end, which is never a bad thing.
Debbie was into impressionist art, which is my favorite period, too, and in November 1994, she wanted to see the Barnes Exhibit. It was a series of paintings by Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet and others that were owned by a private collector—many of which had never been seen by the public. But the part that sold me was Toronto would be the closest city to Columbus that would show it.
Toronto had been one of my favorite cities since I first visited in 1990, so any excuse to get back was a-OK by me. I had been several times between 1990 and 1992 when I lived in Flint and it was an easy four-hour drive, but none since then. We decided to take a long weekend, and because I was in my I’ll-do-just-about-anything-to-avoid-having-to-fly mode, we drove.
Because we would leave after Debbie got off work on Friday, it would be pretty late by the time we got to Toronto. I was a night owl and I would drive, so no problem. What was a problem, however, was I mistimed the drive: I thought it would be six hours; it was closer to eight. I also didn’t book a hotel, because I knew there would be plenty of places out in the suburbs, where Scott and I had stayed on our two previous trips. (I was also in cheapskate-motel mode at the time. Why pay $100 per night when I could pay $30?)
Consequently, this led to us driving extra miles than we needed to take the 401 to Mississauga. I didn’t care. I was so giddy to be back in Toronto that I was babbling away, pointing out this, that and the other thing.
But it was when we passed Pearson International Airport, which, as you probably all know, is where this volcanic instrumental gets its name, because Pearson carries the YYZ airport code. I was telling Debbie all of this and how the first chords are Morse code spelling out Y-Y-Z when suddenly the weight of it being 2 in the morning (she’d been up since 6) and driving around seemingly endlessly finally caught up in a volcanic eruption all her own. “I don’t care; just get to the hotel!” She might have even added an f-bomb for additional motivation.
As you can imagine, the rest of the—very quick—drive to the nearest motel I could find was pretty quiet.
I’ll have more to say about that trip at a different point, but I have to relay one more story that I can’t help but think about whenever I hear this song. I hope I’m not telling tales out of school, but my buddy Dave was humiliated in print in high school over this song. As an intrepid cub reporter for the school paper, he wrote a glowing review of Moving Pictures and mentioned this song. Unfortunately, a copy editor broke the cardinal rule of not double-checking a change and helpfully “corrected” Dave by making the song title XYZ. Because Dave’s name was on the article, it looked as though the reviewer didn’t even know the correct song title. So much for your credibility as a reviewer.
Dave’s still bitter about it 30 years later, and I can’t blame him. Some actions are too egregious to merit forgiveness.