Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart
Original Release: Test for Echo
Definitive Version: Different Stages, 1998.
Before we start, I have to say that it bums me out that Test for Echo has been dismissed wholesale by Rush. After every show, I invariably complain about the lack of Presto songs. Well, since the Test for Echo tour, the band has played exactly two TFE songs—Driven in 2002 and Resist in 2004. That’s it. The only album that’s been less represented during that time is Caress of Steel, which is 20 years older.
I don’t get it. In my inexpert opinion, TFE is a solid album—not their best, sure—but better than Counterparts, which came before it and is represented fairly regularly. TFE is the aural compliment to Presto, which probably explains why Rush doesn’t play it—they just don’t dig the sound. I do, and I suppose it’s not much of a spolier alert that a few from each of those summarily dismissed albums are still to come on this here list.
Just as Presto was the soundtrack of my first trip to Cooperstown in 1990, Test for Echo was part of the soundtrack during the return jaunt in October 1996. After our stay in Maine, Debbie and I headed home through the White Mountains in New Hampshire. That gave us an opportunity to see the Old Man in the Mountains before it collapsed in 2003.
Debbie was so disconsolate when she learned about that that she had to call me in Cleveland to commisserate. I only can imagine how the folks in New Hampshire took it. I mean it was the symbol of everything in that state. It’s on their quarter and the state highway signs and the license plate … or at least was. It was cool to see and even cooler that we did it now that it’s gone.
From there, Debbie and I drove through Vermont, and I realized that, well, we were this close to Cooperstown. Why not a return trip to hit the card stores once more? Debbie accepted.
I had one particular store in mind. It sells individual baseball cards cheap, and I wanted to go through its low-price bins once more. Debbie excused herself, saying she had an errand to run.
The clerk behind the counter had a ballgame on on the TV. It was the Division Series between Cleveland and Baltimore, and it was cool to have that on while I pored through the boxes of cards for the fuller baseball experience.
As it happened, it was Game 4, and Indians fans well remember what happened. All game, Tribe fans had just crucified Roberto Alomar—Public Enemy No. 1, you might recall, for spitting in an umpire’s face in what I’m sure wasn’t a fit of ’roid rage. I’m sure it wasn’t, because Alomar is in the Hall of Fame, and as we all know, baseball writers never will elect anyone who did them.
So what happened? You know. Alomar hit a tie-breaking homer in the top of the 12th inning. Game, set, match: Baltimore. Jacobs Field in Cleveland went deathly silent as the villain reigned in triumph.
Right at about that time, Debbie came back into the store looking pleased as punch. She was holding what very obviously was a bat all wrapped up, so I couldn’t see what it was.
She asked for the car keys, and I handed them over. She asked what was going on with the game. With the Reds hopelessly out of it, she jumped on the Ohio-team bandwagon—as did I—and was rooting for the Indians. The following conversation took place verbatim:
“Roberto Alomar hit a home run to give Baltimore the lead.”
“NOOOOO!” (She knew of Alomar’s rep and how the fans were riding him hard.)
“Yeah, you should have seen it. When he crossed home plate, he gave it one of these to the fans.” I brought my right hand into the crook of my left arm in the universal sign of “up yours.”
“Did he really?” Debbie’s eyes were saucers.
The guy behind the counter lost it, and Debbie conked me over the pumpkin with the hidden item she just bought.
I’m kidding again. I love a good deadpan. No, Debbie knew she’d been had and gave me a laugh and a scolding, “oh, you …”
When we left Cooperstown, that brought down the curtain on our New England tour. It had been a great vacation, and as I mentioned, we made a return visit to Maine in 1998.
As for the item Debbie bat, it was—surprise!—a bat that she gave me at Christmas. It had “Hall of Fame” branded on the barrel and Hank Aaron’s signature.
That was awesome but only the beginning. The Bat, as it’s now known, includes the signatures of the following, collected in order over the years: Al Kaline, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Eddie Mathews, Carl Yastrzemski, Stan Musial, Mike Schmidt and Ernie Banks.
And I’m not kidding this time.