La Villa Strangiato

When I was eight years old I was hanging out in my friend Dave Bourquin’s bedroom when his brother, Robbie, barged in to play his new album on Dave’s record player. Robbie was much older (12) and much cooler than I was, and I wanted nothing more than to be just like Robbie.

“Listen to this song,” he told us. “It’s the coolest.” Robbie was something of an authority on such things, and so I listened. Intently. Sitting stone upright on Dave’s bed. And Robbie was right. It was most definitely the coolest. This wicked keyboard sound introduced a simple, shuffling drumline. “A modern day warrior, mean, mean stride. Today’s Tom Sawyer, mean, mean pride.” And then more keyboards and drums and bass and guitars and noise, and then the song ended and Robbie picked up the stereo’s tone arm and dropped the needle on the outer edge of the record, and we listened to the same song again and again. All afternoon.

So I went home, and, as I recall it, I told my Mom that the next time she went to the Severna Park mall she should stop by Sound Odyssey and pick me up a copy of Rush’s new album, Moving Pictures, because Rush was the coolest band ever and “Tom Sawyer” was the coolest song ever and because I was now into rock music. Seriously. And for some reason, she did. Sort of. Actually, she bought Fly by Night, which, in hindsight, was the more reasonable choice. I mean, if I had a precocious eight-year-old son who told me to buy him a Rush album, I’d probably get the one with the pretty owl on the cover, too. (Actually, I probably would have laughed and told him to get a job, but that’s why I’m not a parent.) Have you looked at the cover of Moving Pictures lately? To borrow from Slater’s description of the one dollar bill in Dazed and Confused, “There’s some freaky shit going on in there.”

So Mom bought me Fly by Night, and, of course, I pouted because, well, because “Tom Sawyer” was nowhere to be found on Fly by Night and, I mean, who listens to Fly by Night anyway? Cool third graders don’t, that’s for sure. Cool third graders listen to Moving Pictures, and so — get this — I convinced her to go back to Sound Odyssey and return Fly by Night in exchange for Moving Pictures. Unbelievable. She’s a saint.

Twenty-four years later I still haven’t a clue what “Tom Sawyer” is about — this despite the endless junior high discussions of how Neil Peart was the greatest lyricist in the history of rock (and the greatest drummer as well, obviously) and of how 2112, in particular, showed his debt to Ayn Rand. One of my friends — Kirby, I think — even claimed to have finished reading Atlas Shrugged out of devotion to Peart, but I could barely get through Anthem, and when I finally did get around to really reading Rand, I was old enough to know better, thank God.

But I was eight and I owned my own copy of Moving Pictures, and I played the hell out of it. Side one, at least. I played the hell out of side one of Moving Pictures, which is just about a perfect album side, you’ve gotta admit: Tom Sawyer / Red Barchetta / YYZ / Limelight. Play any one of those songs in my presence, and it’s 1980 again, and I’m just discovering the gut-churning sensation of rock music again.

And I say all of that to say this. Tomorrow morning I’ll be flying for the first time into the Toronto International Airport — also known as YYZ. And just seeing those letters, neatly capitalized, on my e-ticket sent me running to my CD collection. Moving Pictures is still a great album (even side two), but when I want to listen to Rush these days I invariably pull out Exit…Stage Left, their document of the Moving Pictures tour. And so the new Song of the Moment is the other instrumental from that great double-album — not “YYZ” but “La Villa Strangiato,” which doesn’t have a five-minute drum solo, but does have lots of cool synthesizers and some nice guitar work from Alex Lifeson. And no singing from Geddy. Which, as we all know, is a good thing.

Depending on connectivity issues, I’ll try to post daily updates from the film festival. If I can’t, expect a massive post when I return. In the meantime, keep an eye on Film Journey.

Thank you very kindly. Goodnight.