Music Video of the Day: In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins (1981, directed by Stuart Orme)

“I don’t know what this song is about. When I was writing this I was going through a divorce. And the only thing I can say about it is that it’s obviously in anger. It’s the angry side, or the bitter side of a separation. So what makes it even more comical is when I hear these stories which started many years ago, particularly in America, of someone come up to me and say, “Did you really see someone drowning?” I said, “No, wrong”. And then every time I go back to America the story gets Chinese whispers, it gets more and more elaborate. It’s so frustrating, ’cause this is one song out of all the songs probably that I’ve ever written that I really don’t know what it’s about, you know?”

— Phil Collins, on In The Air Tonight

I was thinking about Phil Collins last week.

I was visiting some members of my family in London and, on Thursday night, I was watching as the results of the general election came in.  After spending the past few days worrying that Jeremy Corbyn might actually somehow weasel his way into power, I was very happy to see the results of the exit poll, which indicated that Corbyn’s Labour Party was going to lose in a landslide.  As I watched the results come in and as Labour lost seat after seat, I found myself thinking about Phil Collins.

Phil Collins has a reputation for being a supporter of the Tories, though he’s often said that he’s not.  This is because he let the UK after Tony Blair was initially elected.  Collins said that he was living in Switzerland because that’s where his girlfriend lived but many others accused him of being a tax exile.  During the 2005 election, Oasis’s Liam Gallagher famously quipped that everyone should vote Labour because, otherwise, Phil Collins might return home.  Everyone had a good laugh, except for Phil who is notoriously thin-skinned about such things.  Last Thursday, as I watched Boris Johnson give his victory speech with Elmo, Count Binface, and Lord Buckethead standing behind him, I asked myself, “Can Phil Collins come home now?”

(Which was a stupid think to ask since it’s been nearly ten years since the UK last had a Labour government and I’m fairly certain that Phil Collins has already come home.  Chalk it up to the emotion of the moment.  After spending a week being yelled at by angry Corbynites, watching them go down in defeat was a moment of such personal gratification that I was perhaps allowed to ask myself one silly question.)

Phil Collins may be thin-skinned but perhaps he’s earned the right to be.  For all the ridicule that has been directed his way over the years, Phil Collins’s songs have, for better or worse, defined an era and many of them hold up far better than is usually acknowledged.  Take, for instance, In The Air Tonight.  Today’s music video of the day is not only one of the ultimate songs of the 80s but it’s also a song that has been sampled by a countless number of other artists.

It’s also a song that’s been the subject of many rumors.  The most popular one is that Phil Collins wrote it after witnessing a man drowning.  The legend goes that Collins was too far away to save the man but that someone else was close by but declined to help.  Collins wrote the song to call out the callousness of the person who declined to help and, so the story goes, used to reveal the person’s name during his concerts.  Much like the idea of Phil Collins hiding out in Switzerland because he didn’t want to pay his taxes, it’s a good story but it’s also not true.  Collins has said that he has no idea what the song is about, beyond that he was in a dark place emotionally when he wrote it.

The song’s rapid progress up the charts was undoubtedly helped by the music video above.  During the early days of MTV, this video was part of the regular rotation.  Director Stuart Orme went on to direct several other videos for both Collins and Genesis, though In The Air Tonight remains his best work.


Music Video of the Day: A Groovy Kind of Love, covered by Phil Collins (1988, directed by Jim Yukich)

To say, as one BBC documentary did back in 2000, that “critics sneer at Phil Collins” is to be guilty of a massive understatement.  For as long as I can remember, critics have loathed Phil Collins and most of his fellow musicians haven’t had much good to say either.  Who can forget Noel Gallagher imploring the British public to vote for Labour because “if you don’t and the Tories get in, Phil Collins is threatening to come back and live here. And let’s face it, none of us want that.”  And, of course, in American Psycho, Patrick Bateman vigorously defended Phil Collins as a musical genius and both hookers and audiences laughed.

It’s easy to understand how the fatigue with Phil Collins set in.  In the 80s through the mid 90s, he was everywhere.  His songs were hits but many of them sounded so similar that they were difficult to keep straight.  Music critics love authenticity and that was often what Phil Collins seemed to be lacking.

Still, you can’t deny that the man sold a lot of records.  Critics and hipsters may not have liked him but, for a while there, everyone else couldn’t wait to hear the latest from Phil Collins.  For me, Phil Collins’s music will always be a guilty pleasure.  He’s easy to mock but his music epitomizes an era and still holds up better than something from Michael Bolton.

No, I just don’t think he’s as bad as people say.

But we’re talking about Phil …. er, never mind, man.

This cover of The Mindbenders’s A Groovy Kind of Love appeared in the movie Buster, which was an attempt to turn Phil Collins in a film star.  The movie took place in the 60s and the soundtrack is full of music from that era.  This was one of two songs that Collins recorded for the film’s soundtrack.  The other was Two Hearts, which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.

The video is one of the many videos that find Phil Collins sitting in a dark room and singing.  While singing, he watches scenes from Buster.  The film did well in the UK and less well in the States.  Some critics complained that the film glorified crime (it was about the real-life Great Train Robbery), which led to Prince Charles and Princess Diana canceling plans to attend the film’s London premiere.  Collins later stated that he was the one who told Charles that he should stay home in order to save him from any embarrassment.  Telling royalty to stay away from your movie for their own good is classic Phil Collins.


Music Video of the Day: Take A Look At Me Now (Against All Odds) by Phil Collins (1984, dir by Taylor Hackford)

On the one hand, I know that the critics have never exactly embraced the songs of Phil Collins.  I mean, there’s a reason why it’s such a brilliant joke that, in American Psycho, the vacuous wannabe serial killer Patrick Bateman is a rabid Phil Collins fan.  On the one hand, Collins’s music is representative of an era.  On the other hand, it’s often used to illustrate everything that was supposedly wrong with that era.

But you know what?

Screw it.  I like this song.  It’s effective.  It works.  It’s fun to listen to and I’ll probably find myself singing it sometime tonight.  Earlier, I watched a 1984 film called Against All Odds and, when this song played over the final freeze frame, it was a perfect moment.

The video for Take A Look At Me Now was directed by the same guy who directed Against All Odds, Taylor Hackford.  Of course, the video itself is mostly made up of clips from the film.  In between Phil doing his thing, we get scenes of Jeff Bridges looking young and sexy, Rachel Ward looking sultry, and James Woods looking dangerous.

The song itself was nominated for an Oscar, though it lost to I Just Called To Say I Love You from The Woman In Red.


AMV of the Day: Strangers Like Us (Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet)


It’s been a month since Anime Boston 2014 and I’ve decided to put up the third AMV to win one of the categories from the con.

This particular AMV won the Romance category and for once it uses an anime that I’m not familiar with, but after watching the video I’m definitely looking forward to checking it out once the blu-ray comes out sometime this year.

The AMV in question is “Strangers Like Us” by davenfonet who uses the Phil Collins song of the same title and the mecha series Gargantia on the Verdorous Planet. The video itself doesn’t go for the usual ballad-like tone, but instead goes for a much more fun romance vibe that doesn’t seem to win many Romance category contests. This time this type of romance AMV wins and the fact that it makes me want to watch the series after never having heard of it til Anime Boston means the creator succeeded.

Anime: Gargantia on the Verdorous Planet

Song: “Strangers Like Us” by Phil Collins

Creator: davenfonet

Past AMVs of the Day


Song of the Day: In The Air Tonight (by Phil Collins)

The latest “song of the day” arrives courtesy of Michael Mann’s Miami Vice. I speak of one of the best rock songs of the 1980’s: Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight”.

Phil Collins was already a major star as part of the progressive rock band Genesis. In the early 80’s he finally went out on his own and began a second successful career as a solo artist. His 1981 debut solo album, Face Value, would release it’s first single with what would turn out to be one of the 80’s iconic rock songs with “In The Air Tonight”. The song was originally recorded in 1979, but it was until Collins went solo did it see the light of day and once it made it to the mass public it instantly became a major hit. This song would end up Collins’ biggest hit ever and would be covered by rock bands and sampled by rappers in the decades to come.

Some of the younger generation would recognize this song because of a hilarious scene in the 2009 comedy The Hangover involving Mike Tyson and one of the most famous basslines in rock history. It’s a shame that it would be that scene people would remember since this song is more than just a punchline in a comedy. This song has become an integral part of my growing up during the 80’s and I still listen to it intently decades later…and yes I, too, consider that bassline to start the final chorus as the go-ahead to air drum the sequence in the privacy of my own room or car.

The one cover of this song I like just as much as the original is the hard rock cover done by the band Nonpoint for Michael Mann’s Miami Vice.

In The Air Tonight

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
And I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord
Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord, oh Lord

Well if you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand
I’ve seen your face before my friend, but I don’t know if you know who I am
Well I was there and I saw what you did, I saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off that grin, I know where you’ve been
It’s all been a pack of lies

And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
Well I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord
I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
Well I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord, oh Lord

Well I remember, I remember, don’t worry, how could I ever forget
It’s the first time, the last time we ever met
But I know the reason why you keep your silence UP, oh no you don’t fool me
Well the hurt doesn’t show, but the pain still grows
It’s no stranger to you and me

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
Well I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord
I can feel it in the air tonight, oh Lord, oh lord
Well I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord
I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
And I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord
I can feel it in the air tonight, oh lord, oh lord, oh lord
Well I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh lord, oh lord

I can feel it in the air tonight, oh lord, oh lord, oh lord, oh lord
And I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh lord, oh lord, oh lord
And I can feel it in the air tonight, Oh Lord…
I’ve been waiting for this moment, all my life, Oh Lord, Oh Lord