Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hello, I Must Be Going! ... To Hell AKA Phil's Shocking Confession Falls On Deaf Ears

If you thought Phil Collins got all the divorce bile out of his system with his first solo album, well, think again. Jovial title aside, Hello, I Must Be Going!, or at least half of it, continues the ex-wife venting from Face Value, but you know what I say? Petulant Phil is better than sentimental Phil. For an album with only one real hit, I'm surprised to announce that Hello, I Must Be Going! still delivers the yuppie goods - but I think it takes a few songs to find its groove. "I Don't Care Anymore" and "Do You Know, Do You Care?" sound like "In The Air Tonight" re-writes, only with the drawback that the crushingly intense drumming actually comes in right from the start. Fans of the tacky, overly-processed Phil Collins horn section will get their "phill" from "I Cannot Believe It's True" and "It Don't Matter To Me" (sadly not a Bread cover).

No, it's near the end of the album where Phil finally whips out the Sad Bastard Ballads, priming the world for the stunning breakthrough known as "Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)." "Don't Let Him Steal Your Heart Away" is one more pathetic last attempt by the world's greatest balding drummer to keep that woman from deserting him for another, perhaps less balding, lover. Although topped off with an elegant string section straight from "Jealous Guy" or "#9 Dream," which should have made it another Adult Contemporary Collins cornerstone, it was only released as a single in the UK, where it stalled at #45 - just like his marriage?
You were lonely and you needed a friend
And he was there at the right time with the right smile
Just a shoulder to lean on
Someone to tell you it'll all work out alright

Don't let him steal your heart away
No, don't let him steal your heart away

You can look at him the way you did me
And hold him close say you're never letting go
But any fool can see you're fooling yourself
But you ain't fooling me

And don't pack my suitcase, I'll be back
And don't take my pictures off a' the wall
Oh, did you hear me?
Don't let him change a thing 'cos I'll be back
Jus tell him to pack his things and get out of your life
And just give me one more chance
I'll show you I'm right, I'm right

Don't touch those pictures, woman. Of course, no Phil Collins solo album is complete without a smoky, sinewy jazz-funk instrumental, and this time it's "The West Side." This one seriously makes me want to wake up at 3:00am, give the prostitute a $100 bill, hop into my Alfa Romeo, and drive along the waterfront while dangling my cigarette out the window.

With the closing track, "Why Can't It Wait 'Til Morning," Phil unleashes the flute, oboe, and French horn, taking us on a trip to a bucolic English countryside cottage where we can sit beside a stream with Winnie the Pooh and the Velveteen Rabbit. This time, Phil's reasoning amounts to "Hey baby, I'm too drunk right now, let's get divorced in the morning." It's like the proto-"One More Night." There's also the line, "You're going nowhere without me" - an airtight argument that always works in break-ups:
Why can't it wait 'til morning?
We can talk about it then
'Cos I've had a drink too many
And my troubles, well I ain't got any

Why can't it wait 'til daylight?
Things will seem much clearer then
I'm tired and my eyes are weary
And I just want you lying here with me

So close your eyes
I'll make it oh so nice

Well I don't wanna think about what we've said
And I don't wanna know why we hurt ourselves
'Cos I just wanna hold you so close to me
It'll take care of itself and I wanna sleep

So why can't it wait 'til next time?
'Cos that time may never come
Stay here with your arms around me
You're going nowhere without me

A hint of creepiness, perhaps, but hands down, the creepiest song on Hello, I Must Be Going! would be "Thru These Walls." Let's take this one verse at a time:
I can hear thru these walls
I can hear it when they're foolin' around
I can hear thru these walls
And I hear every sigh, every sound
I can hear thru these walls
In the dark with the shades pulled down
Every word that they say
Every move they make feels it's coming my way
Uhhh ... is Phil playing detective? Is he a CIA agent, extolling the pleasures of wiretapping, or perhaps another balding European - that guy from The Lives Of Others? Unusual, but not that creepy. Yet.
My favorite moment
Putting the glass up next to the wall
Though I see nothing, I hear it all
Putting my sign up
Do not disturb me, speak or shout, inside out
Ooh mind my clothes, they're all laid out
Mmmmm-kaaaaaay. So he's a voyeuristic pervert who's listening to other people have sex in his apartment building while he's jerking off? And what do his clothes have to do with anything? The Creep-O-Meter's jumping into the red here.
I can see thru my windows
I can see the girls and the boys
I can see thru my windows
And I can imagine the noise
I can see thru my windows
I can see them playing with toys
Oh I hope it won't end
If I promise not to touch, just be a friend
I think Phil just broke the Creep-O-Meter. Listening to couples have sex, that's one thing, but girls, boys, toys ... that's a whole different can of gated reverb. "If I promise not to touch"? Like I'm gonna give you the benefit of the doubt on that one. Can you say, "most sketchy Phil Collins song ever"?
Life is so lonely
And I don't get high off just being me
I like pretending
Wanting to touch them, wanting to see
It's only normal
Creeping behind you, now don't shout, 'cause it's alright
They keep the windows locked and the door shut tight
Yep, "it's only normal," getting high off sitting around in your room with your clothes all laid out, peeking at children through windows. Move along folks, nothing to see here.
Ooh I'm feeling like I'm locked in a cage
No way in, no way out, and it gets so lonely
Am I really asking a lot
Just to reach out and touch somebody
'Cause when I look thru my windows or open my door
I can feel it all around me
Aww. Damn it Phil, now I kinda feel bad for the guy. And they say Phil Collins is some sort of family-friendly "lightweight." This is more fucked up than Black Sabbath! It's like he listened to "Every Breath You Take" and thought, "Nope, not pervy enough."

You're probably thinking he toned down the stalker flavor for the video. No way, Jose. After seeing this video, you'll never want to sit in a rocking chair again. We've got close-ups of clock hands intercut with children bouncing on balls. Phil sits on a bed, wearing a dark brown coat that's, um, seen better days, while the shadows of an amorous couple dance behind him. During the line "Ooh my clothes, they're all laid out," he shimmies his fingers over his wardrobe with a little too much relish. At 2:53, he even starts passionately caressing his face with a soiled rag. David Lynch, eat your heart out.

It's clear that Phil really spent some time with these thoughts. As one YouTube commentator put it, "How many artists put themselves in the point of view of the lonely pervert." Because Phil is quite obviously playing a character here. Or is he? From In The Air Tonight:
No matter how frank I got in my songwriting, no matter how ugly and nasty I became, no matter how many anti-social fantasies I tried to express in my art, it just never seemed to register. No, all anybody could ever see was the "cherubic little drummer man." I would write about scoring horse tranquilizer and all they ever said was, "He's writing about his divorce." I would write about killing poodles, and all they ever said was, "Oh hey, he's writing about his divorce again." There was just no way to win.

One night, I finally decided that I would have to spell it right out. Twenty stories high, in big neon lights, so no one could miss it. Yes. I would write my most searingly confessional work yet. A song so honest, no one could fail to see it as anything other than a desperate howl of pain. A song so perverted, I could finally stop playing this happy-go-lucky "game" with the public and be seen as the demented, homicidal man I truly was. I called it "Thru These Walls."

Just as the release date approached, I sat in my room with Rot Rot.

"This is the end of the line. I'm tired of pretending."

"Oh, Phillip, there's no use fighting it," my hedgehog friend replied.

"No, Rot Rot, the jig is up."

"Don't you see? It's too late. Your image is already set in stone."

"Ha! They'll change their tune real quick once they get a load of these lyrics. And the video, Rot Rot, the video!"

"Oh Phillip, you could write a song about strangling your dear auntie with a ball of twine and they wouldn't even blink an eye."

"That's where you're wrong!" I said. "That's where you're dead wrong."

I wrote a letter on pink stationary, confessing all my crimes, ready for the moment when Scotland Yard and the London tabloids would rush to my door and ask me, "Is it true, Phil? Is it really all true?" I sat in my study, playing backgammon, waiting for a knock on the door. I waited one day. Nothing. Two days. Nothing. An entire week went by, and I realized that Rot Rot was right. There would be no media frenzy. The song only peaked at #56.

"Wow, isn't it amazing how Phil can get inside the mind of that character?" They said. "What an imagination that Phil has, to sound like such a pervert, even though he's perfectly harmless!"

Oh, fate, what a cruel, cruel trick you've played on that cherubic little drummer man!

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