Sunday, June 10, 2018

"Take Me Home": Can't He Just ... Call An Uber? AKA Phil's Frantic Search For Drugs Turns Into One Expensive Video

Question raised by the opening seconds of "Take Me Home": What's better than one rapidly bleeping pre-programmed synth pattern? How about two rapidly bleeping pre-programmed synth patterns? Good thing I like the sound of those two synth patterns, because that's pretty much this whole song's raison d'etre. Well, gradually some sustained, droning guitar slips into the mix, as well as actual "human" drums from You Know Who, which both serve to ratchet up the claustrophobic tension, but "Take Me Home" is a textbook example of Phil's uncanny ability to do a lot with just a little. It's the kind of song that finds its hypnotic '80s groove right off the bat and could more or less go on forever. You can't help but nod along, like a bleary-eyed junkie. But why does he want to be "taken home" anyway? And what exactly is it that he "doesn't remember"? Maybe he lost Billie's number?

Frankly, I always assumed "Take Me Home" was just another song about Phil's crumbling marriage(s), but apparently it was inspired by One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and is sung from the point of view of a man in a mental institution (!). Let's take a look:
Take that look of worry
I'm an ordinary man
They don't tell me nothing
So I find out what I can
There's a fire that's been burning
Right outside my door
I can't see but I feel it
And it helps to keep me warm
So I, I don't mind
No I, I don't mind
Who lives in a building where a fire would be burning outside one's door? I mean, as long as the door itself doesn't catch fire, and as long as the fire keeps the guy warm, then I guess I don't have a problem with it. Or is Phil trying to make this fairly unreliable narrator sound like an insane man? Honestly, he doesn't sound any more insane than the narrator in "Sussudio" does, but that's just me.
Seems so long I've been waiting
Still don't know what for
There's no point escaping
I don't worry anymore
I can't come out to find you
I don't like to go outside
They can't turn off my feelings
Like they're turning off a light
But I, I don't mind
No I, I don't mind
Hmmmm. "There's no point escaping"? "I don't like to go outside"? This is at least a bit more insane asylum-ish. It's as if Harding, Cheswick, and Billy Babbitt broke into Nurse Ratched's office one night, stole a drum machine, and laid their souls bare in a riveting demo!
So take, take me home
Cause I don't remember
Take, take me home, oh lord
Cause I've been a prisoner all my life
And I can say to you
"Say to you..." what? What?? Finish the sentence Phil! "And I can say to you ... anyone seen my car keys?" What's the thing that he says? That line has always puzzled me.
Take that look of worry, mine's an ordinary life
Working when it's daylight
And sleeping when it's night
I've got no far horizons
I don't wish upon a star
They don't think that I listen
Oh but I know who they are
And I, I don't mind
Well, I'm inclined to think Cuckoo's Nest may have been more of a "starting off" point than a literal source of inspiration, but all I know is, in the words of Randall P. McMurphy, every time I listen to "Take Me Home," my ears light up like a pinball machine and I pay off in silver dollars.

In making the video, Phil demonstrated the kind of artistic patience that only the likes of Richard Linklater, director of Boyhood, would have been able to muster. I guess he thought to himself, "Well, the song's called 'Take Me Home.' I'm about to go on a world tour. I've got it. Every time we stop in a new city, I'll film a little bit of the video, and then when the tour's over, we'll edit all the footage together!" It's like the Around the World in 80 Days of the MTV Generation (with a far less dashing David Niven stand-in - or maybe Phil is Cantinflas in this scenario?). I just have one question for Phil: ever heard of a green screen? In fact, so much time elapsed between the filming of each piece of footage, you can actually see his hair line shifting from shot to shot. The video strikes me as a bit gimmicky, and it certainly doesn't have much to do with the (alleged) insane asylum theme of the song, but I will grudgingly admit that I find it compelling. One thought: The "shark" that attacks Phil in the pool in L.A. - a commentary on the bloodthirsty rapaciousness of the Hollywood entertainment industry?



Of course, that's the official line on the "Take Me Home" clip. The real story, as you might have guessed, is much less flattering. From In the Air Tonight:
It was after a show in Manchester. Our bassist had really been on fire that night. They say the tapes are out there somewhere, but I haven't heard them in years. Anyway, the next morning I woke up, I was twitching like a motherfucker. I thought I could make it through the week without needing my fix of Phil's Best Phriend, AKA horse tranquilizer, but I guess I'd been a bit overconfident. I kicked out two underage Samoan girls from my bed - I like 'em plump and pretty - and stumbled to the payphone in the lobby.

"Julio, it's Phil, I need a new batch."

"Uh ... no can do, Senior Collins."

"No can do? Why the hell not?"

"Market getting tight on jugo del caballo. Running low everywhere."

"Running low? Look, I don't give a shit, just find me some!"

"Felipe, you gonna have to look for yourself."

"Look for myself? Where the fuck do you suggest?"

"Anywhere. Everywhere. Travel el mundo. Big cities your best bet."

"Travel the globe for horse tranquilizer? Aren't people going to wonder what the hell I'm doing? We've gotta think about the optics here."

Julio paused for several seconds. "Ah, I got it!"

"What?"

"You just released that song, how does it ... 'Taaaake, take me home," si?"

"Yeah?"

"How you do this, with song after song, I have no idea. You never stop with the great songs, Felipe."

"Uh huh."

"I love the production, the drums ... muy bueno -"

"Can we cut to the fucking chase here?"

"So ... you have these words in the song, "Take me home.' You travel around to big cities, you look for the jugo, but you also make music video."

"Huh?"

"You show yourself in front of famous things, singing part of words, then come back, cut all the film together, and ... BOOM! New music video for new Phil Collins hit. So you look for drugs, but you tell people you are making music video."

It was a no-brainer. Sure, I told everybody I was on tour, filming little snippets of the video between gigs, but as they say in Texas, "Never trust a balding English drummer." So I scavenged the globe: London, New York, Tokyo, LA, Chicago, Paris, San Francisco ... you name it. Unfortunately, everywhere I went, I was coming up with jack squat. Felipe wasn't kidding around! There are certain shots where you can see how bad I was doing - like Memphis, for example. People think I was just bopping my head to the music, but that was actually me suffering from withdrawal. Had a good lead in Sydney, but it turned out to be just a bag of sunflower oil. A bartender lost an eye as a result. Sorry, but if you give Phil Collins a false lead, you're gonna pay the fucking price.

Eventually I tracked some down in a derelict Stockholm gym. Two Irish bartenders led me to the storage room, gave me a ziplock bag of the stuff. I headed into the bathroom, plunged the syringe straight into my chest, Pulp Fiction-style, and felt that sweet, sweet rush once again. The next thing I knew, I was half-conscious, lying in a tub of anti-freeze.

"Is he up yet?"

"I think he's comin' 'round."

"Phil! Hey Phil! Where's the money you said you were gonna give us?"

"Uhn?"

"Phil! We hooked you up, now it's time you pay."

"Uh ... it's ... shit I know where-ih-is," I mumbled incoherently. "It's nnnn mah shoe."

"We looked in your shoe."

"Uh ... it's in uh ..drum kit."

"That's not an answer." The two beefy leprechauns looked at each other and sighed. "He's out of it."

"Yeah."

"What do we do with him?"

"I don't know. You know what I say? Just take ... take him home. 'Cause he don't remember."

3 comments:

Nicholas Watkins said...

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Herr Zrbo said...

I remember from the Pop-Up video version that Phil was annoyed that he was wearing the same shirt in different locations. It makes it look like he's cheap and wears the same clothes everywhere he goes.

I like how at the cut at 2:27 when we see Phil back at the Brooklyn Bridge and he establishes the shot by bopping his head right in time with that single drum beat.

Also, did you notice the sign at Radio City Music Hall says: "Phil Collins and His Hot Tub Club"?

Little Earl said...

But he probably IS cheap and he probably DOES wear the same clothes everywhere he goes. Just own it, Phil. Besides, as we now know, he was secretly suffering from debilitating horse tranquilizer withdrawal, so I can certainly understand why he got a bit lazy in the wardrobe department.

And no, I did NOT notice that the sign at Radio City Music Hall says "Phil Collins and His Hot Tub Club." Zrbo, I think you've found an Easter egg! What I wonder is just how many preoccupied New Yorkers in the street below even noticed that Phil Collins was up above the marquee of Radio City Music Hall filming a music video. It looks like they filmed it with a giant zoom lens.

Also, thank you, Nicholas Watkins, for your thoughtful comments. I agree that Phil Collins's secret battle with horse tranquilizer and Irish mobsters in Sweden is an issue that not sufficient persons are speaking intelligently about. Glad you found us, and keep reading!