There’s just something about this song.
Phil Collins often gets dismissed as creator of shallow, inoffensive Pop music. While that isn’t entirely false, it isn’t entirely true, either. Yes, his music is for the most part easy to listen to, accessible, middle of the road. But that doesn’t make it devoid of emotion and meaning. “In the Air Tonight” is probably the best example of this.
I believe it was the first single from Collins’ first solo album, Face Value, in 1981. It is a dark, meditative song with cryptic lyrics and an insistent, throbbing beat. The tense music and production are perfect. There’s not an extraneous note here; it is taut and spare and absolutely haunting. Although the emotions are quite obvious, the lyrics don’t really give much away, and that’s one of the things I like most about it. You’re not entirely sure what the man in the song is referring to; the narrative is deliberately murky. All you really know is he can feel something coming down, and it’s not good.
When I was younger, I heard rumors that it was about a murder Collins witnessed as a child/teenager, but that’s been thoroughly disproven. It is about his divorce from his first wife and the anger he felt toward her. That meaning seems more obvious once you hear it, but there’s still plenty of room for the audience to put their own spin on it.
I always thought this song really came into its own when it was used in the first episode of Miami Vice. It’s an oppressive song, like the humidity in Florida, and Michael Mann employed it perfectly. Although Miami Vice didn’t age too well (it really looks dated now), the song is unscathed by time. Phil Collins made catchy, hook-filled music, but that doesn’t mean the hooks weren’t painfully barbed.
Today, God is 70. You might think that God was just a tiny bit older than that, or that maybe He/She/It was in fact ageless. But you’d be wrong. He was born this day in 1945 in Ripley, England.
I’ve posted before about why Eric Clapton deserves to be called God. His prowess with the guitar is unquestionable and unassailable. It’s not the most flashy style, technically speaking (his other nickname is Slowhand, for goodness sakes), but the sheer emotion behind his playing makes up for his lack of fancy licks and riffs. (It should also be noted here that the riff Clapton is most famous for, the opening of “Layla” was actually created by the late, supernaturally great, Duane Allman. As a throwaway. That’s the story I heard, anyway.) He is just solid.
I love Clapton in all his forms and genres–Rock, Pop, Blues, whatever. Not only can he play it all, he plays it all better than all but a select few. Allman & Hendrix were probably better; Page, Beck, and a few others are very nearly his equals. Everyone else is just an also-ran. I probably could’ve picked one of his more iconic songs to post for his birthday today, but I decided to go with one of the one’s I love the most. “She’s Waiting” is from Behind the Sun, what was in effect his divorce album even though I think his official split from Patti Boyd came a few years later. It’s one of the best all-around albums from his entire career, and this is one of the best tunes from it. Enjoy!
I’ll be back with new posts next week sometime. Mom’s doing much better, although still not 100% yet. I’m just taking a little extra mental vacation.
Time for a little side trip into the wonderful world of film scores.
If you have not seen The Mission, I highly recommend it. It is not a great film, but it is a very good one; there’s a couple of plot points that could’ve been explained better, but it features fierce performances by Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons. (To be honest, it is on my short list of movies that actually could’ve stood to have been a little longer.) The score was done by Ennio Morricone, a marvelous composer and one of the great names in entertainment history.
I’m not entirely sure if I can describe what this music does to me. It is simultaneously heart-wrenching and uplifting. Although I flash on the film whenever I hear it (and knowing what happens in the film does influence my reaction), I am transported to someplace else whenever I hear this. Especially the refrain of “The Falls.” It begins as a series of notes played solo on what sounds like a wooden flute, then swells at the end into full orchestra. I feel some unnameable thing–it is joy and despair, blessing and curse, falling and flying. For the time it is playing, I believe in miracles.
“Vita Nostra” is another track that strongly moves me. “Vita Nostra,” for anyone who doesn’t know their Latin, means “Our Life.” It occurs several times in the score, a reminder that the lives of the priests and natives are at odds with the rest of the world. Their only concern is to protect their home in the rainforest, to live a life that is righteous. It has always seemed to me like an accusation of the world, of the greed and corruption that spells the mission’s doom (oops, that was a bit of a spoiler). I like the way the voices bite off each word, snipping and sniping without quite crossing the invisible line of insurrection.
These are just two of my favorite moments from a sublime musical experience. Please experience the whole thing for yourself. And it’s good even if you don’t see the film.
Toto bassist Mike Porcaro has died from ALS. He was only 59.
Toto recorded slick (some would say soulless), radio friendly Pop music that went over well during the slick (some would say soulless) 1980s. I have to say I was never much of a fan of their music; their biggest hits “Africa” didn’t make any sense to me, and “Rosanna” never connected with me at all. I did like “Hold the Line,” although it’s really a generic song that could’ve been by almost anyone from that time. My favorite by them is probably the worst one, artistically speaking. It was one of the last hits I remember them having before they slipped into relative obscurity and disbanded. “I’ll Be Over You” is pure schmaltz, all gloss and very little substance. But it seems sincere, if a little clichéd. Diabetics should proceed with caution.
Doing a little research for this post, I found out that Toto was something of a brother act. There were three Porcaro boys playing in the band, including the late session man Jeff Porcaro. (I’m also a little ashamed to note that I didn’t recall that Jeff had died back in 1992.) I imagine it must have been fun for these brothers to work together. Of course, that’s an assumption I’m making since Toto has never turned up on my Quarreling Brothers list of bands; there don’t seem to be any Kinks-style blow ups here.
It’s tragic that Mike Porcaro died so young from such a horrible disease. ALS research got a huge bump last year when the ice bucket challenge went viral, so I hope the research that comes from that will help prevent anymore people from suffering this way. Here’s a link to the ALS Association homepage, in case you’re in a position to contribute.
I’ve mentioned my love of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series here before. His satirical fantasy world helped poke good humor and righteous outrage at human foibles and failings, small and large. I have fairly limited patience for most science fiction and fantasy, but anyone who makes me laugh as hard as Pratchett did transcends any bias I might have against the genres.
So you can imagine how heavy my heart is right now. Sir Terry Pratchett died today at 66, far too young. He was diagnosed in 2007 with a form of early onset Alzheimer’s. He fought the disease with the same good humor and righteous outrage found in his books.
I suppose I could’ve found something musical to post. Several of the Discworld novels were adapted for the screen, and I’m sure there was music in them. But I think I’d rather share with you my first exposure to Pratchett’s weird and wonderful flat world floating on the backs of four elephants, who are in turn floating on the back of a giant turtle. Reaper Man is centered around the character of Death, which is all I’m going to tell you about it. Audiobooks are a form of album, after all. (Although I personally recommend you read the books instead.)
“There’s a saying that all roads lead to Ankh-Morpork. And it’s wrong. All roads lead away from Ankh-Morpork, but sometimes people walk along them the wrong way.” —Terry Pratchett
Mom injured her back about a week and a half ago, and she’s not taking care of herself. Which means I am obsessing over everything. That also makes me unable to concentrate long enough to even think of a song I want to post. So until I’m more comfortable with her health, I’ll be taking some time off from the Jukebox. Hopefully, I’m just being paranoid (a distinct possibility), and it will be smooth sailing real soon.
My local morning news show used this song as a bumper leading into the commercials today. It’s been stuck in my head since then. But that’s okay, because I really like this song.
I was going to post the awesome original video, which features Pat and her band playing WWII soldiers on a secret mission to bring down a Nazi strategic post (Dirty Dozen, anyone?). But the version available on YouTube had some dude singing over Pat Benatar’s soaring vocals (probably his way of avoiding copyright problems). And the “best version” of a live clip had horrible sound. So I went with the boring album cover clip, because that was the best version of the song.
It’s pretty standard Rock/Pop fare, but “Shadows of the Night” has always been one of my favorite Benatar songs. She just belts it out for all she’s worth. The early to mid 80s were her best period, creatively and commercially. Nothing groundbreaking or avant-garde here, just good old-fashioned ear candy. And sometimes, all you really want is something sweet.
So I’ve got some news I’ve been sitting on for a while, partly because I’ve been busy with life and partly because I had some other things to post. But here it is, faithful Jukebox listeners. . .
I’m going back to school!
I got accepted to an online Master’s program at San Jose State University, which means I probably won’t be having any “hot for teacher” problems. It also means I don’t have to leave home or put on decent clothes to go to class (which is a shame since I just bought some new shoes). I’m looking forward to getting back to it, but I’m not looking forward to figuring out how to pay for it. (If anyone has any suggestions besides filling out the FAFSA form and student loans, I’m open to them.) Classes don’t begin until Fall, so I have a little time to pull it together.
I plan to keep up the Jukebox, in case anyone was wondering, but there might be times when I go off the grid for a week or two. This place is kind of a haven for me where I get to opine about life and music and other stuff pretty much at will, so I’m not going anywhere. I like having my own little soapbox to stand on.