Dad’s All-Time Favorite Song

Part 1: The Favorite Song of My Youth

Here we are, the inaugural post on my “Media” section of this site. This space will be used to talk about music, television, movies and other stuff I come across and want to talk about. It’s obviously been difficult to get together with people post-COVID. Those times that we’d have people over and put on music or watch a television show were already growing further apart now that we negotiate bed time for two kiddos. I really miss impromptu conversations of mutual appreciation, so please feel free to contribute in the comments!

I have a few posts in mind for the coming weeks/months/when I can actually get around to it. Expect a listening session with The Radio Dept., a band I recently discovered and am really enjoying this autumn. I’ll be focusing heavily on their album “Clinging to a Scheme” (2010), but I’ll also touch on some of their stronger B-sides and one-off singles that aren’t featured on any of their “proper” albums. I’ll also be asking for, and responding to, input on an upcoming topic: best 3-track “run” on an album. More to come on that later. For this first post, I’d like to share with you my favorite song, why it’s my favorite, and why it will always be my favorite.

A couple of housekeeping things before we dive in:

I’m not trying to sell you on this song. I’m just sharing a couple of stories with you. You’re allowed to dislike the song.

This is not a story about the “Greatest” song of all time. There’s a lot of all-time, by-the-decade, and yearly lists out there. This is not that. My favorite song is not the greatest song of all time. It’s my greatest song of all time.

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Before we get to my actual song, I’d like to tell you about the runner up, because I like the story and figured I’d tell it. My very first favorite song was “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. “In the Air Tonight” was a single from Phil’s 1981 debut album Face Value. This detail is important.

If you’ve never heard the song before, you can try this video:

As of this writing, the video above has around 7.5 million views on YouTube and has introduced “In the Air Tonight” to countless members of Gen Z. This has led to the song re-entering the Billboard Charts.

Or you can try the official music video:

This is listed on YouTube as the “Official” video for the song. I hadn’t realized that the single version had additional drums throughout. I don’t think it’s an improvement.

“In the Air Tonight” firmly held the position of Dad’s Favorite Song of All Time back when I was a kid and had only heard 100 songs. I remember being introduced to it while someone in my family watched a Miami Vice rerun. Do you remember how strongly “In the Air Tonight” used to be associated with Miami Vice? Phil Collins may be having a resurgence now, but he was not cool when I was a kid. With that said, tell me this isn’t cool:

Director: “Give me more sexy car. I’ve gotta have MORE sexy car!”

Now that’s a mood. The long establishing shots tell you everything you need to know about the stakes at hand. Lots of sexy car. Lots of staring into the long, dark night of the soul. Then the gun comes out. “How much time we got?” says a young, great-looking Don Johnson. “25 minutes,” replies the triple-first-named Philip Michael Thomas. Who even cares where they’re going or what they’re doing? I sure don’t remember. I just know they looked awesome. A young me wished he would ever be this cool. I still wish I could ever be this cool. Phil Collins wishes he was this cool. “In the Air Tonight” was the soundtrack to this mood, and that mood was what I thought adulthood would be like. Driving around at night in sexy cars, looking great, seeking out a bit of danger. Adults had it made. I was probably 10 at the time.

Not much later, I received my first CD Walkman as a gift. You remember those, the kind that you had to hold just so, or else the CD would skip all over the place? I had heard you could skip an entire track just by pushing a button! I got one of those. It was glorious. But I didn’t have any CDs to play in the damn thing, because nobody in my house owned any. So what should I get for my very first CD?

I know! A Phil Collins album! Then I can listen to my favorite song whenever I want! Brilliant! I could also listen to his other song I like, “Another Day in Paradise”! (Side note: it was much later that I realized “Another Day in Paradise” addresses the issue of homelessness, a field that I worked in for several years).

A few words about music delivery systems for you kids out there. Right now, you likely have something in your pocket that can play any song you want, whenever you want. I’m very happy for you. I also have one of those. When I was a kid, however, I had a CD Walkman. A CD Walkman only played one CD at a time, and that CD had a limited amount of tracks on it. You’re welcome for this history lesson.

For the holidays that year, I knew that I wanted to be able to listen to my favorite song whenever I wanted. Toward that purpose, I asked for this exact thing: “A Phil Collins CD”.

And what did I receive? Exactly that!

No Jacket Required is the third solo album by Phil Collins. It was released in 1985. It features the hits “One More Night”, “Sussudio”, “Don’t Lose My Number”, and “Take Me Home”. I opened it feverishly, unable to wait a moment longer to hear my favorite song “whenever I wanted”, which in this case, was RIGHT NOW. I scanned through the tracks, skipping each one until I heard the opening drones of “In the Air Tonight”, waiting to be magically transported to a super cool car under my new identity as Don Johnson’s wingman.

Of course that never happened, because as you know, “In the Air Tonight” was featured on Face Value, and not on No Jacket Required. It was in this moment, and the several conversations I had with my mom afterward, that I learned a terrible truth: not every CD by an artist features all of their greatest songs. It was a hard way to learn what an “album” is. I continued to learn that lesson when I bought both of Led Zeppelin’s greatest hits compilations, Early Days and Latter Days, only to discover neither featured “Dyer Maker” or “Fool in the Rain”. Don’t they realize what their best songs are?

I never bothered getting a copy of Face Value, or even a Phil Collins Greatest Hits CD. “In the Air Tonight” was so ubiquitous that I never had to worry about finding it on the radio. I put it on a few mixtapes. I learned to like some of the songs on No Jacket Required. I remember listening to “One More Night” over the course of a particularly hot summer, really feeling my feelings as a 12 year old. My love for “In the Air Tonight” waned a bit over the years, but I’ll still listen to it if it pops up; I have it on my No-Skip list. And if it comes on during a night drive, I turn it up, always keeping my phone close, in case Don Johnson calls.

But you didn’t come here to hear about a song that used to be my favorite, did you? Click the 2 below to continue on to “Dad’s Favorite Song of All Time.”

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