I've had that damn song stuck in my head ever since. If any of Phil Collins' music can be said to have something unique about it, that's the song. If nothing else, it's inextricably intertwined with the glory 80's days of "Miami Vice" - when a t-shirt with a jacket with the sleeves rolled up was super-cool, and stubble first made its appearance on leading men. Ah, the 80's.
So this morning on the shower, I was marvelling at the power and tenacity that song has as an earworm. It's a real buster - the lyrics are so repetitive, so you can't tell if you've just got a fragment of the song stuck in your head, or if it's the whole song, and it's just a lousy song. What a mind-numbing curtain of banality ... the kind of thing that someone who's seen too much, more than man was meant to know, might find rattling around in his head over and over again to preserve the tissue-thin skein of sanity.
...and then it hit me. Phil Collins, Cthulhu cultist. There have been many theories about what exactly "In the Air Tonight" is about - a witness to some brutal crime? A fight? What? But now I have the answer -- and behind the cut, I'll give you the details.
I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord
Ive been waiting for this moment, all my life, oh lord
Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord, oh lord
Lord. "it" is coming in the air tonight. Hmm. Now, if this were a song about the witness to a crime, what exactly would be coming in the air tonight? It's not logical at all. But, if "it" is in fact the rising of sleeping Cthulhu from his bed in watery R'Lyeh... well, that makes much more sense! Indeed, it become even subtle and almost a pun - "oh lord" is not simply a cry for reprieval to the Creator God - but perhaps also an exultant cry along the lines of "Ia, Ia, Ia, Cthulhu F'tag'n!" Maybe that translates as "Oh lord, oh lord, oh lord Cthulhu, in the air tonight", no? Then this becomes a subtle and nuanced lyric, that adequately expresses Collins' simultaneous dread and joy - the ecstatic accomplishment of awakening one of the Elder Gods - but also the blunt and stark fear at the horror that is to come, and some little corner of the sane mammal that is left wishing to be preserved. Yes, that's clearly it.
Well, if you told me you were drowning
I would not lend a hand
Ive seen your face before my friend
But I dont know if you know who I am
As an expression of disdain for someone who Collins might have witnessed doing some fell deed, this is weak. But what if "my friend" is the very same lord to whom he calls out in the first verse? Then of course he would not lend a hand if he were drowning - dread Cthulhu has lived for millennia beneath the waves - he can't drown! His faith in his lord would be such that lending a hand would be sheer arrogance, to imagine that Cthulhu needs the help of a pudgy, bald Englishmen with swimming! And indeed, as a masked cultist Collins has seen Cthulhu before - in ritual and perhaps in nightmares - but why should Cthulhu the Terrible recognize this insect? He wouldn't, of course.
Well, I was there and I saw what you did
I saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off the grin, I know where youve been
Its all been a pack of lies
What does this mean? Again,as a witnesses statement - confusing. But, as the confession of a cultist who has seen his Horrid Master at work in the Dreaming Lands, it makes perfect sense. Though Cthulhu may stride as a giant as he sleeps, and is active in the Dreaming Land, it's all a pack of lies. He's been sleeping beneath the waves in shadowy R'Lyeh, of course - Collins knows where he's been.
And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord
Ive been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh lord
I can feel it in the air tonight, oh lord, oh lord
And Ive been waiting for this moment all my life, oh lord, oh lord
Here again - his excitement mounts. The stars have aligned, it is "coming in the air tonight" - and he calls out to Cthulhu. See first verse above.
Well I remember, I remember dont worry
How could I ever forget, its the first time, the last time we ever met
It might seem as though "the first time, the last time" means that upon the last occasion they met, it was also the first occasion. But no - here Collins admits that he can only meet Cthulhu once - he knows he will be consumed by his Dread Lord in an agony of bone-crunching and soul-swallowing. And how could he forget? These things would be seared forever on his puny mortal brain - even were he to survive the encounter, he would be a hollow shell of a human, a thin layer of skin and bones over a bottomless well of insanity... his only shroud from the terror, an endless loop of banal 80's pop lyrics!
But I know the reason why you keep your silence up, no you dont fool me
The hurt doesnt show; but the pain still grows
Its no stranger to you or me
Here, rather than a muddled sort of "j'accuse!" Collins is confessing the depths to which he has immersed himself in the horrific knowledge that is best left unknown. So learned is he - and so fractured of mind - he understands the dreaming silence of Cthulhu, as he sleeps. The "hurt" in his mind doesn't show - thus far he has kept up the pretense of sanity and normalcy - but it's a thin pretense, and the gnawing horror in his mind is growing. He knows this horror and pain is the welcome companion of the Elder Gods.
And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord...