Ask a Dilettante – Phil Collins, Murder Witness

When/where is it ever appropriate/cool to wear a band’s t-shirt? Obviously not to their concert, but should you be a certain distance away from where the band is known/popular? I would think the goal would be to evangelize to people who don’t know they exist. Also, I have a Phil Collins concert T from the early 90’s. How should I destroy it? –Mason Jackson, Austin

If you’re talking about a local band’s tee shirt, whatever qualifies as “out of town” should be an appropriate enough distance. The further you go, the more the cool factor rises. However, when it comes to national acts, you can’t get far enough away. Especially since everyone knows that “official tour” merch goes for, at minimum, $30 these days. It just makes you look like a jackass with money to burn. Regarding the Phil Collins tee shirt, you could always wear it ironically. Which I guess is the second part of the equation. If distance = cool for local band shirts, perhaps time = acceptable for national acts.

The mention of Phil Collins started me thinking about the urban legend surrounding In the Air Tonight. Stories vary, but the basic version is that Phil witnessed someone’s death. This death was either caused by or could have been prevented by another man (who remains nameless in pretty much all forms of the tale). Rather than call the police, Phil invites the killer to a concert and debuts In the Air Tonight, singing directly to the murderer in the front row.

Ignoring the veracity of the story, just think about it for a moment… You’ve just killed someone. Perhaps it was self-defense, maybe it was a crime of passion, maybe you’re just a psycho killer. Whatever your reason, the murder would probably get you pretty jacked-up emotionally. You’re flying high on adrenalin. Your hands are bloody. You are mostly horrified by what you’ve done, but part of you is aroused. You think you might stop off for some drive-through fried chicken on the way home. Your mind is occupied by these thoughts and a million others as you turn away from the carnage to return to your car, shut the trunk and get the hell out of there. You aren’t looking up because you’re toweling the blood off your murderous hands when you realize that someone is standing right in front of you. Your heart jumps into your throat as you look up, sure it is the PO-lice.

It’s Phil Collins.

The randomness of Phil Collins standing there is just too much. I don’t think it would even bother you, the murderer, that much. It would just be too random.

Uh, hey Phil Collins.

Phil is standing there in an overcoat and a snap-brim hat. He’s not saying anything as he stares off into nothingness.

Perhaps he is distracted by something he hears in the air tonight.

[This column originally appeared in its entirety on Houstonist.]