You don’t hear the 1986 Genesis song "Tonight Tonight Tonight" very often these days, but back then it was absolutely inescapable.
This was a weird period of time where seemingly half the songs on the radio were either by Genesis or one of the many offshoot acts like Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Mike and the Mechanics, or GTR.
When Genesis hit the road in 1986 to promote Invisible Touch, the tour was sponsored by Michelob and they shot a commercial for the beer company that used "Tonight Tonight Tonight," which you can see right here. There’s not much of a story to the spot beyond attractive yuppies enjoying their Michelobs at a bar while Genesis perform in the background. It would be tough to find 60 seconds on YouTube that look and feel more 1980s than this besides maybe Glenn Frey’s "You Belong to the City" video, which almost seems to take place at the same bar with the same crowd of yuppies. (Watching it now, you half expect Patrick Bateman from American Psycho to pop into the frame and start talking about the brilliance of Genesis and Huey Lewis and the News.)
Nobody at the time seemed to stop and realize that "Tonight Tonight Tonight" is about a drug addict desperate for a fix and might not be appropriate for a commercial selling another addictive substance. "I got some money in my pocket/About ready to burn," the addict moans to his dealer in "Tonight Tonight Tonight." "I don’t remember where I got it/I gotta get it to you/So please answer the phone/‘Cause I keep calling/But you’re never home/What am I gonna do?"
By the end, our narrator is overtaken by the agony of withdrawal and screaming for help: "Oh, get me out of here/Please get me out of here/Just help me, I’ll do anything, anything/If you’ll just help, get me out of here!" Oh, and by the way, enjoy a cool, frosty glass of Michelob and watch your problems melt away.
Genesis weren’t the only rock stars of this era to appear in commercials for drinks. David Bowie, Tina Turner and Michael Jackson all shilled for Pepsi while Paula Abdul sold Coke and Eric Clapton joined Genesis in appearing in a Michelob commercial. Billy Joel dismissed all this as "rock and roller cola wars" in "We Didn’t Start the Fire" and Neil Young viciously mocked them in "This Note For You." In a sad twist, Phil Collins later developed a significant drinking problem that nearly killed him and has been sober for years now. His Michelob nights are long over.
© RollingStone, by Andy Greene
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