Ph. D. – I Won’t Let You Down
Very few people outside if the United Kingdom knew, in 1981, what a Ph.D. was, what it meant. Or maybe even just what it was: in the early 1980s, university wasn’t really for everyone. So, in early April of that year, when thanks to the amazing success of this song Ph.D. suddenly became famous in most of Europe, everybody learned that this name was related to the highest degree in universities.
The first feeling, then, was somehow confusing, perhaps we expected to be in front of philosophers, masters of knowledge, people with white hair and beards, and instead we get two English boys who are absolutely ironic and witty, not at all credible in the shoes of university professors.
The two boys actually had to be three, because the name Ph. D. was composed of the initials of the surnames of Simon Philips, Tony Hymas, and Jim Diamond. Simon Philips actually left shortly after recording the first songs, but the band’s name did not change. Simon Philips is perhaps the one who had the most variegated career among the three, as he has played for Toto, the band of Rosanna and Africa, The Who, Mike Oldfield, author of Moonlight Shadow and Foreign Affair, Asia, and also with people like Pete Townsend, Brian Eno, Mick Jagger and Murray Head, the author of One night in Bangkok.
The frontman of the band was certainly Scottish singer Jim Diamond. Often, in fact, especially in music shows of the time such as Top of the Pops or others, he appeared alone, or in any case with Hymas very on the sidelines and hardly recognizable. And Jim Diamond was everything but the stereotype of the university professor.
I won’t let you down was an incredible success, coming in third place in the UK and in the top two in all the major charts in Europe. In France, the song remained on the charts for nine months.
The song is a plea to win back the lost girl, assuring her that she will no longer be abandoned and put aside. The lyrics are original, but the music is absolutely perfect for Jim’s sharp but powerful voice, which really gets into our ears and brain after a few listens.
The video gives us a better understanding of who Ph.D. really were: beyond the rather solemn song, the video is almost comical! At first we see Jim Diamond trying to win back the beautiful girl who walks before him with her dog. The videos of the time were shot in 4:3, so the human shapes are widened when seen today in 16:9, but the girl was really remarkable. He is full of gifts for her, but she does not give him any attention and is annoyed by his presence. He takes her to bars and restaurants to win her back, but there’s nothing to do.
The comic thing is that throughout the video there is the presence of an inconvenient third man, a character with the classic maniac’s attire, raincoat, glasses, moustaches, acted of course by Tony Hymas, who tries to sabotage Jim Diamond’s courtship. At first with simple maneuvers such as throwing a banana peel where Jim passes, then switching to poisoned cocktails and bombs in flower pots.
Jim Diamond, however, always manages to avoid deception with lucky moves, exchanging cocktails or gifting the flower pot with the bomb to the girl who then throws it away.
In the end, poor Jim buys a used car from a dealer, Tony Hymas in disguise, and as soon as Jim gets on his new white Fiat 128, a scraper crane lifts the car, while Tony Hymas happily walks away with the girl. True English humour: more than a video, all looks like a Benny Hill show!!!
There are other versions of the video, made for the music broadcasts we mentioned. In one of them, Jim Diamond addresses his plea to two absolutely identical twins sitting in front of him and then around him. The funny thing is, they can’t stay serious, and all three can barely stifle laughter.
Ph.D. released one album in 1981 and one in 1983, then Diamond and Hymas disbanded. They reformed the band in 2006 to record their third album, and played together until 2015, when unfortunately the great Jim Diamond disappeared at the age of sixty-four. But the notes of I won’t let you down keep him forever in the hearts of us Dinosaurs.
Ph. D. on Wikipedia