January 12, 2013 in STUFF I LIKE

Interesting facts about “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins

Face Value


I have been sitting at home tonight listening to some gems from my vinyl collection.  After listening to “Face Value” in it’s entirety, I was inspired to surf the internets for some interesting facts about “In The Air Tonight.”  Here are a few highlights…

1. In an interview with Mix magazine, Collins explained that he wrote this song after returning from a tour. Said Collins: “I got back to find that I had a lot of time on my hands because the family wasn’t there, I rang up and said, ‘Can I have my drum machine?’ because I had to start writing some of this music that was inside me. Face Value was all written over a period of a year-and-a-half, and some songs were written overnight. ‘In the Air Tonight’ was just a drum machine pattern that I took off that CR78 drum machine. You could eliminate certain sounds and program bass drums and snare drums, so I programmed a bass drum part into it, but basically the rest of it was already on there. I probably added an acoustic Fender piano pretty early. I was coming from Genesis recording and rehearsing history where sometimes we didn’t know what the vocal was going to be doing when we recorded the track because lyrics were sometimes written after the track was recorded. I remember the first principle I had for making my record was that I would get a voice down very quickly so everything else would fit to the voice. The lyrics you hear for ‘In the Air Tonight,’ I just sang. I opened my mouth and they came out. I never wrote anything down and then afterward, I listened to it and wrote them down.”

2. Collins wrote this song about the anger he felt after divorcing his first wife Andrea in 1979. He was so devastated that he left Genesis for a short time. All the original songs on the Face Valuealbum, including the followup hit “I Missed Again,” were at one time intended to be “messages” to his first wife in an attempt to lure her back to him. The lingering tension caused by the divorce led Collins to the title, as these negative feelings were “In The Air,” and effecting not just the couple getting divorced, but the entire family.

3. The meaning of this song became a pervasive Urban Myth. The story, which is not true, is that Collins watched as a man who raped his wife drowned. Another version has Collins writing this about about a man who watched another drown, and singing it to him at a concert. Yet another variation claims that when Collins was a young boy, he witnessed a man drowning someone but was too far away to help. Later, he hired a private detective to find the man, sent him a free ticket to his concert, and premiered the song that night with the spotlight on the man the whole time. We repeat, these stories are not true.

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