In The Air Tonight (In the air tonight) - the story of the Phil Collins song ...
"In the Air Tonight" is Phil Collins' biggest hit and the very first solo single, released in early 1981. The song quickly became a success, thanks not only to the lyrics, but also to the incredible drum solo! It was this solo that became the model of experimental rock and pop music for the rest of the decade... As for the lyrics, they are quite tragic. The composition tells about a drowning man and his helpless state… “Well, if you had told me that you were drowning, I would not have extended my hand” – with this phrase, Collins opens the first verse of his work. It is worth paying tribute to him as a musician: Phil managed to endow his creation with a mysterious tone, as well as an ambiguous, one might say creepy mood ... "Well, I was there, and I saw what you did - I saw it with my own eyes" - Collins refers to a person he doesn't trust. The song slowly but successfully tells a dark but interesting story of betrayal and grief...
The single quickly became a worldwide hit, and even received Gold status! To this day, "In the Air Tonight" remains the crown jewel of the Australian drummer's repertoire, his biggest achievement in his solo career. Critics call it a "classic of soft rock"! But what exactly inspired the musician to write such a dramatic composition? Today we will try to find out ...
The history of creation and musical style ...
"In the Air Tonight" was born shortly after Collins' divorce from his first wife, Andrea Bertorelli. According to the musician, the images and motives of the future hit came to him spontaneously ... However, - his word:
“I wrote this song spontaneously, without realizing it myself ... At that moment, I was overwhelmed with feelings such as anger, despair, disappointment ... It was a terrible period that it’s hard for me to remember ...”
At first, Collins wanted to include his creation in the Genesis album Duke, but the band members were skeptical about it ... As Tony Banks, the founder of Genesis, later admitted:
"I've already regretted my decision a million times..."
As for the musical background, it represents the so-called "avant-garde of experimental pop music". Phil himself admitted that the melody was influenced by the "ominous chords" of Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel ... It was played on Prophet-5. The ending of the track deserves special attention, with an explosive drum solo! By the way: this solo was included in the top 100 according to many influential publications.
“In the studio, I just played the fool! I knew what I wanted. I wanted to write such music that would reflect my inner state ... "
“...When the music was ready, I just turned on the microphone and started singing. At first, the severity of the track frightened me ... But then I realized: this is my inner state ... "
History of the legendary drum sound!
As noted above, the composition "In the Air Tonight" became widely famous due to the chic drum solo ... It captivated not only the audience, but also Collins' colleagues on stage. Even Ozzy Osbourne himself could not contain his admiration:
"This is the best and most amazing drum solo I've ever heard!" — said the leader of Black Sabbath.
Musically, critics have noted that musically, "In the Air Tonight" is an amazing creation inspired by sadness and grief. Most notable here is the drum sound, which is not heard for the first two minutes. Behind him, the drums enter the battle, which literally blow up the ending of the song!
So how did Collins achieve such a unique drum sound? Unfortunately, to this day it remains a mystery. According to Phil himself, this sound was the result of unintentional chaos in the studio ...
The original version of the song includes additional drums! Add them was suggested by the head of Atlantic Records.
Release and success!
The single was released in the early winter of 1981. The success of the song was truly stunning ... Speaking of him, Phil Collins himself emphasizes:
“It was a real surprise for me!”
And indeed: the debut solo recording of the musician entered the Top 40!
“When Dave Lee Travis and I were recording the Top of the Pops album, he said: “This record will break into the top three!” I didn't believe it, because how can an album, recorded literally at random, even enter the top ten? However, Dave was right. The very next week, Top of the Pops was in third place! And soon John Lennon was killed ... "
Subsequently, "In the Air Tonight" was used in many films and television series, including the legendary "Miami Vice". Even today, this classic remains relevant on some radio dedicated to rock ... In 1985, Phil performed his hit at the festival Live Aid!
“I will never forget how I performed this song on Live Aid…” Collins said. "And I'll never forget when Pete Townsend said, 'Are you going to do that fucking song again?' And I said, “Yes, since this is the only song that I can play even if they wake me up in the middle of the night ...”
As strange as it may seem, but a new round of fame fell on "In the Air Tonight" in 2007, thanks to ... advertising Dairy Milk! So, a certain gorilla playing drums helped the cult hit re-enter the UK top 40!
And now for the most magical performance that will change your perception of drummers and vocalists...
Probably, every person (well, or almost) hearing the word “vocalist” immediately imagines a sort of musical hero in shabby pants, who energetically runs around the stage with a microphone in his hands and brings the hall to a boil ... Most likely, he loves extravagant outfits and even makeup … But what if just one performance completely breaks this stereotype? Yes, get ready for this...
Now we are talking about the amazing performance of Phil Collins, who, with the help of invisible magic, delights the audience of many thousands ... This is really a fairy tale! But how, how does he do it? After all, outwardly, he looks more like ... probably a neighbor. However, this master has a few tricks! And their cunning lies in simplicity: Collins does not seek to turn on the audience, he does not wear outrageous costumes, and even more - he does not use pyrotechnics and other special effects at his concerts! A warm, light energy emanates from him, capable of touching everyone ... The show is secondary. In the first place - a gift (well, a voice, of course ...) And it either exists or it does not. That's it. And to transfer a person with the help of a song somewhere in Miami, to the ocean ... Yes, this is not even a gift, it's magic!
But that's not all that the listener needs to know about "In the Air Tonight"... Having talked about the success and musical background of the song, let's move on to the most interesting... Namely, the urban legend that has not ceased to fascinate music lovers even after many decades.
If you believe the legend, the song was born under a strong impression ... Allegedly, Collins was walking through the park and saw a man drowning on the other side. He would like to help the poor fellow, but he was too far ... Phil looked around and saw a man not far from the scene of the tragedy, who did not deign any desire to help the drowning man ... Then the musician figured out this man and invited him to his concert. Well, the subsequent story is familiar to many: with the help of the spotlight, Collins revealed the identity of the indifferent, and there was nothing left for him to do but run away from the hall. And then the legend loses its logical chain of events: some argue that this man lost his job, others say that he committed suicide ... Collins himself denies the legend:
“Everything that inspired me for this song was inspired by divorce and the disappointment that it brought me ... There is a lot of anger, a lot of anger, maybe even rage ... And when someone comes up to me and asks if I really saw myself drowning man, I answer: “No, it didn’t!” Sometimes this gossip upsets me ... Because people do not understand what I really wanted to convey with In the Air Tonight ... "
However, despite the dissatisfaction of the author himself, the urban legend continues to live and resonate in the hearts of not only fans, but also musicians! So, she is mentioned in Eminem's song "Stan".
Was it really, or is it just a figment of the imagination of the listeners ... Nevertheless, the legend adds romanticism and drama to the composition.