Collector's Corner: Phil Collins's “In The Air Tonight” turns 40, was released on January 5, 1981

The single from "In the Air Tonight"came out on 5 January 1981. Videos and memories of a huge success.

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In his autobiography:

Phil Collins says that the song In the air tonight it was composed 99,9 percent spontaneously, the words flowed out of nowhere.

Again from the autobiography, Phil admits that instinctive truth emerges from raw emotion. Afterwards, in fact, he realized that the texts and the message of In the air tonight they are considerably higher than their sum
set off. There is a subliminal, subconscious aspect. These words adapt to music. The verses have a little bit of storyline, but there is not necessarily a connection between them and the anger he felt then, after the break with Andrea Bertorelli.

Collins admits that the words have been studied and dissected by many people over and over again. A guy gave him a thesis he had made for his degree; he had analyzed how many times he had used the article "the". Other people suggest conspiracy theories about a real drowning that Phil once witnessed. "What does it mean In the air tonight? ", says Phil." Does that mean I'm going on with my life, or trying to do it, "he replies.

Why didn't the song go into a Genesis album? In his precious memoirs Phil remembers that Tony Banks he often said that his songs only have three chords and, as such, were unworthy of being "Genesisised". For Banks In the air tonight it's just one drum machine and three chords. 

The way Phil makes the album that will become his first soloist,  Face Value,

establishes a method for future compositions. Collins records all the rumors in his home. Sing in an improvised way. Plays and writes what he sings. Write down what you have just sung. Sometimes the material is almost completely formed, other times it is useless and disposable. A song develops, slowly or quickly. 

Where does that drum sound come from that will characterize Phil Collins' future albums, but will influence much of the 80's sound?

The drummer and singer explicitly thanks Hugh Padgham. Hugh is a bass player but loves drums and has developed that innovative sound on the song of Peter Gabriel Intruder. In hindsight, Phil admits that the day or two they spent working on Peter's third album in 1979 changed his life.

So when it was time to find a sound for the drums of In the air tonightPhil wants to experience the sound they had made with Gabriel.

But, Phil admits, what the finished product is actually with is as extreme as it is in Intruder. Even if you place the mics in the same place and try to recreate the effects for the same sound, it will always be something different. What's more, the result changes every day. Different day, different result.

In any case, that Drum Fill has entered the history of rock: people always ask about it, says Phil. A point of reference for subsequent productions. 

In The Air Tonight initially reached number 1 in the Netherlands, becoming later a worldwide success. Even sales of Face Value they are excellent.

Tony Banks revealed in 2014 in the BBC documentary Sum of the parts

"We wanted Phil to do well. But not so well."

A song that has had many cover version, as can be heard in these selected tracks.

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