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#ThrowbackThursday: “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins

"In the Air Tonight" was the lead single to Phil Collins 1981 debut solo album Face Value.
  – "In the Air Tonight" was the lead single to Phil Collins 1981 debut solo album Face Value.

by Sean Smith

Phil Collins announced recently that he will be returning to music after spending the past four years in retirement. He plans on getting back into the studio and recording a new album, reissuing his past solo albums, as well as embarking on a world tour.

Shortly after Collins announced his intentions of returning to music, the internet did what it typically does to pretty much everyone and trolled the pop-rock icon. A man by the name of Brian Pee started a petition on Change.org which called on the United Nations to stop Phil Collins from coming out of retirement, going as far as to say “There is far too much suffering in the world as it is. This must be stopped.” The petition quickly gained a few thousand signatures before Mr. Pee closed the petition down letting upset fans know it was just a joke meant to be circulated with a few friends before it went viral.

Phil Collins made a name for himself in music as a drummer for Genesis, joining the band in 1970. He would later go on to a very successful solo career churning out a number of hits over the decades. The likes of which include “Another Day in Paradise,” “Sussudio,” “Against All Odds,” and “A Groovy Kind Of Love” just to name a few. But his solo success all started with the first single from his debut solo effort, and that song is the subject of this week’s #tbt here on Clizbeats.

In 1981 Phil Collins released his debut solo album Face Value. The first single released to promote the record was “In the Air Tonight.” The track became a #1 hit for Collins in six countries around the world, but only reached as high as #2 in his native UK and #19 in the U.S. “In the Air Tonight” is perhaps most famous for Collin’s epic drum break which comes in at about halfway through the song.

As for the origins of the song’s lyrics, many untrue rumors have sprouted up over the years and spread like wildfire. One of these rumors is that Collin’s wrote the song about a time when he witnessed from a far a man watch another man drowning and didn’t try to save his life. There are multiple variations to the story and they often end with Phil Collins playing the song at a concert with the person who didn’t help the drowning victim being put on the spot. These are of course all false. The true origins of the song are rooted in Phil Collins dealing with a divorce from his first wife, with the lyrics and the overall dark tone of the track aimed at his former spouse.

So with the news that Phil Collins is ending his short-lived retirement and once again returning to music, this week we remember his debut solo single “In the Air Tonight.” Enjoy.

Phil Collins

“In the Air Tonight”

From: Face Value

Virgin/Atlantic Records