fripodding and drowning – “in the air tonight” phil collins


We’ve all heard the story, which is maybe now in myth or legend territory now, about the story behind this song, why it was written, who it was written for, and the dramatic scene in which it was performed. Sure it’s false, but isn’t it just great in an eerie if not totally unbelievable way? Well… the unbelievable part is the “dramatic scene in which it was performed” part.

In case you never heard the rumor about this song, one night, singer-songwriter Phil Collins and out and about being singer-songwriter Phil Collins… presumably out by some body of water. Well, legend has it that singer-songwriter Phil Collins noticed someone drowning and pleading for help from some dude who either put him in such a drowning situation or just stood there watching this poor drowning man suffer. Apparently, singer-songwriter Phil Collins wasn’t close enough to save this man himself, or else maybe this song would be dramatically different and not so dark and eerie as it sounds. Anyway, after the supposed crime is committed, the non-savior gets away scott-free… apparently grinning that he got away with murder. Or would it be attempted murder? Involuntary manslaughter? Surely there’s a proper name for not helping to save someone from dying. Anyway, singer-songwriter Phil Collins goes out and hires a private eye to track this guy down to give him a free ticket to a concert. The dude attends the concert unaware that singer-songwriter Phil Collins wrote a song all about what he did, and when he performs the song, there is a spotlight on the let-’em-drowner and only on him, just to say “hey buddy, this one’s for you because I know what you did and now the rest of the world does too.”

But, needless to say, the story isn’t true. I still like it and like to pretend that happened. I’ve heard variations on the truth such as the song is about the bitter break up of singer-songwriter Phil Collins and his wife, or the song’s lyrics don’t really mean much of anything. However, the latter I might be getting confused with “Stairway to Heaven”… another song without real interpretation. Don’t let the truth ruin a good story, right?

Regardless of the facts or fictions of this song, it’s one of the classics. I don’t think I really need to explain why it is, but I’d be surprised if I meet anyone over 20 that hasn’t heard it. How many movies has it been featured in? I don’t really know, but there’s The Hangover, Big Trouble and Miami Vice the movie and TV show just to name a few. But it’s just one of those kinds of songs everyone knows.

What exactly singer-songwriter Phil Collins feels in the air tonight, I was never entirely sure. But whatever it is, or was, it can’t be good. But I can’t help but think singer-songwriter Sir Elton John might have picked up a similar vibe or may have been inspired by happier things while listening to the song that helped him to write “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” Just a thought, and a wild connection to link Phil Collins, Elton John, Disney classics The Lion King and Tarzan together. Too much of a stretch? Okay, sorry.

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Posted in fripodding, music, music video, story, storytelling
3 comments on “fripodding and drowning – “in the air tonight” phil collins
  1. Koala says:

    Um, PHIL COLLINS IS ONE OF MY MOST BELOVED childhood singers….(why did you keep writing singer-songwriter ? i would have edited that out)
    next to Tina Turner, whom my dad and I love, we also share a love for Mr.Collins.
    I probably knew “In The Air Tonight” since I existed the womb – a good five years after it’s release. I never realized the story behind this one, again you’re more into semantics and I think I like the composition of music more so. But it’s interesting to speculate. Some good stories in songs come from “Philadelphia” or “Layla”
    Also, it was only when I was in US that I learned he was first in a band named Genesis, from which, another great one emerged solo: Peter Gabriel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zrzr4R3LpsQ

    • t. sterling says:

      Oh yeah, there was so much more I could talk about this song… specifically how he composed and how there aren’t any cymbals used which I thought was pretty incredible. But it’s just a really awesome song for that reason dozens of others.

      As for singer-songwriter Phil Collins and why I referred to him that way, it was just a gag. I see a few times on TV shows whenever some legendary celebrity shows up and all the characters refer to him as his job title and call him by his full name. I just took it a step further just to be extra. Apparently it worked since you noticed 🙂

  2. ask says:

    Thank you a bunch for sharing this with all of us you really know what you are talking approximately!
    Bookmarked. Please also seek advice from my website =).
    We can have a link change agreement among us

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