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Topic subjector not.
Topic URLhttp://board.okayplayer.com/okp.php?az=show_topic&forum=22&topic_id=32126&mesg_id=32133
32133, or not.
Posted by bignick, Tue Jan-10-06 06:03 PM
>Like In the Air of the Night... Phil Collins
>watching his brother's killer die by drowning and does
>nothing... damn if that doesn't change the drums coming in I
>don't know what does...


Claim: Phil Collins wrote the song In the Air Tonight after witnessing an incident in which a man refused to come to the aid of a drowning swimmer.

Status: False.


The story has to do with Phil Collins supposedly watching his close friend drown from a nearby cliff, while he stood helpless, too far away to rescue. In addition, supposedly there was a man who could have rescued the friend but just stood idly by. Then, Phil writes a song about the experience and gives the man a front row ticket to the show where he premieres the song. While Phil sings the song to him, the spotlight is on the man in the front row.

Variations: There are many variations in the details of this seemingly straightforward legend:

The song is usually said to be a first-person account, but it is sometimes I've seen your face before, my friend reported that Collins based the song on an incident he heard about (but did not witness).

The time lapse between Collins' witnessing the incident and his writing the song varies: he wrote the song right away, he waited several years, or he wrote the song many years later (because he was a child when the incident took place).

The nature of the tragic incident also varies: it is most often a man standing idly by while someone else drowns (or nearly drowns), but other forms mention a deliberate drowning (i.e., murder), a rape (of Collins' wife), and Collins' catching his wife in an adulterous act.

The victim takes on one of several identities: Collins' brother, Collins' wife (but only when the incident involves a rape), a close friend of Collins', a stranger, a rapist (whom Collins recognizes as his wife's attacker and refuses to help), and Phil Collins himself (who supposedly nearly drowned when a boat he was sailing in capsized).

Collins himself does not aid the drowning victim himself because he is either too drunk (or stoned), too far away, or too busy soliciting help.

In versions where Collins learns the identity of the killer/rapist (sometimes by hiring a private detective), he invites the man to an upcoming concert (sometimes specifically arranged to take place in the man's home town) or sends him tickets anonymously.

At the subsequent concert, Collins premieres "In the Air Tonight," which he sings while a spotlight shines on the invited guest (or while he stares at the man, without the spotlight). In some variations Collins never learns the man's identity and sings the song at every concert as an anonymous accusation.

The results of Collins' musical revelation vary: the invited stranger is humiliated (sometimes leading to a divorce or job loss), he commits suicide, or he is arrested by waiting policemen.

Origins: In the
Air Tonight (as well as most of Collins' 1981 Face Value album) deals with his bitterness and frustration over the end of his marriage to his first wife, Andrea. As Collins has repeatedly explained, the lyrics are not based on any specific real-life event.

Last updated: 12 September 2000


Years later, Collins commented on the legends about the song in a BBC World Service interview:

I don't know what this song is about. When I was writing this I was going through a divorce. And the only thing I can say about it is that it's obviously in anger. It's the angry side, or the bitter side of a separation. So what makes it even more comical is when I hear these stories which started many years ago, particularly in America, of someone come up to me and say, 'Did you really see someone drowning?' I said, 'No, wrong'. And then every time I go back to America the story gets Chinese whispers, it gets more and more elaborate. It's so frustrating, 'cos this is one song out of all the songs probably that I've ever written that I really don't know what it's about, you know.