Phil Collins - In the Air Tonight. Picture: Virgin

It's become arguably Phil's best known & most loved song ever, thanks to lớn its haunting lyrics & incredible drum solo, but did you know its history?

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What does the song mean? How was its distinctive sound created? Find out all you need khổng lồ know right here:

What was the song about?

Phil wrote the song during the grief he felt after divorcing his first wife Andrea Bertorelli in 1980. The divorce contributed to lớn his 1979 hiatus from Genesis, until the band regrouped in October of that year to lớn record the album Duke.

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All of the original songs on the Face Value album, including follow-up hit 'I Missed Again', were intended to lớn be "messages" to lớn his first wife, in an attempt khổng lồ lure her back to lớn him.

Phil said in 2016: "I wrote the lyrics spontaneously. I'm not quite sure what the tuy nhiên is about, but there's a lot of anger, a lot of despair và a lot of frustration."

It spawned a spooky urban legend


The story goes that Phil watched as a man who once attacked his wife drowned. Another version was that Phil wrote the tuy vậy about a man who watched another man drown, and sang it to lớn him at a concert.

Yet another version claims that when Phil was a young boy, he witnessed a man drowning someone but was too far away khổng lồ help. Later, he hired a private detective khổng lồ find the man, sent him a không tính tiền ticket to lớn his concert, and premiered the tuy nhiên that night with the spotlight on the man the whole time.

Of course, none of these stories are true.

How was the tuy nhiên made?

The tuy nhiên is known for its atmospheric production and rather macabre theme, và was thought khổng lồ have been influenced by the likes of Brian Eno and his ex-bandmate Peter Gabriel.

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It consists of a series of ominous chords, played by a Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 over a drum machine pattern (the Roland CR-78 Disco-2 pattern), processed electric guitar & vocoded vocals. The tuy nhiên builds up until an explosive burst of drums releases the tension.

Phil improvised the lyrics during a songwriting session in the studio. He said: "I was just fooling around. I got these chords that I liked, so I turned the mic on & started singing. The lyrics you hear are what I wrote spontaneously. That frightens me a bit, but I'm quite proud of the fact that I sang trọng 99.9% of those lyrics spontaneously."

It originally didn't have a drum beat before the 'magic break'

The original single version of the tuy vậy features extra drums that play underneath the song until the signature drum crash. These were added after it was suggested to vì so by Atlantic Records chief Ahmet Ertegun.

Phil said: "Ahmet came down to lớn the final mix in the cutting room in New York. The drums don't come in until the kết thúc but Ahmet didn't know that at this point, because on the test the drums hadn't come in at all; it was only drum machine all the way

"And he was saying, 'Where's the down beat, where's the backbeat?'. I said, 'The drums come in in a minute.' 'Yeah, you know that & I know that, but the kids don't know that; you've got lớn put the drums on earlier.' So we added some drums to the mix and put it out as a single."

The music đoạn clip was very simple but effective

So iconic, and so simple.

It was a huge hit

The song reached number two in the UK (held off the đứng đầu by John Lennon's posthumous 'Woman'), and has sold over 3 million copies in the States. It also reached the đứng đầu 10 in at least 13 other countries, & has arguably become his signature song.

Phil performed a cheeky version on đứng đầu of the Pops

When Phil found out that his former wife had run off with a painter and decorator, he performed this tuy nhiên with a pot of paint và a brush on a workbench next to his keyboard.

Collins claimed that the bench is what he used for a keyboard stand, và when he saw the paint và brush backstage, he thought it would make a nice look. Coincidence?

His ex-wife didn't buy it. "I felt sick and betrayed," she told the Daily Mail. "I knew straight away it was a message lớn me."