Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
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.
Variations: The various forms of this legend encompass many differences in detail:
[I] always thought it was true ... seeing a guy drown .,. same guy that he'd seen rape a girl in an alley. (1993)The non-specificity of the song's lyrics allowed for a variety of interpretations, with lines such as "Well, if you told me you were drowning I would not lend a hand" and "I've seen your face before my friend, but I don't know if you know who I am," and "Well, I was there and I saw what you did; I saw it with my own two eyes" lending themselves to the construction of some particularly sinister scenarios:
Every once in a while, I'll hear someone mention that there is a story behind the Phil Collins song "In the air tonight."
At any rate Phil supposedly wrote this song after watching another man watch someone drown. He was too drunk/stoned to help himself. The other man apparently could have done something to save the drowning person, but didn't.
One version of this story even has Phil doing detective work to find the identity of the bystander, inviting him to a concert for free (without revealing why), and then humiliating him in front of a huge crowd. The guy's wife divorces him, he loses his job, etc. (1994)
Definitely TRUE (except the part about the spotlite, although he was in the front row. Probably looked like a spotlite was on him). Right after the show the guy in question killed himself. (1994)
Okay. My first girlfriend was a big Genesis/Phil Collins fan, and according to something she had heard 'In the Air Tonite' was inspired by Phil finding his then-wife in bed with another man at a party they were attending. (1994)
What I heard about the song is it's Phil (or the storyteller) noting that a friend watched someone drown in a lake and did not offer to help. (1994)
I heard that Phil Collins when he small, witnessed an individual drowning another individual. Apparently that individual looked up and spotted Phil. To this day, at every concert, Phil starts out singing this song as an accusation aimed at this individual. (1994)
Last nite at happy hour, good ol' Phil came on the jukebox singin "In the Air Tonite." Me an the boys got to talkin (and doin the drum solo) when one of 'em mentions what sounds to me like a UL. He says, the inspiration for this song came from years ago. Phil's wife had been raped and Phil knew who it was. Much later, at nite, Phil is walkin round a lake when he hears calls for help from the lake. Some guy is drowning. Phil swims out to save the guy, but when he reaches him, he finds it's the rapist! He lets him go, swims back to shore and lets him drown. (1996)
The version of the story that I heard is:
1) Phil's wife is raped.
2) He (Phil) finds out where the rapist lives.
3) He arranges to play a concert in the rapist's home town.
4) A ticket for the concert is then sent to the rapist's house.
5) Phil debuts the song at the concert. (1996)
I heard a similar story about 10 years ago about that song ... I believe I heard it on Casey Kasem's
I heard a slight variation on this story in which the drowning victim was a camper at a summer camp and the guy at the concert was a camp counselor who didn't save the camper because he was busy getting laid. (1996)
I've heard Phil Collins trying to kill this rumor for years, but it keeps popping back up.
About ten years ago there was a rumor circulating that he'd written his song "In The Air Tonight" as a response to having witnessed someone drowning — the rumor went that he raced to the shore of the beach someplace after having spotted someone drowning from quite a ways away, but by the time he'd gotten down to shore the victim had gone under for the third time. That's when Collins (so the story goes) saw there was someone else right on the beach, who'd been watching the whole time and hadn't done a thing to help. Variations of the tale that I've heard claim that the victim was a relative of his. (1996)
What I had heard about "In the Air Tonight" had to do with Phil's younger brother who died in some boating accident.
The guy who was goofing off and pushed him in denied it happened and then the whole concert thing. etc., etc. (1996)
I heard a story that the song "In the Air Tonight" is about a guy who had seen his wife raped, and then later saw the same man drowning, but didn't help him. Acording to the person who told me this, it was a true story (they also told me that this had happened to Phil Collins?) (1996)
My story on this song is somewhat different. It involves Collins being the witness to a death
On the radio in the area where I work, a song by Phil Collins was playing. One of my
Anyway, Phil Collins found out who the guy was, wrote In The Air Tonight, and mailed front row tickets to the guy for a concert in this guy's town,
During the concert, Phil Collins pointed the guy out, while Phil Collins sang this song.
The guy went home and hung himself. (1996)
I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh LordLighting effects used when Collins performed the song on subsequent tours may have fed versions of the legend that end with the perpetrator being identified and singled out via spotlight:
I've been waiting for this moment, all my life, Oh Lord
Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord, Oh Lord
Well, if you told me you were drowning
I would not lend a hand
I've seen your face before my friend
But I don't know if you know who I am
Well, I was there and I saw what you did
I saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off the grin, I know where you've been
It's all been a pack of lies
And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord
I've been waiting for this moment for all my life, Oh Lord
I can feel it in the air tonight, Oh Lord, Oh Lord
And I've been waiting for this moment all my life, Oh Lord, Oh Lord
Well I remember, I remember don't worry
How could I ever forget, its the first time the last time we ever met
But I know the reason why you keep your silence up, no you don't fool me
The hurt doesn't show but the pain still grows
It's no stranger to you or me
"In the Air Tonight" gives me chills too. I saw Phil perform it live on his "Into the Light" tour and it was really cool! The stadium was completely dark except for these lights encircling the stage that streched out and started looking through the crowd. The lights looked like those things that a submarine uses to see the surface. The overall effect was really simple but effective. It was really neat.As Phil Collins has explained numerous times over the years, "In the Air Tonight" (as well as most of the
Last updated: 30 July 2006
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