What does In The Air Tonight mean?

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Phil Collins: In The Air Tonight Meaning

Tagged: Divorce [suggest]

Song Released: 1981

Covered By: Noah Mac (2017)

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In The Air Tonight Lyrics

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord
Ive been waiting for this moment, all my life, oh lord
I can you feel it in the air and I hold on, oh lord, oh lord

Well, if you told me you were drowning
I would not lend a hand
Ive seen...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    Aug 15th 2009 report

    As Phil repeatedly stated it had everything to do with the emotions that he was going through, and nothing with any real event like drowning. Also, there is no reference at all about any murder.

    But Abacab, a similar song he made with Genesis in the same era, I believe is a covert allusion to a death threat by the `first person` in that song, and I think that some people have confused these different song lyrics and attributed properties of one song to the other.


    #2 top rated interpretation:
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    Nov 23rd 2008 report

    Collins said that he is amused at the American "urban legend" that resulted from this song. It had nothing at all to do with drowning. (or murder, or adultery or boating or any other thing) He said, although he really didn't write it with anything in particular in mind, he was dealing with a recent divorce. He was angry. The drowning reference is obviously anger - "well, if you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand". That is just referring to the explanation of how angry he is - he hates the person so much that he would ignore pleas for help. He did state that he had no specific event of any kind when he wrote this song. Snopes it if you don't believe me!

  3. anonymous
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    Apr 28th 2020 report

    Two people meet only once. An agreement about something was reached. One person did not keep the deal and the other person is hurt and angry. Revenge and doing battle can be felt. The air is charged with hatred. The deceived one is calling on the Lord for help in this confrontation. It is dramatic even in the music.

  4. anonymous
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    Mar 6th 2020 report

    From thin air sounds like prayer as the narrative is calling the Lord this happens all thought the chorus like as a person finding it hard to breathing under water and that person can stop laughing since nothing he or she been telling thorth and there's a reson why he or she is staying quiet around the nereter so maybe he knows the person as the hurt is there

  5. anonymous
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    Aug 17th 2018 report

    I purchased this sound track while I was going threw a dad Divorce. My interoperation was just about the same as his? great song for the person that is Pi$$ed Off?

  6. anonymous
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    May 7th 2017 report

    To say it doesn't represent something in his life ...I call bullshit! This song is way too powerful to be just "something he wrote while hitting keys on a keyboard.

  7. anonymous
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    Nov 6th 2015 report

    Sub conscious leaking of lyrics that represent his feelings about his relationship at the time. I think Phil has covered up the real meaning with his story of the lyrics not really having any particular reference to a specific example event in his life.

    He has covered up the real message that he was trying to get across in this dig at his former partner by passing it off as a sort of semi- sub conscious metaphor and saying it meant nothing.

    It's all in the subtext.

    Anger, knowing something and wronged. Possibly his wife cheated on him and he knew it and knew the other man.
    Chorus echo's a feeling about something wrong, an instinct, a foreboding of things gone wrong and of a change coming to their relationship.

    Hindsight if you like is a metaphor in the lyric.

    So it's a song about gut feeling and dread and suspicion and unfaithfulness. So it's phil's message to his wife.

    Paint pot in the BBC TOTP video is about Phil doing the DIY at home when his wife was out messing around. This is the reference point for his wife to see that this is the time he suspected her of cheating on him.


  8. Chew Bakke
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    Apr 27th 2015 report

    As Collins has stated many times, the lyrics have no meaning at all; he was simply singing lines that came into his head while he was playing with his keyboard.

    It's from his 'Face Value' album which is littered with lyrics about his then failing marriage. I like to think that some of the lines in 'In The Air Tonight' are unconcious references to his ex-wife.

  9. anonymous
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    Nov 2nd 2013 report

    Divorce with his wife recently...but all I can think is the HANGOVER!! XD

  10. RJ Balint
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    Apr 2nd 2012 report

    Found this in WIKI

    An urban legend has arisen around "In the Air Tonight" according to which the lyrics are based on a real drowning incident that Collins witnessed. Various, increasingly embroidered variations on the legend emerged over time, with the stories often culminating in Collins singling out the guilty party while singing the song at a concert.[7] Collins has denied all such stories; he 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?[8] ”

    The urban legend is referenced in the song "Stan" by Eminem. The reference is contained in the following lyrics:

    You know the song by Phil Collins, "In the Air of the Night" [sic]
    About that guy who coulda saved that other guy from drowning
    But didn't, then Phil saw it all, then at a show he found him?

  11. anonymous
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    Feb 28th 2012 report

    he was recently divorced his wife left him for a painter n decorator.he performed on top of the pops with pot of pain n a brush tells you all you need to know.

  12. anonymous
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    Jul 14th 2011 report

    When I first discovered the urban legend of the interpretation that "he witnessed a drowning/murder" I thought, in that case, the lyrics didn't make any sense..."WELL IF you told me you were drowning....." and yet everyone accepted it. Some people just don't listen to things sometimes...

  13. anonymous
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    Jun 14th 2011 report

    I have heard the same thing as 'lockend'.

  14. gnrgirl
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    Jun 24th 2009 report

    Sorry dude. It had everything to do with the drowing.
    "I remember, I remember a worry.
    How could I ever forget?
    It's the first time
    the last time we ever met"

  15. lockend
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    Jul 26th 2008 report

    There's a lot of mystery surrounding this song. There really isn't much to interpret, except that it is a song about revenge. It supposedly relates to an event in Phil Collins' real life. At a young age Phil was involved with London street gangs. He watched his very good friend die at the hand of another, all while there was nothing he could do about it. The murderer got away and did not know that he was seen. Phil then leaves the street gangs and becomes a musician. The song was written about what would happen if he ever came face to face with his friends killer. Years later the man that killed his friend comes to one of his shows, so Phil sings this song for the first time ever, all the while staring at the killer in the crowd. Afterwards, he calls security and has the man arrested.

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