In the Air Tonight (5:35)

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In the Air Tonight is a song by Phil Collins which first appeared on his 1981 album, Face Value. It was the first single of Collins’ solo career, and remains one of his best known hits.

The recording is notable for its atmospheric production and macabre theme. Released in January 1981 in the UK, the single was an instant hit, quickly climbing to Number 2 in the Singles Chart. It was also an international hit, reaching the top 20 on the Billboard Chart in the summer of 1981.

“In the Air Tonight” remains, alone among Collins’ solo oeuvre, a popular selection on many classic rock radio stations. It is the song most often associated with Collins’ solo career, and he has performed versions of it at many events, notably at Live Aid, where he played the song on the same calendar day in both Philadelphia and London. He also performed the song at The Secret Policeman’s Ball.

The lyrics of the song take the form of a dark monologue directed towards an unnamed, possibly prominent person.

Musically the song consists of a series of ominous chords played over a simple drum machine pattern (the Roland CR-78 Disco-2 pattern, plus some programming); processed electric guitar sounds and vocoded vocals on key words add additional atmosphere. The mood is one of restrained anger until the final chorus when an explosive burst of drums releases the musical tension, and the instrumentation builds to a thundering final chorus.


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