The Hidden Meaning Of Phil Collins' 'In The Air Tonight'

If there's one piece of music everyone can recognize, it's the five-second drum fill in Phil Collins' In the Air Tonight. The drum break comes right around the 3:40 mark of the song, and it has become synonymous with air-drumming and is still prevalent in pop culture today. Epic drums aside, the rest of the song is actually pretty spiteful.

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 that grin, I know where you've been

The lyrics sprouted a rumor that Collins saw a man drowning someone, tracked him down, invited him to his concert, and sang it to him with a spotlight shown on him to reveal the crime he'd done, according to Songfacts. The urban myth is just that — a myth.

Collins felt his divorce coming

Instead, Collins said that the drowning lyric is merely symbolic. In a 2016 interview with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, the singer shot down those rumors once and for all. While it does make a good back story, he said, "Unfortunately, none of it is true." Collins said In the Air Tonight was instead fueled by his anger of going through a difficult divorce with his first wife, Andrea Bertorelli. "I was just pissed off, I was angry...going through a divorce...there's obviously a lot of anger in there," Collins told Fallon.

Collins and Bertorelli divorced in 1980, and his ex-wife has since said the song haunts her to this day. "He's made a lot of money singing about the break-up of our marriage and his heartbreak, and he's never stopped to consider my feelings or those of our children. All these years on, he's still playing the victim," Bertorelli told the Daily Mail.