Me: I want to write about the song "In The Air Tonight".
Lacey Swain: The one about his wife getting raped?
Me: Huh?
Lacey Swain: That song is about his wife getting raped.
Me: HUH?

Sometimes things appear more interesting when you imagine how they may have originated. There's a rather well known urban legend that claims the 1981 Phil Collins hit "In The Air Tonight" was written about a man who witnessed another man drowning. Apparently the man didn't do anything to save the drowning man and Collins made mention of the incident with these lyrics:

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

I remember, don't worry.
  • I remember, don't worry.

Some tales have Collins watching the man who watched the man drown, seeing it with his own two eyes. In that case, Collins is just as guilty of not helping. The best part of the legend reveals that before the song was released, Phil Collins gave front row tickets to the man in question and sang the song directly to him. Phil Collins singled him out in front of a crowd of, you know, 5,000,000 people.

But where on earth did this story come from? Somebody invented it! Somebody somewhere just decided that this was the case and told some people who told even more people!

Phil Collins isn't really sure what the song is about himself. When asked about the legend, Collins told the BBC World Service, "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."

But what if Phil Collins maybe found the incident too traumatic to deal with, repressing the memory? That also would take care of the fact that it's the only song that he's written of which he cannot explain the origins. Also, the song "Sussudio" is about a woman in Yelm, WA who stole change from MDA collection cups on convenience store counters, eventually amassing a fortune with which she began the natural and organic food company known as Amy's Kitchen.