I remember…as a kid, sitting at the traffic light, listening to the radio in my ’67 Mustang (red, of course).
It was loud, but I’d rev the engine anyway. Because I was a teenage guy, and because I could.
Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight’ would come on. If there were passengers, a hush would fall over the car.
If there were no passengers, I got my air sticks ready to thrash the space between my steering wheel and my windshield—because this song demanded no less.
I was a drummer. This song was fresh. It was real. It was Phil Collins at his ridiculous best.
The British prog drummer had taken over Genesis when Peter Gabriel went solo. Gabriel went on to wield “Sledgehammer,” but genius that he is, that was his top solo effort. (Yes he had others including the brilliant “Solsbury Hill,” but “Sledgehammer” was his biggest solo hit and is still one of the most iconic videos of the 1980s. “Big Time” only ever got to #8.)
Collins first took Genesis to new heights and then he went solo. He turned into a hit machine and dominated the 1980s.
“In the Air Tonight” was Collins’ debut solo effort in 1981. It was, in a single 1980s word, awesome. It topped out at #19 on Billboard but was an instant classic.
By the time I was driving around, it was already several years old, yet somehow…it wasn’t. It was greatness.
And it still is. Check out these Gen Z twins reacting to hearing this song, and THAT drum solo, for the very first time in their lives.
They love it from the opening tones. And then, out of nowhere, THAT riff.
THAT riff inspired me to become a kit drummer. When a friend invited me to learn the kit to play in our church services, THAT drum solo was always in the back of my mind. So, of course, I learned to play the kit and learned THAT riff.
As for Phil Collins, it’s not widely known, but he is more than an amazing songwriter, and he’s not just a nice guy. I’ve met him a couple of times and he’s as down to earth as a major rock star can get. I got to sit down and talk with him about THAT riff and a few other things. He’s gracious and kind.
He’s also one of the world’s leading preservationists of Alamo and Texas history artifacts. I’m not even kidding. It’s a lifelong interest/obsession for him. He even mentions the Alamo in the music video for “Don’t Lose My Number,” another of his monster hits (#4 in 1985).
As for videos of young folks reacting to vintage music, it’s a thing. A pretty cool thing, in this case. Great music is great music.