Thirty years ago this week the song that arguably defined the eighties' drum sound was released. Phil Collins' debut solo album Face Value
, released February 9, 1981, contained the opening track In The Air Tonight
Collins stumbled upon the highly compresssed drum sound while recording his track for Peter Gabriel's Intruder
. The technique, known as gated reverb (not to be confused with gate reverb
), involves channeling the drum sound through a noise gate
and strong reverb
to produce a strong yet heavily compressed percussion sound. It had been used sparsely earlier than this (the first verse of The Tubes' 1975 Mondo Bondage
has gated reverb on the drums). It became quite popular in eighties pop-rock (Duran Duran's Wild Boys
and Yazoo's Don't Go
are fine examples).
Unusually, the video For "In The Air Tonight" used a demo version
of the song, with actual drums throughout, not merely the drum machine that appears for the forst half in the better-known versions of the song.
Collins' song appeared in the first episode
of Miami Vice, the last episode
of Ashes to Ashes, and was the song performed
by Phil Collins at his first solo performance (solo, meaning supported by guitarist Daryl Stuermer, and they also did Roof is Leaking)
. It became a favourite of audiences for Collins' live performances and has the distinction of being the first song performed by the same artist on the same day on opposite sides
of the Atlantic.
It has shown up on the big screen screen in love scenes
and combat scenes
, and makes an unusual diegetic appearance in The Hangover
There have been eleventeen thousand covers
) and remixes
of the song including a cover
on the soundtrack of the feature film version of Miami Vice
Its effects spread into the realm of urban legend
, award-winning ads
, video games
, and essay mills
You may now quote American Psycho.