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Learning English
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Phil Collins

Meet Phil Collins, one of the most successful male solo artists of all time. Before he became a solo singer-songwriter, he was also the lead singer with the band Genesis. He had been the drummer in the band since 1970 but he took over as lead singer when Peter Gabriel left the band in 1975.

When his first wife left him, he wrote several songs about how he felt. When he started his solo career, these songs were recorded as part of his first album Face Value. One of the most famous of them was In The Air Tonight. Find out from Phil Collins himself how the song was written and learn about the lyrics.

Phil Collins reads the lyrics especially for us. See if you can fill in the gaps in the lyrics.
 

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord, I've been waiting for this moment all my life, oh Lord. Can you feel it coming in the air tonight? Well if you told me you were (...1...) I wouldn't (...2...) 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 (...3...) that (...4...), I know where you've been, it's all been (...5...) Well, I remember, I remember, don't worry. How could I ever forget? It's the first time - and the last time we ever met
  Check answers
Find out how Phil writes his songs. See if he thinks he's a good songwriter and find out what his song 'In The Air Tonight' is all about.
So, Phil, how do you write your lyrics?
One of the tabloids just spent a whole page with lyrics of mine - and gave them to a psychiatrist! I gotta explain really the way I write lyrics. Because 70-80% of the lyrics I write, I sing. I don't write them. And after I've got a verse and a chorus or after I've got something that I like, I will then sing into a microphone anything that I think.
What exactly is 'In The Air Tonight' about?
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.
Where does the line 'Wipe off that grin' come from?
Well, it's that smug look that someone who thinks they've got one over on you, you know. They think that they've convinced you that what they're doing is telling you the truth. And in fact, you know it's a lie. 'A pack of lies' - I mean it's just a you know, it's just one lie after the other.
'The first time, the last time we ever met'... Contradiction?
I didn't go back to look at the thing and say - 'Now, does this make sense because someone's gonna ask me years later?' I just said, 'does that sound good?' - 'It's the first time, the last time we ever met' You know, I said, 'yeah, that sounds great'. Because I'm not very good with words. I mean, although I'm writing lyrics, I'm not very good with words talking. So, I thought, when she hears this she'll know how I feel.

Phil Collins
Did you get all that? Well, here's a chance for you to check if you know exactly what some of the expressions Phil used mean.

1:
A psychiatrist is someone who...

has powers that can't be explained scientifically
treats diseases and conditions of the mind
gives counselling to people who are under stress or shock

2:
A chorus is...
a catchy part of the song that's repeated several times
a group of people who sing together
two or more musical notes played at the same time

3:
Chinese whispers
happen when...
you want to describe a Chinese person talking quietly into another person's ear
you want to describe any person talking quietly into a Chinese person's ear
a story gets distorted and embellished the more often it's told

4:
You have a smug look if you...
are about to take things illegally from one country to another
are too pleased with yourself
look dirty
Check answers

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