of the week

Mention the name Jim Steinman, and the majority of people immediately think of Meat Loaf and, more so, Bat Out Of Hell, the epic multimillion selling album that Steinman wrote and did most of the arrangements on but he did much more than that. He also wrote songs for Barry Manilow, Air Supply Boyzone and, of course, Bonnie Tyler. His songs weren’t just songs, they were epic spaghetti westerns.

When Bonnie Tyler was singing around the Welsh social clubs in the mid-Seventies, she developed nodules on her throat. An operation to remove them altered her voice so that she sang with a rasp which was really the making of her. She was born Gaynor Hopkins in Skewen, near Swansea in 1951. She loved raunchy rock singers such as Janis Joplin and Tina Turner and she sang soul music in the Welsh clubs. She was spotted by Ronnie Scott and Steve Wolfe, who became her managers, songwriters and producers and they wrote Lost In France which became her first UK hit reaching the top 10 in 1976.

Steinman was not really a singer, but as a credited artist had one UK hit in 1981 called Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through which he hired the services of Rory Dodd, a Canadian rock singer, to provide the vocals. He had also provided backing vocals on a number of songs by Meat Loaf, Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon and Lou Reed. It’s Jim who sings the opening, ‘Turn around every now and then I get a little bit Lonely’ on Bonnie’s Total Eclipse of the Heart. Steinman, who must hold some sort of a record for cramming in huge amounts of words per bar in his songs, was never one to reveal too much about the inspiration for his songs, but he did once admit, in a 2002 interview in Playbill magazine, that Total Eclipse of the Heart, which was originally entitled Vampires In Love, “Was really about vampire lines. If anyone listens to the lyrics, it’s all about the darkness, the power of darkness and love’s place is dark.” He also said that it was a tribute to the 1922 film Nosferatu which was a vampire type adaptation of the Dracula story and most notable in the lyric, ‘Now there’s only love in the dark’ that is repeated in the song. Total Eclipse and another Steinman composition, Making Love Out Of Nothing At All, were written around the same time and were both in intended for Meat Loaf’s 1983 album Midnight At The Lost And Found but for some bizarre financial reasons his record company instigated, he wasn’t allowed to use them, so Total Eclipse was given to Tyler and Making Love to Air Supply of which for former went to number one in the UK and the US and the latter to number two Stateside. Undoubtedly, that would not have pleased Meat Loaf.

Tyler was a fan of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell and made enquiries about whether Steinman was available to write something for her. Steinman agreed, saying, “Bonnie could scream at the top of her lungs over an army of guitars and yet still sound musical.” He thought her raspy voice would be ideal for the song and had Dodd come over to his studio and record a demo. Bonnie loved it and recorded it in a grandiose production which included Rick Derringer of the McCoys on guitar, and keyboard player Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg, both from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, on drums. Max also featured on Air Supply’s version of Making Love Out of Nothing At All. The video to Total Eclipse of the Heart showed Bonnie, very glamorous and all in white, but in a menacing, gothic setting. In America it was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

Bonnie’s album, Faster Than The Speed of Night featured the original six minute and 55 second version which was cut down to five and a half mins for the single release and, naturally, the UK had an even shorter edit at ‘just’ four minutes and 22 seconds. Not only did the single top the chart in the UK and US, it did likewise in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Norway. It also went top 10 in Finland, Denmark, France, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Tyler was back with vengeance and was in demand. She recorded a playful cover of A Rockin’ Good Way with fellow Welshman Shakin’ Stevens which went top 10 and the following year she went to number two with Holding Out for A Hero from the film Footloose and was once again, co-written by Steinman.

Total Eclipse of the Heart still has legs, a cover by Nicki French was a minor hit in 1994 and another cover by Jan Wayne made the top 30 in 2003. Unbelievably, it was back in the top 10 in 2010 courtesy of the cast of Glee. In 2000 Nicki French represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest, but the song title Don’t Play That Song Again was all too prophetic.

Despite the song’s lyrics being compared to a dying romance, whenever there is a lunar or solar eclipse the song gets wheeled out especially during the solar eclipse of 2015. The day it happened – 20th March – Spotify reported a 214% increase in streams and two years later on 21st August, 12 million Americans witnessed the eclipse that stretched Oregon to South Carolina and Nielsen Music reported a 503% increase in record sales and streams. It was so popular, it briefly went to number one on iTunes.

Steinman passed away from kidney failure in April 2021 aged 73. In 1996, Tyler recorded a cover of Making Love Out of Nothing At All and just missed the top 40. In 2013, she represented the UK at Eurovision with the song Believe In Me but typically, it wasn’t well received and ‘we’ ended up 19th…..out of 19.