Bonnie Tyler skips the heartache and goes straight for the glory with “Total Eclipse of the Heart”

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JUNE 10, 1983

By Steve Newton

Bonnie Tyler? You mean that Welsh girl who used to sing about heartaches in a gravelly, Rod Stewart-type voice. She still around?

After her four years absence from the charts, there must be a lot of people who’ve written Bonnie Tyler off as something of a one-shot wonder. In 1978 her “It’s A Heartache” was an international smash on both pop and country charts, but there hasn’t been a peep out of her since.

Until now, that is. Tyler has come soaring back up the hit list with a new album, Faster Than the Speed of Night. Produced by Jim Steinman, famous for his work on the Meatloaf Bat Out of Hell album, it includes songs by John Fogerty, Bryan Adams, and Ian Hunter and Eric Bloom, as well as Steinman himself. The album’s first single, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, sold over 57,000 copies in one day and is currently well fixed in the British Top 10.

A very consistent effort, Faster Than the Speed of Night features keyboardist Roy Bittan and drummer Max Weinberg, both from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. Guitar hero Rick Derringer contributes some scintillating lead work to the album as well.

I spoke to Bonnie Tyler on the phone from her some in Swansea, Wales last week.

We haven’t heard anything from you since 1978 and “It’s a Heartache”. What happened to you?

Well “It’s a Heartache” sold seven-million copies worldwide, but after that the songwriter that wrote it’s gotten worse–the standard didn’t keep up. I had about seven releases which didn’t do much. So in 1981, when my contract expired, they wanted me to re-sign with them and do more country stuff. But I didn’t particularly want to do that, so I decided to do what I wanted to–make it or break it–at least I’d be happy doing the kind of music I’m doing now.

“It’s a Heartache” did well in the country charts.

Oh yeah, the album went to Number Two in the country charts, but there wasn’t a lot of country on it. It was country rock, I suppose. And that’s why my managers wanted me to go even more country, to cash in on the business that I had with a Number Two album.

Were a lot of people led to believe through that song that you were basically a country balladeer?

I think so.

Is Faster Than the Speed of Night a comeback for you?

Well “Total Eclipse of the Heart” has been a Number One single over here. I think it took everybody by surprise for me to be teamed up with Jim Steinman. The thing is, in 1981 I found myself a new manager, and because I hadn’t done anything in a couple of years I spent most of the time listening to new songs. I had hundreds of songs to sit through.

So I went into the studio and made demos of them, and my manager from CBS, Muff Winwood, thought about Jim Steinman. I’d always loved his work, but I never thought for one minute he was going to say yes he’d produce me. So to ask him and all was a bit of a long shot.

Anyways, when we did ask him he said no. And I wasn’t surprised that he did say no, because if I’d have been him at that point, knowing only about Bonnie Tyler singing country music, I’d have done the same thing!

But my manager didn’t give up. He sent him some of the rock music demos. I think that must have changed his mind, because he rang back to ask if we were still available to be produced. I went over to meet him in April of last year and then back in July for three and half months to make the album.

I understand you’re a fanatic of Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” recording techniques.

Well I’m not a fanatic, but my all-time favourite song–strangely enough–is the same one as Jim’s all-time favourite song, and that’s “River Deep, Mountain High”.

Did you want Jim Steinman for his ability to capture that big Spector sound?

No. I thought about Phil Collins, because I didn’t see the point in asking Jim Steinman. I didn’t think he’d be interested.

What was he like to work with?

Oh he’s terrific–an absolute genius.

Is it true that he wouldn’t have done the album if you hadn’t liked the songs he’d chosen for it?

It’s true that he wouldn’t have been interested in working with me if I hadn’t like “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” He tells me now that if I hadn’t liked that song and “Going Through the Motions” he’d have known it wouldn’t have worked out between us, because that’s the kind of music he could hear me singing.

But fortunately when he played me those songs, I just loved them anyway. “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” is my favourite off the whole album, I think.

Yeah, I love that tune too. Were you a big Creedence Clearwater Revival fan before?

Yup. And it really suits my voice–exactly like Jim thought. But I mean half the songs I picked on the album. Jim wrote two and suggested a couple of the others.

“Going Through the Motions” is another song that I really like on your new album. It’s taken from the Blue Oyster Cult album Spectres.

Yes. I hadn’t heard that song until Jim played it to me. I think it’s great, and Iove what he’s done to the beginning and the end with the children skipping rope.

Were you surprised at the album’s immediate success?

Yeah I was. By the time chart day came I knew it would go Top 5 because you only need a hundred thousand copies to go gold, and there were already 98,000 copies on pre-sale orders.

I thought it would be a tough fight, but when they told me it was Number One, oh it was great. Champagne breakfast.

Are you going to be touring?

I’m coming over to Canada in June, but I’m not touring. I’m doing a promotional tour. I’m off to Switzerland tomorrow–wooooo!

Have you ever tried writing songs yourself?

I am writing songs, but they’re not good enough for the album yet. I’m writing B-sides, and just trying to improve. I am getting better, but I wouldn’t put one on the album just for the sake of having royalties. I’d rather do somebody else’s if I prefer it.

 

I wish I could find the cassette that I used to record that Bonnie Tyler interview back in ’83. I would digitize it for all to hear. Oh well… You can still hear over 250 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with music legends on my Patreon page, including:

J. Geils from the J. Geils Band, 2006
Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, 1997
Jason Newsted of Newsted (and Metallica), 2013
Marshall Crenshaw, 2013
Dan Hartman, 1984
Sean Costello, 2006
Roger Hodgson from Supertramp, 1998
Tommy Stinson from the Replacements, 1993
Brian Blush of the Refreshments, 1997
Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, 2003
Craig Northey of Strippers Union, 2021
Melissa Etheridge, 1990
Joe Jackson, 2003
Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity, 2001
David Ellefson of Megadeth, 1992
David Lee Roth, 2003
Grant Walmsley of the Screaming Jets, 1991
John Popper of Blues Traveler, 1991
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 2012
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1993
Ellen McIlwaine, 2001
Derek Trucks of Tedeschi Trucks, 2012
J.D. Fortune of INXS, 2006
Fernando von Arb of Krokus, 1984
Gary Holt of Exodus, 1985
Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses, 1992
Scott Ian of Anthrax, 2012
Gary Lee Conner of Screaming Trees, 1992
Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, 1985
David “Honeyboy” Edwards, 2003
Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions, 1992
Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, 2001
Jeff Keith of Tesla, 1988
Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton of Arc Angels, 1992
Marc Bonilla, 1992
Mike Smith of Sandbox (and Trailer Park Boys), 1996
Dewey Bunnell of America, 1983
Robert Randolph of the Family Band, 2003
Keith Strickland of the B-52s, 2008
David Johansen of the New York Dolls, 2005
Nathan Followill of Kings of Leon, 2003
Todd Kerns, 2016
Bill Payne of Little Feat, 2002
Robbin Crosby of Ratt, 1989
Tommy Shannon of SRV & Double Trouble, 1998
Alejandro Escovedo, 1997
Billy Duffy of the Cult, 1989
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
Jeff Healey, 1988
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Roy Buchanan, 1988
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joe Satriani, 1990
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Alex Van Halen, 1995
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Gary Moore, 1984
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001

…with hundreds more to come

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