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:
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
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
…with hundreds more to come