Nothing will ever ‘eclipse’ this song it seems. In an age of Tik Tok and the ever-faster consumption (and built-in obsolescence) of pop culture, Total Eclipse of the Heart is about to hit one billion views on YouTube. Even in a decade of unashamed bombast, few numbers come close to this song’s operatic melodrama, and it continues to find new, gobsmacked, devotees. Tyler posted her own tribute today saying, “We’ll be holding on forever.” Famously, the song itself is also matched by an equally bonkers (but brilliant) video, awash with ninjas, sinister choirboys and traumatised doves. Scroll down to watch the full Total Eclipse video in all its OTT majesty.
The song briefly made Tyler an international superstar, selling around six million copies worldwide and landing her on stage performing it flawlessly at the 1984 GRAMMY Awards, where she was nominated twice. She was ‘robbed’ on the night, by the admittedly also brilliant Pat Benatar’s Love Is A Battlefield for Best Female Rock Vocal and Irene Cara’s Flashdance for Best Female Pop.
Yet, just a few years earlier, Tyler had been “washed up” after early successes with It’s A Heartache (1978) and Lost In France had fizzled out.
The Welsh star later recalled how she saw Meatloaf performing on The Old Grey Whistle Test and begged her record company to arrange a meeting with his songwriter. She was told it was impossible but refused to back down.
That songwriter, of course, was Jim Steinman, who initially turned down the request to produce Tyler’s next album, Faster Than The Speed of Night.
However, she persistently chased him and sent demos of her voice and he eventually agreed to a meeting in New York. Tyler described how the composer played Goin’ Through the Motions by Blue Oyster Cult and Have You Ever Seen the Rain? by Creedence for Tyler and asked her what she thought of them. It was a test, which she passed by saying she loved both songs.
They would end up on the album, along with a certain song which Steinman had started writing for a planned vampire music project.
Steinman said of the origins of Total Eclipse: “I actually wrote that to be a vampire love song. Its original title was ‘Vampires in Love’ because I was working on a musical of Nosferatu, the other great vampire story. If anyone listens to the lyrics, they’re really like vampire lines. It’s all about the darkness, the power of darkness and love’s place in the dark.”
However, he also became inspired by Tyler’s unique talent and reworked and completed the song for her: “I never thought it had a prayer as a single. It was an aria to me, a Wagnerian-like onslaught of sound and emotion. I wrote it to be a show-piece for her voice.”
Steinman said of Tyler’s voice: “It sounded so sensual but so ravaged. It sounded heroic that she could sing at all.”
Rather like the equally improbable Bohemian Rhapsody, Total Eclipse had an album running time of seven minutes, which was trimmed to just over four and a half for the single release.
It topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, selling 60,000 copies a day at its peak and Tyler has always been proud of how hard she fought for it.
She told Time: “I wouldn’t have had this hit record without bloody asking. And I got it.” However, the video shoot was just as challenging and ended in a screaming match and the director refusing to ever work with Tyler again.
To this day, the iconic video defies explanation. Asked if she knew what it was all about, Tyler said, “I don’t think anybody does!”
Appropriately, it was filmed at Holloway Sanatorium, a Gothic mental institution built by Thomas Holloway with the fortune he’d made from selling his own patented medicines.
Director Russell Mulcahy and Jim Steinman later admitted they had simply thrown in all the craziest ideas they could come up with. Even though the shot of a topless boy throwing a dove at the camera with the composer’s idea, Mulcahy bore teh brunt of Tyler’s wrath.
Mulcahy said in the book I Want My MTV: “Bonnie came around the corner and screamed, in her Welch accent, ‘You’re nothing but a f**king pervert!’ And she stormed off. There was nothing perverse intended.”
The shot remained in the final cut, but the director refused to work with the star again. A fittingly dramatic end to an extraordinary saga and song.