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Naked boys and a raging Meat Loaf. The crazy story behind the sudden revival of that karaoke classic, Total Eclipse Of The Heart


Forty years after it was released, Bonnie Tyler’s hit Total Eclipse Of The Heart has had a sudden big revival – thanks to last Monday’s total solar eclipse. The Welsh-born singer’s 1983 power ballad shot to No. 1 on iTunes while searches on the streaming service Spotify doubled. In her recent memoir, Tyler, now 72, gave an intriguing account of the record’s creation…

Six security guards, each with a dog, guarded the Victorian-built, former infirmary where we shot the video for Total Eclipse Of The Heart. You couldn’t imagine a scarier place.

It is said that dogs have a sixth sense and those six animals wouldn’t go anywhere near the morgue or the room where doctors used to administer electric shocks to patients.

This rambling building near Virginia Water in Surrey was called Holloway Sanatorium. It was a former hospital for the mentally-ill and its vast echoing emptiness struck terror into all of us.

In 1983, it was on heavy rotation on an exciting new channel called MTV, a gift for the song

In 1983, it was on heavy rotation on an exciting new channel called MTV, a gift for the song

Jim ¿ the composer, lyricist and record producer who also masterminded Meat Loaf ¿s album Bat Out Of Hell

Jim – the composer, lyricist and record producer who also masterminded Meat Loaf ’s album Bat Out Of Hell

But it did suit the mood of the song – and the extravagant imagination of the great Jim Steinman, dubbed the Lord of Excess, who directed the video and wrote Total Eclipse Of The Heart.

Jim – the composer, lyricist and record producer who also masterminded Meat Loaf’s album Bat Out Of Hell – added all sorts of crazy elements like American footballers and doves to the video.

Of course he did! His mind was endlessly inventive, eccentric and grandiose.

Amazing, too, that he persuaded me to wear a dress instead of my usual jeans and leather jackets. It was one of the few times I have, but it was a gorgeous one: diaphanous, floor-length and white with a daring split and a wrap-over top.

There was a famous film director on the production team who didn’t like the fact that I kept asking questions. Every time I said: ‘Do I really have to do this?’ or ‘Why are we doing that?’ he rolled his eyes. I found the video very confusing. I think people still do now. It was supposed to be a dream sequence, which is why some of it makes absolutely no sense. But then again, neither do dreams.

My goodness, though, it was relentlessly hard work. And because it was shot in the middle of winter, we were all perishingly cold.

We started at 9.30am and finished 18 hours later at 3.30am the following day, shortly after I’d been chased barefoot through the snow by a posse of pagan dancers.

At one point, a young chap sitting in a chair releases a dove. At first they wanted him to shoot the scene naked. I objected, saying: ‘You’ve got absolutely no chance; he’s a little boy.’

They eventually decided to dress him in a school uniform. Then two of the boys in a scene featuring a dinner party ended up in hospital. They had to enact a fight in which they flipped over a table and during the fracas a glass dish shattered. The poor lads fell on it and cut themselves, so were rushed off to casualty to get stitched up.

There was a famous film director on the production team who didn¿t like the fact that I kept asking questions. Bonnie Tyler is made a Member of the Order of the British Empire by the Prince of Wales in 2023

There was a famous film director on the production team who didn’t like the fact that I kept asking questions. Bonnie Tyler is made a Member of the Order of the British Empire by the Prince of Wales in 2023

The song itself was, in my view, flawless ¿ aside from one fault. Because it was originally written for a musical called Dance Of The Vampires, it was over seven minutes long

The song itself was, in my view, flawless – aside from one fault. Because it was originally written for a musical called Dance Of The Vampires, it was over seven minutes long

Even now, whenever I do TV shows, they play a clip of the Total Eclipse Of The Heart video, and now it’s had about 1.1billion views on YouTube. [By Tuesday it was the channel’s second most watched video in the US after Americans devoured it during the eclipse].

I was awe-struck when given the song. And I just knew. I knew this was the song I had been waiting for all my life.

The song itself was, in my view, flawless – aside from one fault. Because it was originally written for a musical called Dance Of The Vampires, it was over seven minutes long.

Imagine trying to get that on Top Of The Pops!

So it had to be cut down to four minutes and 30 seconds to get some radio play.

Meat Loaf was also devastated that he wasn’t given the song to sing. Apparently he phoned Jim Steinman to ask why I’d been chosen to sing it instead. Whenever I saw Meat Loaf, he’d say: ‘That song was mine!’ To this day, I have no idea why Jim chose me to record it, but I’m so glad he did. I will be forever grateful because its appeal is universal. Even when recording it, I knew there was something magical and enduring about it.

In 1983, it was on heavy rotation on an exciting new channel called MTV, a gift for the song. There have been some great parodies of the song and video, too, over the years. My favourite is a Lego version in which my head falls off.

People always ask me what I think of the parodies, imagining I’ll be offended, but I’m actually hugely flattered by them. When the song was released on February 11, 1983, it went to No 1 in both the UK and the US and spent a month at the top of the American charts. [Today, sales are nudging six million and on the day of the eclipse it sold 4,000 copies].

I was 32 when it was released and it marked the pinnacle of my ambition. At the end of each day I’d phone my record company to ask how many sales I’d had. Sales were up to 57,000 copies a day, unbelievable by today’s standards.

I was nominated for two Grammys, with the awards held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, a huge venue with all the gloss and glamour of a movie set.

I performed the song, dressed in a skin-tight leather mini-dress and sky-high heels [pictured].

I had to start singing at the top of a wide, sweeping staircase and walk down to the bottom, my gaze fixed on the audience.

It was utterly nerve-shredding. I kept thinking: I’m going to fall, I’m going to fall! Thank God I didn’t.

I was awe-struck when given the song. And I just knew. I knew this was the song I had been waiting for all my life

I was awe-struck when given the song. And I just knew. I knew this was the song I had been waiting for all my life

Today, it is still one of those songs that everyone likes to belt out after they¿ve had a few drinks

Today, it is still one of those songs that everyone likes to belt out after they’ve had a few drinks

That ceremony in February 1984 attracted the largest TV audience for the awards in its history. An astonishing 51.67 million people tuned in. In the audience were a galaxy of stars: Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Lionel Ritchie… all looking right at me. I’d never done anything on that scale before.

As for the awards, Irene Cara beat me in the Best Pop Vocal Performance, female category with her song Flashdance . . . What A Feeling. Michael Jackson was the biggest winner of the night, with eight Grammys.

Hard to imagine, now, that 40-odd years ago, karaoke was just becoming a big thing. Total Eclipse Of The Heart was the No 1 karaoke song in the UK at the time.

Today, it is still one of those songs that everyone likes to belt out after they’ve had a few drinks.

lAdapted from Straight From The Heart by Bonnie Tyler (Hodder & Stoughton, £22). © Bonnie Tyler 2023. To order a copy for £19.80 (offer valid to April 27; UK P&P free on orders over £25) go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937



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