Total Eclipse of the Heart
Writer(s): Jim Steinman (see lyrics here)
Released: February 11, 1983
First Charted: February 19, 1983
Peak: 14 US, 14 CB, 15 GR, 13 RR, 7 AC, 23 AR, 12 UK, 12 CN, 16 AU, 2 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 1.0 UK, 6.0 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 928.66 video, 434.94 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
After Bonnie Tyler had a top-5 hit with “It’s a Heartache” in 1978, she disappeared from the charts for five years. After signing to new management, she wondered if Jim Steinman, the guy who produced Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell, an album she loved, would be available to produce. Stereogum’s Tom Breihan described him as “aspiring Broadway guy who doesn’t come from the rock ecosystem and who…uses ever tool at his disposal to achieve full [Phil] Spector/ [Bruce] Springsteen grandiosity.” SG Tyler also loved the kind of sound that Phil Spector used to get and said, “The only producer who can get that epic sound nowadays is Jim Steinman…I didn’t really think he’d do it.” FB
When he agreed, she flew to New York to meet him. He played her “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” a song he’d written for the movie Small Circle of Friends. As she said, “when he plays, he practically knocks [the piano] through the floor.” FB He assembled an all-star band for her album Faster Than the Speed of Night which included guitarist Rick Derringer, drummer Max Weinberg, and keyboardist Roy Bittan. Not only were the latter two part of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, but they’d played on Bat Out of Hell.
Faster Than the Speed of Night debuted at #1 in England, making Tyler the first woman to accomplish that feat. The lead single, “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” reached #1 in March 1983. Seven months later the song topped the charts in the U.S. as well.
“Total Eclipse of the Heart” is “pop music as heart-pounding, chest-thumping, blood-gargling, heavens-falling passion explosion.” SG “The term ‘power ballad’ doesn’t adequately describe…[the song] if only because the word ‘power’ just doesn’t have enough power.” SG Tyler is “pleading and wailing and howling and screaming like she’s standing on a mountaintop and demanding answers from God.” SG
“Nobody’s entirely sure what…[it] is about, and nobody needs to know. ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ overwhelms the idea of songwriting specificity in the same way that a tidal wave overwhelms a rowboat.” SG Steinman once described it as “a Wagnerian-like onslaught of sound and emotion.” SG
“Tyler went on to a long career of howling power ballads…but…never made it into the US top 10 again…But people will always need songs to dramatically bellow when they’re drunk, which means ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ will live on forever.” SG
First posted 11/29/2021; last updated 12/27/2022.