“Total Eclipse of the Heart” is a song recorded by Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler. It was written and produced by Jim Steinman, and released on Tyler’s 5th studio album, Faster Than the Speed of Night (1983). The song was released as a single by CBS/Columbia in 1983.
The song became Tyler’s biggest career hit, topping the UK Singles Chart, and becoming the 5th-best-selling single in 1983 in the UK. In the US, the single spent 4 weeks at the top of the charts, keeping another Steinman penned song “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” by Air Supply from reaching the top spot, and it was Billboard‘s #6 song of the year for 1983. The song was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
Worldwide, the single has sales in excess of 6 million copies and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for sales of over 1 million copies after its release, updated to platinum in 2001 when the certification threshold changed. In 2015, the song was voted by the British public as the nation’s third favourite 1980s number one in a poll for ITV.
After her contract with RCA Records ended in 1981, Tyler found a new manager in David Aspden and after seeing Meat Loaf perform “Bat Out of Hell” live on The Old Grey Whistle Test, approached Meat Loaf’s producer Jim Steinman and asked him to be her producer. Tyler aimed to create an album utilizing the Wall of Sound production techniques of Phil Spector, and she believed that Steinman was the only person that could create the same sound as Spector had mostly retired from the music business. Tyler visited Steinman in his apartment in New York in April 1982 with her manager, where she was presented with 2 tracks: “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” and “Goin’ Through the Motions”. She stated that had she not liked the songs Steinman played for her, he would have rejected Tyler’s invitation to collaborate. She returned to his studio apartment weeks later, where Steinman and Rory Dodd performed “Total Eclipse of the Heart” for her. Steinman also hand-picked the recording band for the song, which included Dodd as a featured vocalist (the “Turn around…” refrain).
The lyric “Turn around, bright eyes” had originally appeared in Steinman’s 1969 college musical The Dream Engine. Steinman had originally written the song’s verse melody for his score to the 1980 film A Small Circle of Friends.
“Total Eclipse of the Heart” had to be shortened for radio play. Tyler did not believe that the song was radio-friendly at its full length; the song was reduced from seven minutes and two seconds to four minutes and thirty seconds.
The power ballad became Tyler’s highest-charting song in several countries; peaking at #1 in the United States, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK. At its peak, it sold 60,000 copies per day and approximately 6 million copies in total. It won the Variety Club award in the UK for best single of 1983. The song also made #82 of VH1’s top 100 love songs.
with ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, I was trying to come up with a love song and I remembered 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…
He also told People magazine that he thought Tyler sounded like John Fogerty, and wrote the song “to be a showpiece for her voice.” Tyler described the song as “a challenge [to sing],” stating that she “[doesn’t] like songs that anybody can sing. I like songs that need a lot of energy.” After Steinman presented her with the song she told The Times, “I just had shivers right up my spine…I couldn’t wait to actually get in and record it.”
According to Meat Loaf, Steinman had written the song, along with “Making Love Out of Nothing at All“, for Meat Loaf’s album Midnight at the Lost and Found; however, Meat Loaf’s record company refused to pay Steinman and he wrote separate songs himself. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was given to Bonnie Tyler and “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” to Air Supply. Tyler has denied this claim. “Meat Loaf was apparently very annoyed that Jim gave that to me,” Tyler stated. “But Jim said he didn’t write it for Meat Loaf, that he only finished it after meeting me.” Steinman said to ‘People‘ magazine that he considered it “an aria to me, a wagnerian-like onslaught of sound and emotion. I wrote it to be a showpiece for her voice.”
In an interview with journalist Mick Wall shortly after the release of Meat Loaf’s 2006 album Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose, Steinman stated: “I didn’t write [Total Eclipse of the Heart] for anyone but Bonnie.” Steinman believed that CBS were expecting him to write something similar to “It’s a Heartache“, but he had different ideas.
The music video for “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was directed by Russell Mulcahy and was filmed on location at the Holloway Sanatorium, a large Victorian Gothic hospital near Virginia Water, Surrey, England. The video features Bonnie Tyler clad in white, dreaming or fantasizing about her students in a boys’ boarding school. Young men are seen dancing and participating in various school activities and singing in a choir.
The video received two nominations at the Billboard Video Music Awards in 1983 for Best Performance by a Female and Most Effective Use of Symbolism.
A long-running urban legend is that the boy who appears throughout the video and who shakes Tyler’s hand at the end is former Italian footballer Gianfranco Zola. In a 2012 interview, Zola confirmed that he did not appear in the video.
Since the song’s release, Tyler has performed “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in all of her concerts. “I sing it much better now than I used to,” she told The Huffington Post. “I think my voice is probably not as husky as it was, I think it’s mellowed a bit.” The song was performed at the 26th Annual Grammy Awards, held at the Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, on 28 February 1984.
Mike DeGagne from AllMusic retrospectively described “Total Eclipse of the Heart” as “one of the finest ballads ever to hit radio.” He noted the “lush instrumentation” and said that Tyler’s voice “produced the perfect type of ‘desperate lovelorn’ effect to suit the romantic lyrics.” He described Roy Bittan‘s piano playing as “dreamy” and described Tyler’s voice as “wonderfully gritty.” Donald A. Guarisco, also from AllMusic, retrospectively reviewed Faster Than the Speed of Night, and noted the song as an “epic ballad”, describing the whole album as “rock at its most melodramatic.” Jim Beviglia from American Songwriter said that Tyler’s raspy vocals helped to legitimise the “melodrama inherent in the lyrics,” and described the song as a “garment-rending, chest-beating [and] emotionally exhausting ballad” that suits the throes of a turbulent relationship.
In a 2013 UK survey, the song came first in a list of most popular songs to sing in the shower, above songs by Justin Bieber, Robbie Williams, One Direction and Elton John. In 2015, the song was voted by the British public as the nation’s 3rd-favourite 1980s number one in a poll for ITV.
The song’s lyrics compare an ended romance with an eclipse. The song usually receives publicity during Solar eclipses and Lunar eclipses. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” received substantial media attention during the solar eclipse of 20 March 2015. Tyler’s version received a 214% increase of Spotify streams throughout the day. A similar impact was experienced during the solar eclipse of 21 August 2017, when Nielsen Music reported a 503% increase in record sales. Around that time, the song hit #1 on the iTunes chart. On 16 August 2017, it was announced that Tyler would perform the song aboard the Oasis of the Seas during the total solar eclipse, backed by American dance-rock band DNCE.