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Sunday, October 06, 2013

Total Eclipse of the Heart

Have I got a treat for you this month in the Sunday Jukebox section. And it all has to do with the spooky vibe in the air that October tends to bring. After all, the month of October concludes with Halloween, which is one of the scariest days of the year!

(Well...aside from April 15 in America, that is.)

So, for this and every Sunday in October, I thought that I would make the Sunday Jukebox a Halloween soundtrack edition...though, not in the way that you might think.

Let's put it like this. You automatically know the songs that make up a classic Halloween soundtrack. Songs like Michael Jackson's “Thriller”, Oingo Boingo's “Dead Man's Party”, and Rockwell's “Somebody's Watching Me”. They are songs that essentially scream Halloween with every single note.

But what about songs that are innocent by sound, but have some of the scariest looking music videos?

That's what this Sunday Jukebox and every other Sunday Jukebox in October will focus on. We're going to be looking at some of the most gothic, disturbing, and scary music videos ever made. Some of them will be blatantly obvious...others, not so much. But they all have some of the most frightening moments ever seen on MTV and MuchMusic.

Well, at least according to me, anyway. Fear is all in perspective. What I might find scary, others might see as silly. But, that's the way of the world, I suppose.

So, what will be the first song that we will be focusing on this week? Well, how about the sixth most requested song of 1983?

Yes, we're going back in time thirty years for this Sunday Jukebox entry. Now, by all accounts, it is a powerful love ballad. It's a song that is a favourite at most karaoke bars. It's a song that topped the charts in several countries, and in a 2013 poll in the United Kingdom, it was voted as the song that most people sang in the shower, beating out singles recorded by Robbie Williams, Justin Bieber, and One Direction!

Well, shall we go ahead with today's entry? I say we do!

ARTIST: Bonnie Tyler
SONG: Total Eclipse of the Heart
ALBUM: Faster Than the Speed of Light
DATE RELEASED: February 11, 1983

Now, a huge part of how the song became one of the most requested singles of 1983 comes from the fact that it was released at two different time periods, depending on what part of the world you lived in. If you lived in the United Kingdom, where Welsh-born singer Bonnie Tyler came from, then you would have heard it in the winter of 1983, mid-February. For those of us in the United States and Canada, we had to wait until May 1983. Regardless, it became a huge hit, topping the charts in all three places as well as the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, France, and Australia.

And when the song was covered by British chanteuse Nicki French in 1995, the cover version also ranked highly on the dance and club charts all over the world. I'll post Nicki's version below as well, though admittedly I'm not as much of a fan of that version as I am the original.

This song was also the biggest selling single for Bonnie Tyler, who first began appearing on the charts in 1977 following the release of her debut album “The World Starts Tonight”. Bonnie Tyler certainly has had a lot of success on various charts, and she was quite the versatile artist as well. Would you believe that her first single success was on the country charts with the 1978 single “It's a Heartache”? It's true! Sometime in the late 1970s, she made the decision to cross over to the pop and rock charts, which lead to the creation of hits like “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Holding Out For A Hero”, and in the mid-1990s, she changed musical styles again by recording soft rock music. Though her career isn't as red hot here in North America as it once was, it certainly has remained strong in her native UK, and she is still recording and writing music even today.

TRIVIA: Of course everyone knows that Bonnie Tyler's voice is quite distinctive as it has a natural rasp to it, similar to that of Bryan Adams or Kim Carnes. But is it REALLY that natural? In actuality, her raspy voice was a side effect of a surgery she had in her youth to remove vocal nodules. Not that it really affected her that much. Her husky tones did earn her the title of “International First Lady of Rock”, after all!

So, let's talk about “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, shall we?

As you can see, for a song that is more or less a power love ballad, it sure has a rather dark theme. Most love songs seem to take place on a nice, warm, sunny beach, or at a wedding venue, or in the middle of a South American carnival. Not this one. This video is in a shadowy building with lots of gothic architecture. It also features Bonnie dressed entirely in white (clashing with the dark theme), as well as a whole bunch of teenage boys participating in a whole bunch of athletics and sports.

I'll admit that when I was a kid and I was first watching this video, I had absolutely no idea what the heck was going on. I mean, I've seen lots of weird music videos in my lifetime, but this was just bizarre. It was like I was going to a museum and seeing all of these modern art pieces hanging on the wall. If I was talking to some of the artists who created these works of art, they could probably talk for hours about how the artwork represents the chaos and pain of the world, and about how the colours used would represent the laziness and apathy of people who boast about making change, but do absolutely nothing about it.

When in all actuality, you're looking at a picture of a red square and blue circle. How one would get laziness and apathy from a red square and blue circle, I have no idea...unless the laziness and apathy comes from the fact that the artist was really trying to draw a red house with blue clouds in the sky but gave up midway through.

Anyway, back to “Total Eclipse of the Heart”!

As I was saying, the video initially made no sense to me at first, but that's because I was not yet mature enough to understand what the real meaning of the video was at that time.

It wasn't until I entered my late teen years that I began to piece the video together and realized that it was actually more disturbing that I ever thought possible.

And in order to make sense of this video, we have to the end.

The last scene of the music video depicts Bonnie Tyler dressed in what I originally thought was a stewardess uniform. I mean, seriously! I almost wondered why she didn't come armed with a basket filled with peanuts (both salted AND unsalted). But I later come to find out that she is really the headmistress of the boarding school where the video largely takes place.

(In actuality, the video was largely filmed on location at Holloway Sanitorium – a former mental asylum known for its dark, shadowy architecture.)

Yeah...a mental asylum doubling as a school. And, yet, that's not the most disturbing thing about this video.

We also see at the end of the video that Bonnie Tyler is walking down the line of her students (who happen to be all male) who are standing at attention as if they are on the combat lines of some major war awaiting their orders when in all likelihood, they are there in hopes of passing inspection. You know, making sure shirts are tucked in, and neckties are straight, etc.

Of course, this scene at the very end of the video still gives me goosebumps today. I'm sure you know what one I mean.

Turn around, bright eyes!”

As creepy as that last scene is, even that's not the most disturbing thing about this particular music video...even though there was a time in which I had to look away whenever I saw that boy and his bright eyes.

No, the most disturbing thing about this video is the fact that the whole thing seems to be a fantasy dreamt up by Bonnie Tyler's character in the video. And it seems to be a rather erotic fantasy at that. I mean, you notice that the only other characters in the music video are all boys and men who appear to be between the ages of say, fourteen and twenty-one? And, you notice how in a vast majority of scenes, these boys and men are posing in quite the provocative manner wearing little more than a Speedo?

Now, back in 1983, Speedos were quite the popular choice for swimwear. In 2013, it's considered a little bit over-the-top. Some might even consider the Speedo extremely disturbing, and I would tend to agree. But not even THAT is the most disturbing thing about this video.

No, what's truly disturbing is that the boys that Bonnie Tyler is fantasizing about in her total eclipse of an erotic dream are the same boys who are enrolled at the same school where she is an instructor!

No wonder she has that really strange look when she walks down to greet the students at the end of the video. No wonder she seems to recoil in slight horror over the bright-eyed student at the video's conclusion. I'm sure you would too if you were suddenly brought face to face with the very boys who you fantasized over...boys that could be deemed forbidden fruit. Boys who could likely get their teacher fired and put in jail for several years if those thoughts ever became public knowledge.

It certainly is a rather scary thought...knowing that you have those feelings and worried that somehow they might be exposed and that you could lose everything if those feelings were ever acted upon. What is very interesting is that the imagery seems to suggest that at least in Bonnie Tyler's eyes (the Bonnie Tyler featured in the video and not THE Bonnie Tyler...if that even makes sense), that she sees nothing wrong with her fantasy. After all, she is dressed in white – which symbolizes purity and chaste. Amusingly enough, the boys are all dressed in shades of black, which contrast with white.

Though admittedly, I am a fan of colour theory and meanings, so I could be overshooting the mark here.

Whatever the case, the video certainly offers up some bizarre, scary imagery...and it appears as though the video's concept ranks right up there in the bizarre department.

But whatever the case, it's still a fantastic song. And it's the perfect start to a month of Sunday Jukebox entries which feature some rather chilling, yet whimsical music videos. This is only the beginning, so stay tuned for another song next week at this time!

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