There is no shortage of stories about the inception of rock anthem “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and Meat Loaf’s reported aggravation that the song penned by Jim Steinman was given to Bonnie Tyler instead of him. Now, Tyler has shared more details about the recording of the song and making of the music video.
In an interview with The Guardian, Tyler reveals the origins of the power ballad. “[Jim] told me he had started writing the song for a prospective musical version of Nosferatu years before, but never finished it,” she tells the outlet. “We shot the video in a frightening gothic former asylum in Surrey. The guard dogs wouldn’t set foot in the rooms downstairs where they used to give people electric shock treatment.”
The singer adds that she loved working with Steinman and was devastated when he died in 2021. She recalled their collaboration on “Eclipse.” “Recently a friend unearthed a letter I’d written to her from New York back then. It says: ‘I recorded an incredible song today. The trouble is, it’s so long, I don’t think anybody will ever play it,’” said Tyler. “’Total Eclipse of the Heart’ had to be shortened from seven to four minutes, but everybody loved it so much they played the full album version anyway.”
In the Guardian interview, Rory Dodd, who recorded the song with Tyler, recalls working on the project with Steinman, who affectionately referred to the singer as “Icehead” due to his Canadian roots. “[Jim] wrote ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ as a duet for Bonnie and myself. He liked the role reversal of a female voice doing the gruff part and a man doing the pure angelic tenor,” he says. “He was like a vampire: he liked to work at night. I’d been singing for 10 hours when he asked me to do my lead part of the duet for Eclipse. So I’m singing, ‘Turn around bright eyes …’ at 2am. It hurt that my name wasn’t on ‘Eclipse,’ along with Bonnie’s, but I’d give anything to answer a call and hear those words again: ‘Hey, Icy. I wrote a song. Ya wanna come and sing it?’”
In a 1983 interview, Steinman said he was taken aback when he was first asked to work with Tyler. “I was primarily known for doing records for Meat Loaf and my own records, which were these thunderous, Wagnerian, almost heavy metal, epic, stormy records,” he said. “I was a little bit surprised they would ask me, but my second thought it was a real challenge because of that. And I thought she one of the most passionate voices I’d ever heard in rock & roll since Janis Joplin.”
Steinman says he was inspired to write “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by the image of a lunar eclipse. “I thought of it more as a fever song,” he said. “Most pop songs are about the lyrical side of love, the pleasant side. I’ve always liked writing about the other side, the darker side. An eclipse seemed like the perfect image to describe when someone is totally overwhelmed by love. It’s like an eclipse. There’s no more light at all.”