In Random Tracks, I’m reviewing a random hit song from any point in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 going from the chart’s beginning in 1958. If you like what I’m doing, comment and let me know what random Hot 100 hit song you want me to review.
Air Supply- “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All”
PEAK: #2 on October 8, 1983
SONG AT #1 THAT WEEK: Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”
In the obituaries written about Jim Steinman after his death, almost all of them remember Steinman primarily as the producer and collaborator for Meat Loaf. Obviously, that’s not a bad way to be remembered. Steinman and Meat Loaf made an absolute classic album in Bat Out Of Hell and made for a great partnership. But when Steinman was at his peak in terms of the pop charts, it was with songs for other artists that were supposed to go to Meat Loaf. The first was “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” an absolute classic track for Bonnie Tyler that turned out to be perfect without Meat Loaf and it gave Steinman his first #1 hit.
Then on the second week that “Total Eclipse” was at #1 in October 1983, another song written and produced by Jim Steinman reached its Hot 100 peak right behind Bonnie Tyler’s track meaning Steinman was responsible for the top two songs in America. That’s insane. That #2 song was, like “Total Eclipse,” another grand power ballad with the same musicians playing complete with a title and lyrics that don’t make a lot of sense. Instead of Bonnie Tyler, this song, “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All,” was sung by schlock kings of the early ‘80s, Air Supply, a collaboration that gave them one last moment on top.
The backstory behind “Making Love” is essentially the same backstory as “Total Eclipse.” Like “Total Eclipse,” Steinman developed the original melody while working on the 1980 film A Small Circle of Friends. Like “Total Eclipse,” “Making Love” was originally offered to Meat Loaf to perform but was shot down by his label Epic which as he described years later, “My record company was anti-Jim Steinman at the time, I was anti-record company. So we were even.” With all these similarities in its creation, it only seems appropriate that these songs had their chart peaks together at the same exact time. In finding someone to deliver his latest love ballad, Steinman got an Australian soft rock duo who’d just been on a big run of hits but were now falling behind the times.
For the first few years of the ‘80s, Air Supply were a consistent hit machine on the Hot 100 with their brand of gooey balladry as weird as it seems now. After legendary record exec Clive Davis signed the duo of Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock to his Arista label in 1979 and released their single “Lost in Love” in America, there was no turning back immediately launching them here after a few years of moderate success in their Australian homeland. (“Lost In Love” peaked at #3. It’s a 4.) The real highpoint of their hit-making streak was 1981’s drippy “The One That You Love” which became their only chart-topper.
For the next two years, Air Supply would land three more Top 10 hits that all peaked at #5 with the last one being 1982’s “Even The Night Are Better.” (“Even The Nights Are Better” is another 4.) But after that, the hits that came so easily began to evaporate with the next two singles “Young Love” and “Two Less Lonely People In This World” both peaking at #38. Not helping matters was the rise of MTV and pop music quickly moving away from the anonymous and sleepy soft rock they represented toward more exciting trends like flashy blockbuster pop and artsy British synthpop and new wave. Air Supply needed something big sounding to catch up with this new pop music zeitgeist.
By 1983, Air Supply had already racked up a good number of hits to warrant a greatest hits album. While putting the album together, the duo wanted one new song to release as a single and heard the demo of “Making Love” recorded by Steinman collaborator Rory Dodd. Russell and Hitchcock immediately contacted Steinman about working together on the song to which he agreed. This collaboration may seem weird but looking into their background you’ll see that they were well equipped to handle Steinman’s theatrical productions as the two Air Supply members met while performing in an Australian production of Jesus Christ Superstar and their theater beginnings show up in their hits which all have grand flourishes built around Russell Hitchcock’s hammy melodramatic singing. Considering all that and the low bar of their music, they succeeded.
Really, working with Jim Steinman was the best thing that could happen to Air Supply. Hitchcock could hit some impressive notes but they never rose above the airless nature of their hits. With “Making Love,” Hitchcock is forced to bring more intensity to his singing to keep up with Steinman’s production and he proved himself up to the challenge. Throughout, Hitchcock adapts his voice to the tone of the song where at some points he’s soft and tender and at others, he goes into a falsetto where he strains to hit some of his notes. Compared to Bonnie Tyler on “Total Eclipse,” it’s not a hugely breathtaking performance but Hitchcock does his best
The players on “Making Love” are the same players from “Total Eclipse” and like that song, they bring their A-game here creating a lighters-up power ballad. It’s got a lot of the classic power ballad elements starting out small with a twinkly piano before gradually getting bigger. There’s a wall of backing singers, huge sounding drums, and a thunderous guitar solo played by Rick Derringer that instantly makes this song better than other Air Supply songs. (Derringer has hit #1 as a member of the McCoys and as a producer. As a solo artist, Rick Derringer’s highest-charting single, 1973’s “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo,” peaked at #23.) This is all before the climactic ending with Hitchcock going back and forth with the backing singers singing the title over and over while he does some big vocal runs holding his notes for a ridiculous period. It doesn’t have the instant catchiness or memorability as “Total Eclipse” but everyone does their job well.
As usual per Steinman songs, the lyrics amount to a lot of profound love song gibberish. Hitchcock’s narrator starts out by listing all the things he knows how to do for his girl. Then, he makes a bunch of promises like making tonight last forever or make it end by the morning, make every promise that’s ever been made, and promising to get rid of her demons. But he also wants to know from his girl how she manages to create love out of the simplest things which is what the title is supposed to mean. A lot of this is meaningless and some of these lines are straight-up nonsensical, “Every time I see you all the rays of the sun are all/Streaming through the waves in your hair/And every star in the sky is taking aim at your eyes/Like a spotlight.” But true to the Steinman formula, it all winds up working perfectly with the bombastic production to the point where you don’t need to think much about what it’s about. And Hitchcock belts out these lines with total conviction like he means every word which is the way to go here.
Considering their look, music, and how bad they were at making them, Air Supply and music videos didn’t exactly seem like a perfect match but for “Making Love” they made not one but two official videos. One video is based around a storyline where Graham Russell has to leave his girlfriend behind to go on tour with various flashbacks throughout before she turns her car around to see Russell and the band performing catching him in concert where they both mouth “I love you” before ending with a slow dance under smoky strobe lights. Another video follows a couple in 1960s New York where the guy gets out of the Marines before finding the woman on a sidewalk trying to pick up her fallen groceries. They then strike up a relationship, get married, have a kid, and settle into a mundane suburban lifestyle. In between these scenes are shots of the band performing with Russell and Hitchcock put upfront. They’re both not high-art videos but serve their songs fine.
“Making Love” may have helped to bring back Air Supply becoming their eighth Top 10 hit but it didn’t bring them a new wave of hits. In fact, it wound up being their last major impact on the charts. They never landed in the Top 10 again with the closest single since being 1985’s “Just As I Am” which peaked at #19. Americans suddenly decided that they didn’t want anymore Air Supply in their lives apparently. In the decades since, the duo has continued to tour and release albums. They’re legends in Australia and they’ve developed a big fanbase in Asia where in the Philippines a jukebox musical titled All Out Of Love premiered in 2018.
Air Supply are a forgettable group for the most part but for one song managed to team up with a great producer and create something decent. That’s an accomplishment.
BONUS BEATS: Here’s the version of “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All” Bonnie Tyler released in 1995:
BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here’s the video for Juelz Santana’s 2003 track “Monster Music” which is built around an interpolation of “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All:”
BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here’s Brad Pitt singing along to “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All” in the 2005 movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith where the song also soundtracks the intense car chase scene:
BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here’s one-time #1 artist Carrie Underwood performing “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All” on a 2005 episode of American Idol to the rousing comments of Clive Davis who served as guest judge:
BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here’s the scene from a 2019 episode of the short-lived Netflix series Daybreak where one of the characters performs “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All:”