Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" Takes One Person's Sanity To The End Of The Line

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This month, to celebrate the Internet's unbridled love for wallowing in nostalgia and even greater relishing of talking about why certain cultural artifacts are horrible, Sound of the City presents First Worsts, a series in which our writers remember the first time... they ever hated a song enough to call it The Worst. (And to be fair, we're also going to see how these songs have stood the test of time.)

THE SONG: Bonnie Tyler, "Total Eclipse of the Heart."
THE YEAR: 1983.
THE REASONS: College roommates, Meatloaf-ian histrionics.

1983 was my junior year of college, and the year all of my friends moved away from the dorms, out to Arthur Avenue and the other "safe" areas around Fordham's Bronx campus. Despite all of my pleading, I was left behind to find my way through student housing for one more year. (I think it had less to do with my parents' fear of the Bronx than their fear that without some kind of structure I would just spend every day in record stores and hanging out in rock clubs downtown. They were probably not wrong.)

So when September rolled around, I ended up in a suite with four other women that I didn't know, all—like me—rejects who didn't have someone else to room with. Three of them slept in their makeup in case they woke up and there was a man in the room and spent every moment angling for a husband. (The fourth didn't talk much at all.) As a result, I spent a lot of time in the suite of my sophomore roommate, Casey, who'd left me behind because she had to room with a group of friends from her upstate hometown. Thankfully, they were just a bunch of normal girls trying to get through college with as little drama as possible; they had no problem with another person turning up and studying in the corner, or chipping in to add to the pasta pot for dinner.


Bonnie Tyler, "Total Eclipse Of The Heart"

There was only one problem: Those who liked music liked horrible music. To make things worse, they liked it but didn't pay attention to it—they were the kind of people who would put a record on and then leave to go do their laundry and come back when the tone arm was thunk-thunkthunking against the outer groove of the record. They would just pick it up and start over again while heading into the bathroom or the bedroom. If you pointed it out, they didn't understand what the problem was.

They loved Air Supply and Lionel Richie and "Islands In The Stream" and, when they were daring, "Every Breath You Take." (That was edgy, because, you know, the Police were British.) They weren't stupid women; they just didn't think about music the same way I did. They only knew what they heard on the radio and they liked what they liked.

The year passed into a lovely spring, and before I knew it, we were all barreling down towards the end of the year. I was trying to work on the student newspaper and write my papers and study for exams. I don't know when my roommates did their homework, but whenever I was in the suite, the TV was on full blast while they yelled at each other from the kitchen to the living room, usually with the water running. The library was packed; the light in the open-for-exams cafeteria gave me headaches; I was at my wits' end about what to do. Casey came upstairs one night to say hi, and found me sitting in a corner of the living room with my headphones on, facing the wall and desperately trying to concentrate while Star Trek reruns blasted at full volume. She walked over to turn the sound down, and before I could stop her, two of my roommates came running out of their rooms, yelling that they were watching that and she didn't live there.


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5 comments
ashman1995
ashman1995

I don't know what you're talking about...Total Eclipse of the Heart is an amazing song & so is Bonnie Tyler. I'm 17 years old and I love her music. Don't be hating Bonnie Tyler. She unlike Whitney Houston never did drugs & can still finish a song while singing it. Leave Bonnie ALONE!!!

burning_plastic
burning_plastic

I shared a big house with a few people and this girl played "Steppin' Out" by Joe Jackson until the charm was completely worn off. It's not as bad as "Eclipse" though, but I think "It's a Heartache" is equally bad, just that the "turn around" part in this takes it to a whole other level. I want to nominate a song I love to hate, "You Don't Bring Me Flowers Anymore." When he sings "Well, it's good for you babe, you're feeling alright," that's a possible worst moment ever for a hit song. 

Chris Molanphy
Chris Molanphy

Re: music criticism, your most astute comment, though too brief, is at the very end re: "the fault in this case lies solely with Jim Steinman." The thing about Steinman is that all of his productions sound like him, and only like him. Since you mentioned Air Supply in this piece, you could have mentioned how their concurrent-to–Bonnie Tyler 1983 hit "Making Love Out of Nothing at All" is the complete aberration in their soft-rock career, a Meat Loaf–style mini-epic that could easily have been Tyler's followup hit. Or in the '90s, Celine Dion's "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," even in her career filled with histrionics, is a separate piece of melodrama that's less her and more Steinman. Basically, Steinman can make anybody sound like "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

Chris Molanphy
Chris Molanphy

This is like an episode of Girls with you as Hannah, Casey as Marnie (or maybe Jessa?) and Susan as Shoshanna. And the other roommates are all Charlie's new girlfriend.

Craigley
Craigley

Ugh.  I was in 9th grade with my mom driving me to before sunrise football practice.  This song was on every friggin morning and I still hate it.

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