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Movie and Music Analysis from One Lacking Any Credentials to Provide It

“Making Love out of Nothing at All” by Air Supply

The only thing that kept “Making Love out of Nothing at All” from topping the US singles chart was that “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was already there. For two weeks in October of 1983, Jim Steinman had written and produced the top two singles on the Billboard Hot 100. The fact that he produced one of them with a pair he famously called “Two boring idiots from Australia” may even make it a more impressive achievement.

But, as would surprise no one reading this, it’s barely even an Air Supply song. Air Supply was always primarily a vocal group anyway, but this is Steinman’s crew at work: Roy Bittan is on the piano, Max Weinberg on the drums, Steve Buslowe is playing bass, Rick Derringer is playing the electric guitar, and the Troyer/Dodd/Holly Sherwood trio is on backing vocals. Acoustic guitarist Sid McGinnis is the only new addition, and even then it seems noteworthy that Graham Russell didn’t just play the guitar himself. Instead, he is credited with only backing vocals while Russell Hitchcock takes the lead, leaving the rest entirely to the Steinman collective.

A simple piano riff that also serves as the chorus hook, soft cymbals, and slow bass playing open the song. The piano softens and the bass disappears as Hitchcock’s vocal joins. Midway through the first verse, the bass comes back, and then the backing vocals give a sense of building to an epic climax, only for everything else to cut out momentarily and drop us back to just piano and Hitchcock. The first chorus is still quiet, joined by some noticeable but soft drums and some quiet electric guitar. And then what is ostensibly the bridge explodes: the piano is replaced by synthesizers (also played by Bittan), the drums become the usual huge Max Weinberg drums, the backing vocals become a near-constant presence behind Hitchcock, a barely-noticeable acoustic guitar joins in, and Derringer cranks up the guitar before a solo that it’s difficult to imagine appearing on an Air Supply recording otherwise that also brings back the piano to the mix. Another verse continues with this booming arrangement before another quiet version of the chorus and finally a full-volume ride-out repeat of the chorus hook. Weinberg’s percussion and Derringer’s arena rock guitar give some variations to the sound but it’s basically repeating one of the best hooks in music history for another minute as we fade out.

It’s a huge sound, even for Steinman, and Frankly I still even like it better than “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” They have a very similar structure and a lot of the sound is similar, but, weirdly, the Air Supply song has more guitar, and Derringer’s arena rock muscle really gives the song a dynamic that the more famous 1983 Steinman power ballad doesn’t have. It’s surprising to say of Air Supply, but this song really has the feel of an arena rock version of a Steinman ballad.

While it may not have the layers of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” or the emotional complexity of “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad,” the lyrics to “Making Love out of Nothing at All” are still some of Steinman’s best work. The structure of the verse stanzas with “I know ____/And I know ____/I know ____/And then I know ____” (which in the second verse is “I can make” instead of “I know”) give a strong scaffolding to the verses but he also varies it regularly, which keeps it from being monotonous. Twice he then follows with a negative stanza, saying, “But” and then what we doesn’t know or can’t make (yes, presaging a famous song he would write a decade later). The bridge is one of his most conventional love song moments, saying, “Every time I see you/All the rays of the sun are streaming through the waves in your hair/And every star in the sky is taking aim at your eyes like a spotlight.” It’s a moment that definitely feels connected to the “turn around, bright eyes” refrain of “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” but it’s easier to follow here without the light/dark inversion. He talks about stars, music (“The beating of my heart is a drum and it’s lost/And it’s looking for a rhythm like you”), and darkness (“You can take the darkness from the pit of the night/And turn it to a beacon burning endlessly bright”)–a good 80% of his usual obsessions.

In a David Coverale moment, Russell Hitchcock legendarily recorded his entire vocal in one take. Hitchcock is an excellent singer, to the point that even people who can’t stand Air Supply’s music in general (*raises hand*) can’t question his voice. But even knowing that beforehand would not have prepared me for just how good he is in this song. It’s not just that he nails the big glory note at the end of the second chorus, but he gets every note right and has every bit of emotional connection that it needs. I suppose he doesn’t sell the emotion at quite Meat Loaf’s level, but he’s not all that far off–he really does give the song everything it needs and more, and he does it without sounding like it’s any work at all.

“Making Love out of Nothing at All” is one of my absolute favorite songs ever recorded, and I still think this recording his my favorite version. Rick Derringer, nearly a decade removed from his one solo hit (“Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo”) and a couple of years from writing the greatest song of all time in Hulk Hogan’s “Real American” theme (Yes, that is a joke.), gives this song an arena muscle that most of Steinman’s songs had difficulty getting without Todd Rundgren, and Russell Hitchcock gives a killer vocal on top of one of the great hooks in music history.


  • Derringer worked with Todd Rundgren a bunch in the early-to-mid ’70s, so I suspect that’s how he ended up working with Steinman a few times. He was a very good guitarist who never really got his due because he played a style that became so conventional right at the same time he was arriving on the scene. He was sort of like a less extreme version of Charlie Sexton in that he peaked young and then had a long, rather quiet career as a sideman all over the place.
  • It feels a bit weird to say, but I rather wish Steinman had worked with Air Supply more, if nothing else just because Hitchcock’s vocal here is so impressive.
  • Much of the internet holds that Steinman had originally offered both this song and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” to Meat Loaf for what would become his Midnight at the Lost and Found album, and Meat Loaf claimed that to be the case. Steinman always denied the story and always said that he had written “Total Eclipse of the Heart” specifically for Bonnie Tyler. I’m inclined to believe Steinman, even though he was typically an unreliable narrator, just because I honestly can’t imagine Meat Loaf singing either of these songs.
  • As a side note, I listened to a few tracks from Midnight at the Lost and Found and Meat Loaf sounds miles better than he did on Dead Ringer. He doesn’t sound much diminished from Bat out of Hell, which is a definite achievement given where he began the decade. I wasn’t interested enough to listen to the entire album, but that’s seemingly the answer to when he got his voice back.
  • I’ve never read an answer to it, but I have always been curious why Steinman didn’t give “Making Love out of Nothing at All” to Tyler as well, since he produced the entire album and did give her two songs. Was he trying to hedge his bets in the hopes that between the two projects (the Faster than the Speed of Night album and the “Making Love out of Nothing at All” song) something would be a hit? It makes sense that there would be some pressure on him to produce some commercial success at this point, given what a disappointment both of the Bat out of Hell follow-ups had been. Or did he feel like it didn’t fit the sexually-aggressive, woman-in-charge persona he was trying to build for Tyler? I’m inclined to guess the former, because there is one more Steinman song that comes out in 1983, and like “Making Love out of Nothing at All” it’s a new recording added on to a greatest hits album from a fading older act. Instead of putting all his chips down on Bonnie Tyler, I feel like he might well have been, figuratively, putting half of the bet on Tyler while sprinkling a bit on Air Supply and (*gasp*) Barry Manilow.






2 responses to ““Making Love out of Nothing at All” by Air Supply”

  1. Ryan Ortega

    Actually, Bonnie did cover “Making Love Out of Nothing At All” in her 90s album ‘Free Spirit’.

    1. I know she recorded it in 1995 and I will get to her version (which most Steinman fans seem to consider superior) eventually.

      My curiosity was about its original 1983 release. He was working with Tyler already, so choosing to work with someone new certainly seems, at least to me, like he made an active choice to take this song somewhere else.

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