Throughout her career, Bonnie Tyler’s coarse, gravelly voice has been her calling card. Chatting to the singer by phone ahead of her upcoming Australian tour, she sounded rather desiccated, her croaky speaking voice and strong Welsh accent making her sound older than her 57 years.
Tyler’s distinctive voice actually came about largely by accident -” a throat operation in 1977 left her with a permanently gravelly timbre, one which made her first big hit, It’s A Heartache, a worldwide number one.
When I went into the studio after the operation and sang, -˜It’s a heaaaaartache,’ they said, oh my god, where’d that voice come from? she recalled.
The song will be making an appearance during her Aussie shows, along with all the other iconic hits from her heyday. She rebuffed any suggestion that it must get tiresome belting out Total Eclipse Of The Heart for the zillionth time.
Not at all, she insisted. A lot of people go out on tour just to test a new album out, and I don’t think that’s fair. It’s crazy, why not do the songs that made you successful? I love to sing the old songs, but I’ll be including new ones as well.
One common misconception, she told me, is that people assume she’s American. It’s likely because her biggest hits were typically American productions -” big, bombastic, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink affairs. She’s actually Welsh, which makes sense when you consider the big voices that small country produces: from Tyler to Tom Jones to Duffy, it seems like the Welsh sure can belt ’em out.
Well, not everybody can, she laughed. You should hear my sister-in-law!
Notwithstanding the occasional songwriting excursion ( it’s not my strongest point), Tyler’s spent the bulk of her career singing songs written by other people. I asked if she’d ever turned down anything that went on to be a hit.
Quite the opposite, actually. I recorded Simply The Best two years before Tina Turner. I knew it sounded like a hit, but it didn’t get released. And on that same album, I sang Save Up All Your Tears, which Cher had a hit with, she sighed.
I did turn one song down, and sometimes I wish I had done it -” it was a James Bond theme, Never Say Never. I didn’t do it, because I didn’t believe the song had what it takes. I was right, because it wasn’t a hit for -¦ erm -¦ whoever it was that sang it! (That’d be Lani Hill, Bond buffs).
Several of her biggest songs are also dearly-held gay anthems. Who among us, during a night out on the tiles, hasn’t clambered atop a podium and spilled our drink down our front while singing Total Eclipse Of The Heart or Holding Out For A Hero at the top of our lungs? (Just me then? Oh.)
Tyler is grateful for the support gay audiences have given her.
Holding Out For A Hero was number two for six weeks in the UK, and it was the gay clubs that made that song a success. They played it and played it. My nephew, who’s gay, told me, Bonnie, it’s being played all the time in the clubs’.
With such success come the inevitable cover versions. Tyler was diplomatic when discussing the slew of covers her songs have spawned.
The Nikki French cover [of Total Eclipse Of The Heart] was a number one, but I wasn’t really into that. She’s a nice girl, but I didn’t really like her version. You’ll probably disagree with me though, because that was another big hit in the gay clubs!
I prefer the original.