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Bonnie Tyler: From Doing Just Covers To A Total Eclipse

Column: Features   |   Date Published: Sunday, 14 May 17   |   Author: Rory McCartney   |   2 weeks, 2 days ago

     "They asked would I mind changing the name because Sherene sounds like an exotic dancer."

Welsh born BONNIE TYLER had to work hard to get the prominence her spectacular voice deserved. After singing in pubs and clubs in various bands including Bobby Wayne and the Dixies and Imagination, she made her first recording in 1975. However, it was not until 1977 that she achieved modest success with ‘Lost in France’. ‘It’s A Heartache’, released in 1978, was her first big hit, followed by the even greater success of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ in 1982. 16 studio albums followed, with the most recent being 2013’s Rocks and Honey. She is visiting Canberra during her upcoming tour, and BMA spoke to Tyler about her fascinating career.

The Welsh are known for their love of singing, and Tyler came from a musical family, including a mum who sang amateur opera. “My brother and sister are professional singers,” says Tyler. “And it was inevitable that we became singers because there was always music in the house.”

Early in her career she was in various bands doing covers. Tyler favoured songs by Tina Turner and Janis Joplin, but had to be very flexible. The clubs had theme nights (blues, rock and even old time dancing) so she had to be versatile. “I was singing for seven years before my first break. I was in a club when a talent scout came down from London and heard me singing by accident. He’d come because he’d heard about the boy singing upstairs. Luckily for me, he came in on the wrong floor and heard me singing.” It was two years before she heard back from the label, but she got a record deal and had her first hit at age 26.

Early in her career, she experimented with various stage names, including ‘Sherene Davis’, before settling on Bonnie Tyler. “When I had a record deal they asked would I mind changing the name because Sherene sounds like an exotic dancer.” ‘Bonnie Tyler’ was the result of her picking out random Christian names and surnames from a newspaper one day, and looking for a good match.

Famous for the husky tone of her voice, she was already being compared to Rod Stewart at the time of her first record. Tyler then required surgery to remove nodes from her vocal chords and her voice needed extreme rest after such treatment. “You are not supposed to talk for six weeks after the operation,” she says. “You have to write everything down.” This was a bridge too far for Tyler, who found the restrictions very frustrating and could not stick to them, with the recovery period stretching out to six months as a result. When she next went into the studio to record ‘It’s a Heartache’ she startled the crew with the new, even huskier, tone of her voice. So it was by accident that Tyler was ‘discovered’ and through the unintended effects of surgery that she developed her trademark sound. While ‘It’s a Heartache’ had not charted well when released by other singers in the US, it turned out to be a huge hit for Tyler, with her new vocal tone.

Blessed with a powerful voice, Tyler heard Meatloaf singing and was inspired by that style of song. Having changed labels, she said she wanted to work with whomever was writing for Meatloaf. Overcoming the reservations of her record company, she met songwriter Jim Steinman and they got on well. “Three weeks later he finished off a song he’d started writing years before, which was ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ and he gave it to me to record. I ended up doing two albums with Jim.”

Listening to ‘This Is Gonna Hurt’ from her most recent LP, it is apparent that Tyler’s vocal strength has lasted well over the years. However, it takes effort to keep it in good shape, including thorough pre-show preparation. “I phone my voice coach before every sound check, no matter where I am in the world, and I go through 15 minutes of, not scales, more strange noises really. Sometimes in my hotel I think, the person next door must be wondering what the hell is going on in there.”

Tyler sang ‘Believe in Me’ for the UK in the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest. She knew she would not win the TV vote, because of all the politics involved in Eurovision, but did enjoy the experience, including the enthusiasm of the audience. She did win the Radio vote, being the only UK representative to ever receive a Eurovision Song Contest Radio Award.

The upcoming show is part of the Greatest Hits Tour, with the set list to include songs from various albums including the most recent release Rocks and Honey. There will be covers too, with the opening song being Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Have You Ever Seen the Rain’. “Everybody starts singing with me, right from the beginning of the show.”

Bonnie Tyler, supported by Rick Price, sings at Canberra Theatre at 7:30pm on Wednesday May 31. Tickets are $89.90 + bf through canberratheatrecentre.com.au.

 

 





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