Saturday, January 29, 2011

Air Supply - Lost in Love (Arista, 1980)

If one considers the cumulative abundant manliness of AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, Radio Birdman, The Saints, the Fun Things, and the Victims and then considers the finite amount of testosterone available to any one continent’s gene pool, then clearly Air Supply was a band that could not be avoided. The irony is that Air Supply – long mocked for their monumentally sappy ballads and frequently derided as something even worse than a couple of Aussie Michael Boltons – probably got more pussy than all of the aforementioned bands put together. And while it might not be cool to dig Air Supply, you have to give the duo its props. If it’s only fair to judge a band within the context of its particular genre, then Air Supply is close to soft rock royalty. At worst, they were true craftsmen and worthy successors to such AM gold progenitors as Bread and England Dan & John Ford Coley. And truth be told, I love me some AM gold! Surely it’s going too far to call Lost in Love a “great” album. But I’ve got no problem admitting that it is a classic of its genre. Three decades on, I bet it’s melted more panties than the first three Twilight movies combined.

For all intents and purposes, Air Supply was (and still is!) two guys: Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock. The former was the pretty boy blonde Bjorn Borg looking guitarist/songwriter while the latter had the unfortunate white man afro and sang lead. Lost in Love, their fifth album, was their first to receive any airplay outside of Australia. But when Air Supply finally hit it, they hit it BIG. Lost in Love scored three top five U.S. singles and went double platinum. Music industry legend Clive Davis heard the Aussie single “Lost in Love” in 1979, signed Air Supply to Arista Records, and quickly had the band re-record the tune for an American release. Added to what was already a fine set of new songs, it made for a true powerhouse soft rock album. #2 hit “All Out of Love”, for all its epic cheesiness, boasts a melody of such perfection that it brought drill sergeants to tears and literally moved mountains (albeit two very small ones along the northwestern coast of New Zealand). Even better are the breezy, mellowed-out groove of “Lost in Love” (like some forbidden coupling of Cat Stevens and Christopher Cross) and a rare quality “happy” love song in “Every Woman in the World” (penned by professional songwriting tandem Bugatti and Musker). It was the latter that turned a nine-year-old me on to Air Supply when the group performed it on the TV program Solid Gold sometime in the fall of 1980. I loved the song the instant I heard it and would soon after request, for Christmas, a cassette copy of Lost in Love. I played the hell out of that thing! Having already owned AC/DC’s Back in Black, and soon to discover the power pop splendor of Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl”, I would come to think of Australia as this magical, mystical place inhabited primarily by incredibly talented musicians. Little did I know then how right I truly was.

Do ladies love sensitive men? Perhaps. Do ladies love sensitive men with hit songs on the charts and big money in the bank? Definitely. Air Supply came out of nowhere to become the biggest band of 1980, and that was only the beginning. They would score five more top five hits and two more platinum albums by the end of 1983, achieving a level of world domination somewhat equivalent to today’s Bieber fever – except in their case the females they bedazzled were well past puberty and clearly capable of expressing their appreciation in the best way possible. This is only speculation, but based on the demographics and sheer size of the Air Supply fan base, Russell and Russell circa the early ‘80s must have been availed to a volume and quality of pussy that would have made even Bon Scott envious (by now rolling over in his grave for sure, wishing he’d imbibed less and written more songs like “Overdose”). Such is the jealousy amongst the world’s male populace that Internet rumors still abound about Russell and Russell being gay and married to each other (easily dispelled with a small amount of fact-checking, losers!). Laugh them off as wusses all you want, brother. But be aware that not only did they “get some”, but they got more than you’ll ever dream of. I’ll put it this way – if these two dudes weren’t indulging in a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet of ripened female flesh from the first night of the One That You Love tour right on through to the plane ride back to Melbourne at the conclusion of the last gig in support of the Making Love compilation, then what was the point of writing all those sappy songs? Liking Air Supply will not get you laid. But being Air Supply surely did, and one cannot underestimate the artistry required to concoct such supremely seductive tuneage.

Like their country mate Mel Gibson, who peaked with the first two Mad Max films and only half redeemed himself with Braveheart and the Lethal Weapon franchise, Air Supply would rest on its laurels for decades. They’d never again attain the artistic and commercial heights of their heyday, and they didn’t really need to. A greatest hits compilation may suffice for most, but for me Lost in Love is Air Supply’s Mad Max. It holds up so well not because it’s flawless, but rather because it’s not. It’s a perfect 1980 time capsule, capturing in song everything that was good and bad about that strange time in our world’s history. The ‘70s were over, but the ‘80s had yet to begin in earnest. Men still wore shirts that exposed chest hair and gaudy necklaces. You could still call a midget a midget, and Chlamydia was not an “S.T.D.” but rather a “V.D.” The funny term “sex symbol” still existed, and was applied to the likes of Cathy Lee Crosby, Loni Anderson, Lee Majors, and Erik Estrada. There was no Internet or even MTV (that would come a year later). You were a high roller if you had HBO and/or owned an Atari 2600. If you wanted to follow popular music, you actually listened to the radio and bought 45s of the songs you liked. There weren’t chat rooms or Facebook or even email. “Social networking” meant going to some sleazy singles bar and striking up conversations of astrological significance. Most likely you just stayed in and watched The Love Boat and Fantasy Island, then put on the big headphones, listened to some fine music on the stereo, and contemplated the imagined glories of boning Suzanne Somers. And this being 1980, Lost in Love was definitely one of the titles you played. It had all the hits, plus some notorious misses (the failed attempt at recreating Bee Gees magic, “Just Another Woman”, the unbearably cheesy wanna-be anthem “American Hearts”, the unfortunate rocker “I Can’t Get Excited”). On top of the classic cuts, deep tracks like “Having You Near Me” and “My Best Friend” were first class proto adult contemporary rock all the way, establishing a formula that the likes of Chicago would later milk for all it was worth.

We often say “They don’t make music like that anymore” in reference to the classic artists of yesteryear. But sometimes that phrase can pertain to music that wasn’t even particularly respected to begin with. Truth be told, nobody does make music like Air Supply’s Lost in Love anymore. That gloriously wimpy, super-sentimental, silky-soft style of rock is a relic of the past just like “V.D.” and recreational racquetball. I for one wish “V.D.” were still in vogue. The Air Supply guys probably knew a thing or two about V.D. They also knew a thing or two about how to craft a great tune. “Every Woman in the World” is still one of my favorite songs of all-time. I’d call it a guilty pleasure, but I ain’t guilty.

-Josh Rutledge

6 comments:

kevinmcgovern said...

This a great review! I agree, I think Bad Religion is just a poor man's Air Supply! A brave review that speaks the truth, it reminds me of the the classic days of Solid Gold with Andy Gibb as the host, not the Rick Dees lame-o version. Where's a Steel Breeze review? BY the way, there is no woman in Punk Rock that can compete with Jackie from Too Close for Comfort (Ted Knight, RIP)! Serious, pop/rock creates atmosphere and memories that the Dropkick Murphys wish they could produce. Badge of Courage for Rutledge!

gunther said...

This will be the lead review in the next print edition of DS. Too bad the Russells will probably never see it.

lmittby mayfield said...

I saw them in concert in Sacramento CA in 2013. They kissed on the lips twice! Not Gay you say? Yeah, right! They are just now being free to show affection in public! I know Grahm had a wife and two kids but that doesn't mean He can't love Russel. Just think about it people!

Emmanuel said...

Hey Imittby Mayfield, They didn't kiss on the lips, just on the cheeks. They do that to show their affection towards each other as they treat each other as brothers. Please wear your eyeglasses all the time. =))

Pierre Peter said...

When I was growing up in the Caribbean, I used to listen to those songs and I love them so much. I thought that the lead singer was the most beautiful woman in the world. I was so disappointed when I saw videos and realized he was a man. Now that's a man with a voice not too masculine.

Maverick Ashley Lenartson said...

Who gives a shite if these guys were gay or not??? I really don't and could care less about their sexuality and I'm not here to discuss my sexuality w/ the American Public who is too fickle to begin w/...too many homophobes out there...I think heterosexuality should be outlawed...hahahahahahaha!!! And, homobphobes, of course...

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