THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
Hit Duo Lands Their 45th Anniversary Tour at Midland Center for the Arts February 5th
15th January, 2023 0
Since their first hit song was released back in 1978 and soared to the top of the charts the musical group known as Air Supply have managed to build an impressive career spanning nearly five decades. Their albums Lost in Love, The One that You Love, Now & Forever, and The Greatest Hits have sold in excess of 20-million copies; scoring seven consecutive Top-Five singles after their first hit became the fastest-selling single release in the world, earning them the distinction at that time of equaling The Beatles run of hits.
While the core members consist of songwriter Graham Russell and lead vocalist Russell Hitchcock, the group along with a litany of different group members and contributors to the band over the years, including late great Saginaw rock legend Dick Wagner of Alice Cooper fame, have contributed to the group’s success over the decades - and to prove their ambitions have not subsided, the group's latest release, The Lost In Love Experience - was recorded with the Prague Symphony Orchestra.
Air Supply performed their 5000th concert in 2020 and currently they perform about 130 concerts each year all around the world, with their popularity unwavering. They were the first western group to tour China, Taiwan and most of Southeast Asia, where some of these countries had forbidden pop music to cross their borders. And now fans in the Great Lakes Bay Region will have an opportunity to catch this remarkable group live in a special performance scheduled on Sunday, February 5th at The Midland Center for the Arts Auditorium at 7:00 PM.
With their trademark sound centered upon Russell Hitchcock’s soaring tenor vocal range and Graham Russell’s simple but majestic compositions, recently I had an opportunity to discuss the many parts that make their unique partnership click in an exclusive interview with vocalist Russell Hitchcock.
REVIEW: You and Graham first met back in 1975 doing Jesus Christ Superstar together and I was wondering if you could describe the moment you both realized the unique musical alchemy you shared and how long it took to sculpt together what has become such a formidable and signature sound over the decades.
RUSSELL HITCHCOCK: We met on May 12, 1975 on the first day of rehearsals for Jesus Christ Superstar in Sydney and became instant friends who shared much in common, including our love of The Beatles. After each performance we would go play in coffee bars, pizza parlors, anywhere we could hone our vocal skills and harmonies. Graham wrote constantly and we recorded a few songs on cassette, one of which was Love and Other Bruises. After all the major record companies rejected our demos, CBS Records finally signed us, the record was recorded and released in a week, and Love and Other Bruises was released as the first single and shot to the top of the charts in Australia.
REVIEW: Were you surprised at its success? Back then there was so much going on with different genres such as Punk Rock and Reggae and Power Pop crashing new doors down.
HITCHCOCK: Yeah - in Australia at the time it was all Punk Rock and Hard Rock and bands like AC/DC and Midnight Oil, so we were very surprised that everyone responded and made the song successful so quickly. At the time it sounded different and it’s a great record, with strong vocals and something really different.
REVIEW: With the rapid success of your first single, the band had an opportunity to open for Rod Stewart on his North America Tour in 1977. Can you tell me a bit about that experience and what it was like opening on one of the biggest tours in the world that year?
HITCHCOCK: It was amazing. We’d had success in Australia only a couple months after the production of Jesus Christ Superstar ended in October 1976, and then our management told us we were invited to open for Rod Stewart in Australia. We’d only done a couple shows in Melbourne and Sidney and after that second show Rod came to us saying he was doing an extensive North American Tour in 1977 and he would like us to open. Who’s going to say no to that? We landed in America on July, 4, 1977 and recorded an album and then went on tour from September through December on one of the biggest tours in the world at that time. We did 50 shows including Madison Square Garden and The Forum in Los Angeles.
Inherently, we thought this would be a huge opportunity to learn about the music business at the highest level, so we watched every one of Rod’s shows each night without fail and studied how he engaged the audience and how the show transitioned from beginning to middle to end. We studied how the lights were staged, along with the business side of it; so it was a fantastic experience to learn all that. We didn’t see much of Rod, but got to hang out with his band quite a bit and that was quite the experience - it was great! I have nothing negative to say about it.
When we returned from that tour we thought we’d be conquering heroes, but discovered we’d been basically forgotten back home, so Graham wrote several songs, including ‘Lost in Love’ and ‘All Out of Love’. Fortunately, it found its way to Clive Davis, founder, and president of Arista Records, who immediately offered us a record deal. Lost in Love was released in 1980 and became the fastest-selling song in the world, topping the charts in a multitude of countries. “Lost in Love” was named song of the year in 1980 and along with the other singles, sold more than 10 million copies.
REVIEW: What do you feel are the respective strengths that each of you bring to the group and how to you feel your sound has evolved over the years?
HITCHCOCK: Our strengths are the songwriting and vocals. There’s only two main ingredients, but I also feel there are other intangibles: we are both great at dealing with rejection, have always had an enormous amount of ambition for the band, and are very resilient. There’s a bunch of factors involved. We’ve been knocked down a few times, but it’s never been a choice about asking what we should do - its simply lets pick up an start again, or do this to make the future better for us.
REVIEW: What do you think is the biggest challenge for an artist to evolve their music as opposed to repeating themselves. Do you and Graham consciously try to evolve the sound of the band, or are you pretty much locked into a sound you’ve spent your life defining?
HITCHCOCK: I don’t feel any of the recordings have ever left the basics of what we are striving for: simple lyrics, with great vocals and arrangements for the songs. The evolution comes from the fact we are so much older than when we began, so we’ve learned as individuals on the road and in the studio about how we work best together. Obviously, every new member that comes to the band brings new influences with them as well. We have a great guitar player now, Aaron McClain, and our drummer has only been with us briefly, but is a maniac in a good way. Our pianist is from Italy and classically trained and our bass player is from Los Angeles, so we are always open to new ideas. We encourage the band to bring stuff to the table so we can hear their ideas, but ask them not to be offended it we decide it doesn't work with the song.
REVIEW: When you look over the expanse of your career, what are the three most memorable moments - highlights that kind of stand out in your museum of memories that you will always savor?
HITCHCOCK: The biggest thrill for me was back in 1988 when we were invited to participate in Australia’s Bi-Centennial celebrations and got to meet Princess Diana and Prince Charles, who happened to be huge fans. We got to spend a little time with her and that was awesome. The other would be playing to 175,000 people in Cuba as the only band on the bill, which was amazing. And the third one would be when our first and only #1 U.S single went to the top of the charts. When you go platinum and see the rest of the company you are with that’s a huge thrill. But once you achieve it, its not what you thought it would be. Instead you go, ‘What’s next?”
As we concluded our interview, I realize that forty-five years down the road Air Supply are intent upon continuing to build a legacy of rich musical memories. In January 2020, the Australian newspaper, the Herald Sun, proclaimed Air Supply in the Top 5 of ”Greatest Aussie Bands” of all time in the company of AC/DC, The Bee Gees and INXS.
Having never had an argument in all this time is a true testament to the respect, passion and love each member of this dynamic duo have for Air Supply and the deep friendship they share. This is one show you won't want to miss!
Tickets for Air Supply’s February 5th performance at Midland Center for the Arts can be purchased by visiting this link.
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)