Friday, March 25, 2005

What Air Supply Means To Me

When Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell met on May 12, 1975, during the first day of rehearsals for Jesus Christ Superstar, I was not yet nine years old (born May 28, 1966) and living two hours drive away in Cooranbong, the home of the Seventh Day Adventist Avondale College, where my father Desmond Ford was the chairman of the Religion Department.

My home was not a happy place. After my mother was diagnosed with cancer on my first birthday (she died April 24, 1970), my family cracked up.

Though my dad remarried nine months after her death, and I got a devoted stepmother, the love had left our home. What remained was my father's dedication to saving souls for Christ. Aside from that, this world was worthless.

Popular music was not allowed in our home. It was regarded as a sin, along with caffeine, nicotine, and sex before marriage.

My parents, along with most of the Christian world, regarded Jesus Christ Superstar as sacrilegious.

While Russell and Graham toured Australia and New Zealand with this musical, they started singing Beatles (a Satanic group according to my dad) hits together as well as a couple of Graham's songs.

Graham recalls:

We made a demo of two of my songs, "Love and Other Bruises" and "If You Knew Me." The demo was recorded live on a cassette in the orchestra pit using the drummer and pianist from the show. We shopped it around Sydney with no luck in an environment of AC/DC and Rock n' Roll. As a last resort we saw Peter Dawkins from CBS... He loved the sound he heard and we make a single in four hours at Alberts Studio on Kings Street in Sydney. We didn't even have a name yet, but that night I dreamt of a billboard with flashing neon lights and on it said "Air Supply."

The single came out and was played on 2GB in Sydney. Not long after it was all over every station in Australia. It went to #1...

In late 1976, Air Supply opened for Rod Stewart around Australia.

In May 1977, my parents and I moved to Pacific Union College in the Napa Valley. Lost and lonely, I immersed myself in books of history. Music was a minor part of my life. My parents like certain hymns (many composed by Martin Luther, John Newton and Paul Wesley) and my father adored the 19th Century German classical music composer Wagner.

On July 4, 1977, Air Supply boarded their first 747 and flew to Los Angeles. They toured with Stewart around North America for six months.

Back in Australia, Graham wrote future hits Chances, Lost in Love and All out of Love.

On Sabbath afternoon, October 28, 1978 (Yom Kippur), my father denounced our Church's central doctrine of divine chosenness before 1000 of his co-religionists. Soon after, he was called to account for his heresy at SDA headquarters in Washington D.C.

Just before my parents left, a classmate I envied for his popularity, Andy Muth, was pushed by his mother to invite me to his home for Sabbath lunch.

It was the first time in America that I'd been invited (without my parents) to a friend's home for Sabbath lunch.

The meal was life-changing. For a few hours, I sat with a family who loved each other.

My own home was cold. I hated it. I constantly dreamed I'd be adopted by a loving family (yet, whenever I thought through the specifics, I always concluded that the benefits of my home outweighed the disadvantages).

My father lived by the dicta that great people discuss ideas, not people. Our table talk was about philosophy, history and my father's theological battles. Ordinary matters, such as girls, were forbidden (not explicitly, just by my father's stern example, which my stepmother generally fell in with).

The one time (in seventh grade) a girl called for me and my mother answered the phone, I got into trouble.

What chilled my soul was not so much my mother drilling me about the girl and forbidding such future telephone conversations that sent such a chill into my soul, but the whole steel wall my parents (not from malicious motives, they did their best by me) erected between me and the joys of being human. It was impossible for me to enjoy being 13 while I was Dr. Ford's son.

My dad was far tougher on my older siblings (I didn't like to make waves around the house) than on me. I got the kinder gentler Dr. Ford. When my brother was 13, my dad marched to the door of his girlfriend's parents and broke up the relationship.

By age 15, my brother and sister had left home.

My father was uptight around women. He thought they were, in general, overly emotional and insufficiently rational. Resolutely moral, dad hated it when they tried to hug him. He loved misogynistic remarks from unimpeachable sources, such as the one by Martin Luther that "women were born with big hips so that they can stay at home and sit on them."

As I grew up, I found myself mirroring dad's behavior, shrugging off the female touch even though it was what I wanted most.

From age eight onwards, I was fascinated by girls and sex. Due to the standards of my home, it was not something I could talk about except with my closest male friends.

When the first girls became interested in me in fifth grade, I punched and kicked them, spat upon them, and left thumbtacks on their chairs for them to sit upon. I didn't know how else to respond to what I wanted.

Now on this Sabbath afternoon with the Muths, I sat with a family who could banter about all my secret fascinations -- chiefly, the cute girls in my class such as Denise Bernard.

When my parents moved to Washington a couple of weeks later, I stayed behind with friends and became close to Andy and his family.

Though the Muths had the same religious code as my parents, there was humanity in the way they implemented it. For the next five years, there home was an oasis of normality for me. I was never happier than when I lived with them.

One Sabbath they even had Denise over for lunch.

Andy introduced me, not only to beautiful girls, but to the typical concerns of 13-year olds, such as computer games and pop music.

In early 1980, Air Supply's title cut Lost in Love went to number three on the American charts. I immediately latched on to the group because their music spoke to my lonely heart. I loved their first hit because it spoke to the way we can inspire each other: "But I'm back on my feet and eager to be what you wanted."

All Out Of Love was their second hit:

I am lying alone with my head on the phone
Thinking of you till it hurts
I know you're hurt too
but what else can we do
Tormented and torn apart

I wish I could carry your smile in my heart
For times when my life seems so low
It would make me believe what tomorrow could bring
When today doesn't really know, doesn't really know

As a kid who moved a lot, and tended to romanticize what I'd left behind, this song spoke to me.

Then came Every Woman in the World:

Over night scenes, dinner and wine
Saturday girls
I was never in love, never had the time
In my hustle and hurry world
Laughing myself to sleep, waking up lonely
I needed someone to hold me, oh

It's such a crazy old town, it can bring you down
Till you run out of dreams
So you party all night to the music and lights
But you don't know what happiness means
I was dancin' in the dark with strangers
No love around me, when suddenly you found me, oh

Love can transform your life. Not just love of a woman, but love of friends, text, and experiences. I felt that if I could tap into the power of love, and combine it with a disciplined commitment, I could transform my unhappy life.

The One That You Love was the title cut from Air Supply's second album. It became a number one hit.

Now the night has gone away
Doesn't seem that long
We hardly had two words to say
Hold me in your arms
For just another day

As one who had never spent the night with a girl, that description sounded thrilling.

Here I Am (Just When I Thought I Was Over You) was another hit.

Here I am playing with those memories again
And just when I thought time had set me free
Those thoughts of you keep taunting me
Holding you, a feeling I never outgrew
Though each and every part of me has tried
Only you can fill that space inside
So there's no sense pretending
My heart it's not mending

I admired the emotional courage of the lyrics. I wished that I could say such words to Denise and that they would be reciprocated.

I 'll Never Get Enough Of You was big in Japan.

Now you're gone, I'm all alone just lying here
Waiting for the moment when I'll feel you near
Never asked if you'd come back, I'm too damn proud
I just smiled and touched your hair
As you went out

I longed for the opportunity to feel such pain.

How many times has love fallen through
When I left it all up to you
I took your words when you said
It's got to be just right
I need you now I need you now

Sweet Dreams

I'm not looking forward to the night I will spend
Thinking of you when you're not here
How many times will I think about the things
I'd like to do
Always denied the right to live my life the way I want
I want to share it with you

Come What May didn't get the recognition it deserved in North America. But those Japs and hot-blooded South Americans sure know good music:

When she looks at me
I know the girl sees things
Nobody else can see

All of the secret fears inside
And all the craziness I hide
She looks into my soul
And reads me like nobody can

And she doesn't judge the man
She just takes me as I am

Even The Nights Are Better:

You, you knew just what to do
Cause you had been lonely too
And you showed me how
To ease the pain

And you did more
Than mend a broken heart
Cause now you've made a fire start

Two Less Lonely People In The World was the wedding anthem of the 1980s says Graham Russell:

Just to think what I might have missed
Looking back how did I exist
I dreamed, still I never thought I'd come this far
But miracles come true, I know 'cause here we are

Young Love:

Take my thoughts away beyond the things we see
Sometimes I feel just a word away

Making Love Out Of Nothing At All

Every time I see you, well the rays of the sun are all
Streaming through the waves in your hair
And every star in the sky is taking aim at your eyes
Like a spotlight
The beating of my heart is a drum and it's lost
And it's looking for a rhythm like you
You can take the darkness from the deep of the night
And turn it to a beacon burning endlessly bright
I gotta follow it 'cause everything I know
Well, it's nothing 'till I give it to you

I want to do great things for the girl I love.

I Can Wait Forever:

When it looked as though my life was wrong
You took my love and gave it somewhere to belong
I'll be here, when hope is out of sight
I just wish that I were next to you tonight
And though, I'll be reaching for you even though
You'll be somewhere else, my love will go
Like a bird on its way back home

Just As I Am:

I've had a lot of big dreams
I've made a lot of bad moves
I know you could walk away
But you never do

I've met a lot of cold hearts
I've learned to smile and deceive
I know I'm hard to be around
But you never leave

The Power Of Love:

We're heading for something
Somewhere I've never been
Sometimes I am frightened
But I'm ready to learn
Of the power of love

During the first six months of 1980, when I went to bed at night, I tucked a radio under my pillow and for the first time listened to the same songs as my classmates.

During the day, freed from my parents, I mixed normally with people. I developed friends and community. I touched girls.

Back in the beginning of sixth grade, the most beautiful girl in the class, Cindy, dropped a note on my desk asking me if I wanted to "go" with her. With an opportunity to seize love, I froze, felt unworthy, and never answered her directly. Instead, I teased her unmercifully for months. When I finally dropped a note on her desk and asked her to "go" with me, she responded with an enthusiastic "No!"

Now I learned from my classmates' example how to express what I felt in more socially appropriate ways. Instead of dunking girls in the college pool and twisting their nipples, I began holding them in ways they wanted to be held. At times, I even got to touch the most beautiful girls.

In the main, however, I found myself longing for a girl, Denise, who did not feel the same way about me. For months on end, I called her every day until the gossip went around the class about what I was doing and how annoying she found it, and, humiliated, I got the message and quit.

But I couldn't quit loving her.

She was the first girl I asked out on a date. Several times she turned me down in the summer of 1981 (between ninth and tenth grade) because she had to go to horse shows. Finally she said yes when I asked her to a San Francisco Giants. It was the first night of pro baseball after a 50-day players strike.

I was so nervous that I wore mismatched socks and spent most of the night making bets with Andy. Denise and I never went out again.

I hear she's now married and living in Los Angeles.

Later in the summer, I fell in love for the first time with a girl who reciprocated my feelings -- Rainy Jackson. She was a year younger than me. She had chubby cheeks. We liked the same music. It took me a year to work up the courage to kiss her. Meanwhile, when I left the Muths to return home for school, we exchanged long and longing letters (far longer and more longing on my part until the time I got so jealous, I stopped writing to her for several months. Nothing is more effective with girls than cutting off attention to them.)

The most haunting Air Supply song is Chances. Whenever I heard it, I thought about Rainy:

There's a chance you will be there
Wondering what to do
How to play my role
I'll leave it up to you
If I disguise my smile
It gives too much away
What if we can't speak
What then shall I say
Don't you be too long
Something has gone wrong
The chances are all gone

From childhood to adulthood, I've found it hard to approach someone I'm attracted to (when I'm feeling unworthy, which is often). I find it easier to sit in the corner and sulk. I find it easier to avoid painful truth and live in my delusions of grandeur.

I've found it hard to tell a girl that I care because not only does that make me incredibly vulnerable, but it gives her all the power and removes from me all the mystery. It's a really lousy strategy (unless you're sure the feelings are mutual, or you need to get clarity on the matter so you can fish or cut bait).

Air Supply articulated my helpless longings and soothed the pain of my awkward adolescence. My favorite songs included Chances, The One That You Love, Here I Am, Sweet Dreams, Even The Nights Are Better, and Two Less Lonely People In The World.

Andy not only introduced me to junk culture, but also junk food. We d clamber into the bins outside our local supermarket and dig up the pastries and cookies that were a day or two past their expiration date.

I was also introduced to the trash can outside the post office where one could find catalogues of pornography. I wouldn't look at it (for religious reasons), but I got a thrill from hanging out with those who would. I'd ask them to describe to me what they saw.

After highschool, I created my own life. I didn't need Air Supply as much and it was a good thing as they were all out of hits. My new favorite song was 1984's Drive by The Cars.

Who's gonna tell you when
It's too late
Who's gonna tell you things
Aren't so great
You can't go on
Thinking nothing's wrong
Who's gonna drive you home tonight

Who's gonna pick you up
When you fall
Who's gonna hang it up
When you call
Who's gonna pay attention
To your dreams
Who's gonna plug their ears
When you scream

I listened to that song while driving home Rachel, a 16-year old I fell in love with during my year back in Australia (1984-85). Because of a miscommunication (her mother thought the host of a party I wanted to take Rachel to was someone else, and forbade her going), I never got to date Rachel. All I got was the privilege of driving her home one night (and a week later, taking out her twin sister Leeanne all night).

I never saw them again. In the early '90s, Rachel died in a car accident.

By the time I lost my virginity at age 21, I'd moved from pop to classical music (though I was willing to play REO Speedwagon to get my girlfriend in the mood).

Since then, I've limited the amount of discretionary time and money I'll spend on pop culture and concentrated on things more in accord with lasting values.

In 1999, 2000, and 2001, I took long drives from Los Angeles to my childhood haunts. When I stepped alone on to those familiar paths (all my friends have married and moved on), I realized how little I've changed. Yes, I've learned to control my behavior better, but the same forces that drove me as a kid to seek a sanctuary in Air Supply still drive me today. And when my fears and hopes hit peak intensity, and I'm as lost in love as I was at 13, nothing speaks to me like Air Supply. The music takes me back 25 years to my adolescent fear and excitement over girls.

It's when I no longer feel that shock and awe that I will worry. As long as I have passion, I can still make my dreams come true. And one day soon, I pray, I will be one of two less lonely people in the world.


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6:49 PM  
Blogger anny said...

i love air supply i´m brazilian girl and my music is lonely is the night kissssssss

8:42 AM  
Blogger anny said...

my e-mail is Airsupply in all the world give me yours dreams, Ah...I should like of have air supply´s friends...desculpem meu inglês...

8:46 AM  
Blogger anny said...

I can make tonight forever or I can make it dessapear by down.......

8:48 AM  
Blogger Penny said...

this was a wonderful message and I posted a link to it on my Air Supply fans site. I would be delighted to have you join us.


8:30 PM  
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10:43 PM  
Blogger Diane Divine said...

whatever it is, i am a big fan of air supply too! all time song - all out of love..

1:41 AM  
Blogger #1mom said...

I too love Air Supply and have since the first time I heard "All Out of Love" when I was seven. In my heart there has never been a song written that could top how that one makes me feel when I hear it. Even at seven I started my journey to find the one who I couldn't live without. The man I fell in love with and married (we have two wonderful children) doesn't even begin to understand how Air Supply moves me and he tends to make fun of me. In fact, we were married for seven years before he realized that I even listened to Air Supply. Alas, I have yet to see them in concert. He will not let me go with a friend and yet when I plan for him and me to go, something always comes up and we have to cancel. But hey, they're still out there and there's always that little glint of hope!!! STand strong Air Supply fans! There's more of us than anyone thinks!

11:32 AM  

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