BONNIE TYLER’S WAGNERIAN POWER ballad “Total Eclipse of the Heart” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on Oct. 1, 1983, giving the then-32-year-old whiskey-voiced singer the biggest single of her career.
Written and produced by Meat Loaf collaborator Jim Steinman, the track spent four weeks at No. 1, thanks in part to the popularity of its melodramatic music video. The clip was directed by pioneer Russell Mulcahy, then 30, who had directed the first video shown on MTV, The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” as well as early music channel staples for Duran Duran and Billy Joel.
The video depicts Tyler roaming the halls of a posh boys’ school in a long white dress while the students – some scantily clad as gymnasts, some inexplicably dressed as ninjas – cavort around her, occasionally flashing creepy “bright eyes,” a reference to the song’s lyrics.
Tyler didn’t always appreciate Mulcahy’s creativity, though. After one scene involving shirtless actors, the director recalls, she turned to him and said, “You are nothing but a prevert!” [sic] before storming off. “It wasn’t meant to be perverted,” says Mulcahy, but rather “sexually charged.”
Despite Tyler’s initial displeasure, she asked Mulcahy to direct her next video, but he declined. She would notch one more top 40 hit in 1984 with another Steinman-produced cut: the Footloose soundtrack single “Holding Out for a Hero.” Now 64, Tyler still performs live and released her most recent album, Rocks and Honey, in 2013.
Mulcahy received the MTV Video Vanguard Award in 1985. His work can still be seen on MTV, even if the network rarely plays videos: The 62-year-old directs many episodes of the hit drama series Teen Wolf.
A version of this article first appeared in the Oct. 3 issue of Billboard magazine.