The diminutive JPY (he is 1.69m or 5ft 6 inches tall) was one of the most popular stars of the 1970’s via his regular Countdown appearances and a string of sprightly and extremely catchy pop hits crafted by the venerable team of Vanda and Young. These hits included Yesterday’s Hero, The Love Game, I Hate the Music, Keep On Smilin’, Standing In The Rain, I Wanna Do It With You, and his biggest hit Love Is In The Air.
He was extremely popular in South Africa at a time when the apartheid regime was in place, many artists boycotted tours to this country unless their audiences were fully integrated, as JPY did, but his intentions were thwarted by the economic realities of being black under a racist regime, and simply not being able to afford to buy tickets to a John Paul Young concert there. Vanda and Young (below) had noted the success of their previous hit Standing in The Rain in Europe, and were aiming for something similar here, fusing their familiar drum loop with the popular Euro disco sound and a catchy ascending chord progression, with some Georgio Moroder -inspired electronic clicks and buzzes thrown in.Lyrically the song’s development is fascinating as described by John Tait in his book “Vanda and Young- Inside Australia’s Hit Factory”- “Vanda and Young had been toying with a verse starting with “Love is in the air, everywhere I look around…” but they needed a “musical staircase that lifted the song up to the chorus … when they got it to the studio, the full chorus had not actually been completely written, so they told John to sing “whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa”. It sounded so good that it remained that way.” A similar magic moment had happened during the recording of The Real Thing by Russell Morris when Ian Meldrum had temporarily dropped some “ooh mow ma mow mows” in as filler until a suitable guitar riff could be added, but Meldrum had the nous to realise that the improvisation was unique, and he left it in. Phil Spector did likewise with the Righteous Brothers on their classic hit You‘ve Lost that Loving Feeling when he got Bill Medley to throw in some bass baritone “whoa, whoa, whoas”, just before Bobby Hatfield took that song up a notch with his plaintive tenor. John Farnham would similarly replicate the “whoa, whoa, whoas”, in his classic comeback hit You’re the Voice.
The opening lines to the song are delivered so casually, it’s almost as if you have just walked into someone else’s conversation and they are sharing an attitude about how they feel with you, it is complicit in an unusual way, and it connected with fans all over the world who found it completely accessible and unforgettable. “Love is in the air/everywhere I look around …”. Mark Opitz (below) worked with Vanda and Young on the record, but it was Ted Albert who ultimately nominated the final tape mix.The song was a huge international hit, charted #1 in South Africa and Asia, top 10 in Australia, Europe, the UK and #7 in the USA and was revived as a top 10 hit again in 1992, when included on the soundtrack of Baz Luhrmann’s acclaimed film Strictly Ballroom.The promo clip was hastily shot in the Alberts recording studio with JPY resplendent in a souvenir T-shirt from Cape Town, with a cheetah emblazoned on the front.
Love Is In The Air was the 23rd biggest-selling record locally in 1978 and won the APRA Award for Most Performed Song Overseas in both 1992 and 2004 with the release of Strictly Ballroom – The Musical, a nine -minute “Olympic Samba” version of the song was featured in the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.(below)John Paul Young was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2009, along with Kev Carmody, the Dingoes, Little Pattie, and Mental as Anything.