Just As I Am (D Wagner/ R Hegel) – Air Supply 1985 and Caught In Your Web(Swear To Your Heart) (D Warren)- Russell Hitchcock 1990 and Dance With Me (G Russell/ F Moreno) and Faith In Love (G Russell) – Air Supply 2010
The hits were starting to dry up for Air Supply by the time they released their eponymous eighth album in 1985, legendary Canadian producer Bob Ezrin (below) (Lou Reed, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Kiss, Deep Purple) helmed the sessions, and their choice of Ezrin as producer, who had curated records for some of the heaviest rock acts of the past twenty years, indicated that Air Supply were looking to re-invent their sound and their image.
The album certainly contained its fair share of ballads and pocket symphonies which fans had come to expect, but the first single released was the decidedly grittier power ballad Just As I Am. The opening is guitar-driven and there is less emphasis on the subtle strings and percussion of former hits, giving way to a more full-bodied rock sound, more reminiscent of Queen, as Russell Hitchcock sings solo lead vocals and he and Graham Russell both sport very 1980’s mullet hairstyles, this one was their last US Billboard top 20 hit when it climbed to #19, #12 in Canada and #79 in Australia.
The band continued to release albums but only Hearts In Motion (’86) charted #84 in the US, The Earth Is (’91), The Vanishing Race (’93), News From Nowhere (’95), Book of Love (’97), Yours Truly (’01), Across The Concrete Sky (’03), Mumbo Jumbo (’10) and several live albums, and greatest hits compilations, delivered diminishing returns for the band.
Russell Hitchcock would enjoy solo success in 1990 with the Diane Warren song Caught In Your Web (Swear To Your Heart) which featured Eagles bassist Timothy Schmit on backing vocals, the song was part of the soundtrack for the movie Arachnophobia, and it climbed into the US Contemporary Charts top ten for a late career hit for Hitchcock.
In 2010 the concept album Mumbo Jumbo, produced by Graham Russell, would deliver two singles that would take Air Supply back into the top 30 of the US Contemporary Charts again after an absence of over 20 years, with the uptempo club track Dance With Me about which Graham Russell commented “We are a full-on rock and roll band… I love the Rolling Stones and the raunchiness of Keith Richards, and we sought to capture that sound in this song,” Faith in Love had been part of the band’s set list for three years before including it on Mumbo Jumbo, again it’s a divergence in style for the band with its disco-inflected beat, which was clearly inspired by the Bee Gees. They also scored an accidental dance hit when a DJ remixed their song Desert Sea Sky in 2014 – and it became a Top 50 hit on the Billboard Dance Chart.
In 2016 Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell celebrated forty years of performing as Air Supply, one of Australia’s most successful musical exports with total album sales now estimated to be in excess of 40 million, placing them fifth on the list of all-time best-selling Australian groups after AC/CD, The Bee Gees, INXS, and The Seekers. They emerged during the era of pub rock in this country and had to fight to perform their love songs and ballads in beer barns where visceral, four-on-the-floor, thumping boogie rock was the punters preference, but they stuck it out and carved out a highly successful niche in the 1980’s US adult contemporary music market.
Graham Russell has humorously remarked that their performing partnership has lasted longer than any of Russell Hitchcock’s four marriages, although over the journey Hitchcock has inked his way to an extensive collection of tattoos, that reflects the more turbulent private nature of the lead singer, whose public persona as an afro-haired balladeer with a sensitive disposition, was erroneously cast in stone way back in the 1970’s.
The duo were somewhat belatedly inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2013 because they were regarded by the rock cognoscenti as uncool, however lesser acts certainly jumped the queue on Air Supply for ARIA induction, including Radio Birdman, the Models, The Church, the Triffids, John Williamson, and others. The band still tours and performs 140 live shows a year, they are and have always been jobbing musicians with musical skills and abilities that never relied on studio trickery to delight their fans, both men are financially secure, they have both released solo albums in the past twenty years, but when they perform together that old Air Supply magic fills the air – and they continue to win new fans as soft rock re-emerges as a cool genre in the new millennium.