@ Pigeon Island, St. Lucia Jazz Festival
9 May 2008
Click an image to enlarge.
In 1975, Graham Russell & Russell Hitchcock met on May 12th
the first day of rehearsals for ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’
in Sydney, Australia. They became instant friends with their common
love for the Beatles and of course singing. After the shows performance
at 10:30, they would play pizza parlours, coffee bars and night
clubs with just one guitar and two voices. They quickly gained a
reputation for great harmonies and for original songs that Graham
was writing constantly. They made a demo on a cassette, of two songs,
“Love and Other Bruises” and “If You Knew Me”
and took it to every record company in Sydney. Everyone turned it
down, but one - CBS Records who admired their unique style. They
made a single in one afternoon and it shot to number one on the
National charts. Air Supply was born!
That same year, they opened for Rod Stewart across Australia and
then throughout the US and Canada playing all the famous huge venues
before Rod would take the stage. They found new fans, but did not
break the US market. Back in Australia they had to start again and
recorded an album called “Life Support”. On this record
were some treasures of songs, including “Lost in Love”
which went top 10 in Australia and somehow found its way to Clive
Davis in New York. Clive immediately signed Air Supply to Arista
Records and in 1980, “Lost in Love” became the fastest
selling single in the world and leaped to the top of the all the
charts. Now Air Supply were on their way. The second single was
“All Out of Love” and that went up the charts even quicker.
Seven top-five singles later, Air Supply at that time had equalled
the Beatle’s run of consecutive top five singles. The albums
“Lost in Love”, “The One That You Love”,
“Now & Forever” and “The Greatest Hits”
sold in excess of 20 million copies. “Lost in Love”
was named song of the year in 1980, and with the other singles sold
over 10 million copies.
In July 2005, Air Supply smashed attendance records by playing
to 175,000 people in one show in Cuba.
Having lived in St Lucia for 17 years and having what I thought
was a pretty good idea of what the popular music was for this island,
I was totally unprepared for the reaction to Air Supply. This night
was not just a sell-out, but also boasted the largest venue turn
out of all St. Lucia Jazz Festival 2008 gigs. And judging by whispers
and the body language of many local ladies near stage front…
anything could happen!
The two comperes introduced Air Supply as singers of ‘baby
making music’ and, from the first song “Close Your Eyes”,
the first few rows of the seated audience were up on their feet
screaming and gyrating.
I sat, jaw agape, as guitarist Graham Russell and tenor vocalist
Russell Hitchcock had young girls and middle-aged women rushing
to the stage front with arms flailing wildly. These mature ‘well
groomed’ men in black (the smaller Hitchcock actually wearing
leather trousers and a possible cast-off jacket from the Beatles
& Carnaby Street) had the ladies eating out of their hands.
The same tenor voice jumped into the crowd at one point and walked
through, singing, whilst young girls were vying to touch him –
The songs poured out; each accompanied heartily by old (and I mean
‘old’!) and young (likewise!) alike – even by
the men in the audience, with no reservations.
Air Supply were regular entrants into the early 80’s pop
charts with 7 straight top ten singles, all of which were performed
at Pigeon Island, to the delight of the crowd. By the time they
performed their biggest hit “All out of Love” (and their
final song) women had started to adorn Russell Hitchcock with their
prized undergarments. By this time I had well and truly moved out
of my third row seat in fear of being crushed by the besotted crowd.
A poker-faced security guard who was trying to hold the crowd back
saw my shocked face and just had to break into a grin and shake
Visiting Brits and fellow journalists couldn’t understand
it; the Caribbean contingent absolutely loved it. In this ballad-loving
part of the World, Air Supply could do no wrong!
Many successful pop groups from the 70’s and beyond have
long since hung up their instruments for a quieter life. Some have
simply gone out of fashion, but Air Supply have been keeping audiences
entertained since starting their musical careers in the 70’s
and look as though they will keep going. Credit has to be given
to Russell & Hitchcock for keeping their voices and holding
such a crowd.
A monetary reward will be given to the photographer
who took my jaw-dropping photo, once he had stopped laughing at
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.