Air Supply Celebrates 40 Years Making Music

By: Feb. 04, 2015

Shortly after Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock met the first day of rehearsal as chorus members in a Sydney, Australia production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" in May 1975, they realized that they had many things in common including having seen The Beatles perform in concert in 1964. When they first performed at local clubs on nights after "Jesus Christ Superstar" had ended, they could never have imagined that their musical partnership would last four times as long as that of their idols.

Forty years later, the duo - which attained worldwide fame as pop/rock duo Air Supply ( with hit after hit in the early to mid-'80s - celebrates their special anniversary the only way they've ever embraced any year: looking forward to another whirlwind slate of international appearances with one of pop music's most enduring powerhouse touring bands.

Their most recent release, the CD, DVD and Blu-Ray Live in Hong Kong on Evolution Media, captures one of their classic performances, vibrantly illuminating a true musical phenomenon. For those able to experience the magic in person, Air Supply is looking forward to another 100+ dates throughout North America and across the world throughout 2015, hitting Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, The Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, Jamaica and Chile - with many more shows to be scheduled. They're also looking forward to the release of a new dance single, "I Want You."

Though the British-born Russell and Melbourne native Hitchcock are beloved by millions around the globe, the duo's homeland of Australia still has a special place in its heart for them. In late 2013, they returned to Sydney to be inducted into the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Hall of Fame at the 27th Annual ARIA Awards.

Signed by Clive Davis to Arista Records in 1980, Air Supply scored an immediate hit with "Lost In Love," an edited down version of a previous Australian hit which reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song initiated a run of seven consecutive U.S. Top Fives in a little more than two years, including their #1 "The One That You Love" in 1981. Air Supply at that time had equaled The Beatles' run of consecutive top five singles.

Air Supply's albums Lost in Love, The One That You Love, Now & Forever, and The Greatest Hits have sold in excess of 40 million copies. "Lost in Love" was named Song of the Year in 1980, and, their singles have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. "Lost in Love," "All Out of Love," "The One That You Love," "Sweet Dreams," and "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All" have each achieved multi-million plays on the radio.

With the chart success in recent years of "Dance With Me" and "Faith In Love" (from their 2010 album Mumbo Jumbo), which reached the Top 30 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and "Desert Sea Sky," whose remix by The Wideboys hit the Hot Dance Club Play chart, Air Supply has now extended their hit-making streak to four decades. Just weeks after composer and vocalist Graham Russell was honored with a BMI Million-Air Certificate recognizing three million performances of "All Out Of Love," "Dance With Me" was the #1 most added track on the FMQB AC40 Chart, and also one of the most added on the R&R (Radio and Records) AC Chart and the Mediabase AC chart. Billboard did a prominent feature at the time titled, "Still Supplying The Hits After 35 Years."

Russell and Hitchcock got their first taste of the road after the release of their second Australian album The Whole Thing's Started (1977), when Rod Stewart invited them to open for him on his tour of Australia, the U.S. and Canada. It seems as if they've been on the road ever since.

"From the beginning, we were touring in places that nobody had been to, because our songs were enjoying success there," says Russell. "We were the one of the first bands to travel to Asia, and we performed in countries including China, Taiwan, South Korea and Vietnam. Our sound was immediately embraced by our fans in the region. When we first went to Japan, we played The Budokan, an indoor arena originally built for the Judo competition in the 1964 Olympics. Because at the time, Japan was a much more conservative country, there were "traffic" lights on either side of the stage. They initially were GREEN and as the concert progressed, if the audience got rowdy, the lights would change to "CAUTION" and the audience would quietness down. And of course if the audience got REALLY crazy, the building had the ability to turn the lights to "RED" and the show would be stopped. Of course, that didn't happen with us! We have maintained a wonderful relationship with our fans there and always look forward to returning."

"Putting a unique past and present perspective on the live experience and what it means to the fans and the band," Hitchcock adds, "Once we signed with Arista, we didn't have a lot of time to take it all in, because we were on the road nine or 10 months a year on a tour bus, and also doing as much promotion as we could, including Radio, in store appearances and numerous television shows. Johnny Carson, Solid Gold, Midnight Special and many more. There wasn't really time to stop and smell the roses.

"We'd be on the bus and someone would say "the record went to number three! We'd say "Great, can you get me a drink?" We by no means took any of our success for granted; we just didn't have the time to absorb all that was happening around us. These days, people bring photos from that amazing time and it's great to remember times and places from their perspective. Graham and I have always embraced humility and never dwelled on fame and money - we were always just grateful that we had a career and opportunities to touch people with our music.

"We recorded a live video of one of our concerts in Hawaii in 1982 and sometime later, received a fan letter backstage from a woman who told us that she had given birth to her first child with the video playing in the delivery room so that Air Supply would be the first thing her baby would hear and "see" after being born," Hitchcock continues. "Other times, several fans have told us they were considering suicide and found something in our songs that made them want to keep living. That's special to us. It's gratifying that our music strikes such an emotional chord for them. That's why we love playing live because there's nothing like seeing how the music affects them, just looking at their faces. There's a genuine outpouring of love and affection between us and our fans. No matter what kind of day they've had, our goal is to take them away from all the negative stuff and turn things around. We never take our audience for granted. Graham and I always say to the band, 'Okay, guys, tonight is the first show of the rest of your career. Make it happen.'"

Though they never forgot their humble beginnings playing acoustic music in pizza parlors, night clubs and coffee bars, Russell and Hitchcock were ambitious from the start. Hitchcock recalls that they got in a fight with their first label in 1976 when the executives told them they would make Air Supply the biggest band in Australia. "We don't want that," the singer recalls saying. "We want to be the biggest band in the world."

But as with any band that would someday achieve their dreams of superstardom, there were some bumps and doubt along the way. Returning to Australia after the Stewart tour late in 1977, they were as Hitchcock says, "dead in the water." Russell went to Adelaide and Hitchcock stayed in Melbourne where he made a living singing jingles. Even after rebounding with a new label and a hit with the original version of "Lost in Love," their band was too large to afford to tour.

They don't know exactly how legendary song man and star maker Clive Davis got a hold of "Lost in Love," but his interest in the song at the start of the new decade (1980s) was the catalyst for one of pop music's most inspiring and enduring legacies. Russell used the last of his money to attend MIDEM, the big publishing convention in France. He got food poisoning and was unable to participate in the networking and festivities. While he was there, he picked up a copy of the industry publication Record World and saw a headline on the front cover that said that "Lost in Love" is going to take the charts by storm. On page five was a picture of Air Supply, accompanied by text that predicted they would go all the way.

"Clive Davis was instrumental in our success worldwide and left no stone unturned in making sure we were positioned to succeed at the topmost level. Looking back," Russell says, "we did have a sound that was fresh and different, and it was a plus that we were from Australia and music was ready for a new sound for a new decade. When I saw 'Lost in Love' climbing the charts worldwide, I couldn't believe that not only did we have an enormous hit on our hands but also it would the first of many to come.

Both now in their '60s, Russell and Hitchcock are taking things year by year, city by city, concert by concert and track by track - but with any luck and good health, and the ongoing passion of their adoring global fan base, they'll still be "Lost In Love" when their 50th Anniversary rolls around.

"Besides all these wonderful songs Graham has written, I have the immense privilege to perform them every night," Hitchcock says, "I think one the keys to our success is our mutual respect for each other. We complement each other's talents perfectly. And from that first day in rehearsal for 'Superstar' to the present day, we enjoy one of the most amazing friendships I've ever experienced. What's not to love about that?"