. Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of the Heart
Songwriter Jim Steinman originally penned his 1983 smash from the point of view of a despondent vampire for a proposed musical he wrote based on Nosferatu. Tyler’s sore-throated vocals perfectly matched the strained drama of Steinman’s music. Together, they created both a great pop song and a staggering piece of kitsch. Either way, the lyrics idealize the parallel between a dimming of the heavens and the extinction of a romance. Small wonder, Tyler will be performing her Sturm und Drang anthem right as the event takes place. In fine kitsch fashion, she’ll do so on a cruise ship off the waters of Orlando, Florida.
2. Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun
The late Chris Cornell admitted in several interviews that he had no idea what the lyrics for one of his biggest ballads mean. “It’s just sort of a surreal dreamscape,” he said. “I was painting a picture with the lyrics.” Luckily, it’s a vivid one. Black Hole Sun proved evocative and catchy enough to become a rock radio smash in 1994, as well as one of Soundgarden’s most enduring songs. The video for the single went a more literal route, depicting a garishly bright sky, luring people into a world of flames.
3. Carly Simon – You’re So Vain
In pop’s snarkiest kiss-off to a narcissist, the main character flaunts his power by jaunting off to Saratoga to watch his racehorse win, followed by a hop on his Learjet to Nova Scotia “to see the total eclipse of the sun”. In the process, the eclipse becomes a boast, a mere prop for a character who always needs to be in the right place, at the right time.
4. Pink Floyd – Brain Damage/Eclipse
Every song on Dark Side of the Moon centers on the mysteries and metaphors of space. Arguably, the 1974 classic reached its zenith in Eclipse, a gospel-fueled blowout which culminates in the moon blotting out the sun, in the process creating one of rock’s ultimate head-rushes.
5. Klaus Nomi – Total Eclipse
The late performance artist/pop star Klaus Nomi used his arch persona and operatic voice to enliven one of the craziest odes ever composed to an eclipse. Kristian Hoffman wrote the song, which turns an apocalyptic event into a potential new wave club anthem. “Do the dismembered blast dance/as we get atomized,” Nomi warbled.
Never has an eclipse sounded so flip.
6. Morrissey – Little Man, What Now
No one knows more about being plunged into abject darkness than mope-king Morrissey. In Little Man, What Now, he both empathized and mocked a once famous child star who now goes unrecognized. “Did that swift eclipse torture you?,” he asks. “A star at eighteen/then suddenly gone.”
Here, an eclipse captures invisibility – to Morrissey, the worst horror of all.
7. Pet Shop Boys – Silver Age
An eclipse has a political dimension in this 1999 song by the Pet Shop Boys. The duo took inspiration from a poem by Anna Akhmatova, written about St Petersburg just before the first world war. “Earthquakes predicted/and someday soon/a total eclipse/of the sun and the moon,” they wrote.
It’s a song of foreboding, mirroring the message many ancient people took from the sudden blackening of the skies.
8. Metallica – My Apocalypse
My Apocalypse, from Metallica’s 2008 album Death Magnetic, tells the tale of a deadly car crash from the victim’s point of view. Consider it a thrash-rock version of a Quentin Tarantino film, capturing a scene of lacerated skin, shattered bones, and free-flowing blood. Here, the “total eclipse” functions as a stand-in for random, brutal death.
9. Roxy Music – Triptych
Bryan Ferry’s 1974 ode seems irredeemably gloomy, given its setting at the crucifixion. But it ends with a resurrection. “Though the sun’s eclipse seems final/surely he will rise again,” Ferry sings of his Jesus-figure, while an Elizabethan harpsichord tinkles below. It’s the eclipse as a tease rather than a curse.
10. The Alan Parsons Project – Total Eclipse
On Parson’s sci-fi themed smash album from 1977, I Robot, he included a track primed for the planetarium. Sounding much like an outtake from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the cut expresses the last gasp of prog-rock’s commercial prime. At the same time, its role as a lyric-free instrumental underscores an enduring point: watching an eclipse is beyond words.