The Meaning Behind “All Out of Love” by Air Supply and How Clive Davis Came to the Rescue (and Got a Credit)


Air Supply steadily succeeded with a stream of soft rock hits that played off their strengths: Graham Russell’s songwriting and Russell Hitchcock’s vocals. They dented the charts with regularity, and fans of sorrowful, dramatic ballads have a soft spot in their hearts for the duo’s 1980 hit “All Out of Love.”

What was the song about? Why did Graham Russell take lead vocals on verses on this one? And how did legendary music industry executive Clive Davis end up with a songwriting credit? Read on and go all in with “All Out of Love.”

“Love” Hangover

Air Supply were already several years into their recording career when a rerecording of “Lost in Love,” a song that they’d already released in their home base of Australia, rocketed to the top of the U.S. charts. For a follow-up, they’d release another “love” song, but this one with a much more anguished take on the subject.

Graham Russell wrote the song one day in his Sydney apartment on a piano he’d had delivered solely for the purpose of writing on the instrument. That proved to be a good decision, as he came up with a touching melody that demanded a relatively high vocal range, something that seemingly fit perfectly with Hitchcock’s powerhouse vocals.

But something was amiss when they tried the song with Hitchcock singing the whole thing. Hitchcock convinced Russell to take the lead vocals in the verses, even as they pushed his range to the limit. That allowed Hitchcock to come swooping in on the choruses, providing a give-and-take similar to what Air Supply had done with “Lost in Love.”

Clive to the Rescue

When Air Supply turned “All Out of Love” in to Clive Davis, who had championed the band at Arista Records, the exec famously known for picking hits knew he had a winner on hand. But he had an issue with the lyrics, as Russell explained to this author for the book Playing Back the ‘80s: A Decade of Unstoppable Hits:

“Clive got ‘Lost in Love’ first, which he loved. And he said, ‘We’re gonna go with ‘All Out of Love’ next, but for the American market, there’s a lyric change that needs to happen.’ And I wasn’t very happy about it. It was originally, I’m all out of love / I want to arrest you. In that context, I meant to get one’s attention. But he said, ‘No, in America, people will think getting arrested by the police.’

“So he said, ‘What about I’m so lost without you? This was Clive Davis and I couldn’t say no. And he said to me, ‘If you make that lyric change, it will be one of the biggest songs of the year.’ So I said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ And he got credit for that, quite rightly, ‘cause it was his line.”

What is the Meaning of “All Out of Love”?

The splitting up of the vocal duties makes it seem like narrator of “All Out of Love” is making a two-pronged approach to winning back his girl. In the verses, Russell makes a cerebral case, explaining in detail all the ways that he’s suffering. He suggests it might be a mutual longing to reunite: I’m reaching for you, are you feeling it too / Does the feeling seem oh so right.

As he continues his speech, he gets to a point where he implies his very existence is in question without her: Please love me or I’ll be gone. When the chorus comes around each time, Hitchcock arrives by laying it all on the line, both his sorry state (I’m all out love) and naked apology (I can’t be too late to say that I was so wrong.) And when he rises another octave in the final moments, it sounds like all the walls of his life are crashing down around him as he desperately pleads for her to come back.

It seems the romantic crime this poor sap committed was a lack of faith in the relationship to start. Who knows whether the girl in question will believe his change of heart? What we can say for sure is Air Supply makes a grand, romantic, dramatic gesture with the words and notes of the remarkable “All Out of Love.”

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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