By Daniel Kohn
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This Australian duo have a long and storied history in popular music, most simply because Air Supply tap into one of the most fundamental archetypes in human consciousness: consider the Captain as Marduk and Tenille as Tiamat, or the fertile Ginnungagap between Ike's Niflheim and Tina's Muspell, even Simon's Izanagi and Garfunkel's Izanami. Deep in man's subconscious is the idea that creation at its purest occurs only between two individual entities—linked, no doubt, to the procreative act, which is to say an archetypal experience extrapolated into the symbolic—what Campbell called "an organization of images conceived as a rendition of the sense of life." Most basically, from two comes one.
Ancient man knew it. Modern man still knows it. And Air Supply know it, too. When Graham Russell sings that "Someone is walking beside me/Someone is living inside me/Giving me all that I need," he's not just talking about a wife-to-be. He's acknowledging the powerfully mystical bond between him and partner Russell Hitchcock, a Nephthys-meets-Isis relationship that carries on an ancient tradition of creation, rebirth and beyond.Billboard magazine once called Air Supply the most successful pop group of the 1980s, but behind their eight Top Five singles and their five beyond-platinum albums was a band—a duo—almost platonic in its purity. Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell, symmetrical even in name, exemplified the dualistic paradigm more perfectly than perhaps any pop group in recent history, reaching inside superficial yin-yang complementarianism to a harmonic coadjuvancy drawn from the very wellspring of consciousness itself. Even the coincidences are Fortean in their alignment: their birthdays are only two weeks apart in June—the month of the summer solstice, which splits the year in two. They met during a 1976 production of Jesus Christ Superstar, when they both secured roles as apostles. They each have two children. And they are both Geminis—the twins.
But the reason Air Supply has been so successful is that they powerfully channel the idea of the duo as the seat of expression and creativity. Consider the pre-Christian British Isle avatars the Holly King and the Oak King, the closest correspondent to the Air Supply relationship (possibly related to Australia's colonization by the British, importing subterranean personality formators alongside convicts and bitter military rum rations). Hitchcock is the Holly King, the dark twin: born in inner-city Melbourne; dropped out of high school; released a 1988 solo album described kindly as "forgettable." And Russell is the light twin, the regenerator: author of the Robin Hood-themed musical Sherwood!; lover of Gone With the Wind; the guitar virtuoso who was the catalyst for the band's formation, lightly strumming a few chords backstage at that long-ago Superstar rehearsal. As the Holly King wanes, the Oak King waxes, and so does the cycle continue—and as Russell and Hitchcock gracefully alternate vocal leads, so does the cycle repeat.
"From the secret pool/Did I stare at your reflection/For the bride of spring/Do I swear to your protection," sings Russell over the tribal riffs of "Someone," not an ode to a lover so much as a tender nod to Hitchcock—the bride of spring, the regenerator, the light twin—and the reciprocal bond they share. At live performances, audiences routinely chant along. It's a primal moment, yet another twist in a story that started when time began, and it's something that can only occur as an act of creation between two people. The Beatles were too chaotic, reflections of their own incompatible elemental natures; the Beach Boys relied too much on lone vision-hunter Brian Wilson. But Russell and Hitchcock are the proton and the electron, the god-lovers Uranus and Gaia (or perhaps Persephone and Hades), two entity-forces in constant but symbiotic opposition, creating life out of the friction between them. To be an Air Supply fan is to love life itself; to be Russell Hitchcock or Graham Russell is to know that what you create will never ever die.
Air Supply Perform at The House Of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-2583. Sat., 7 p.m. $27.50-$30. All Ages.