“Lost Boys and Golden Girls” by Jim Steinman

The Bad for Good equivalent of “Heaven Can Wait,” “Lost Boys and Golden Girls” is a gentle, sweeping, piano-led ballad with an almost lullaby feel. A choir and some doubled (if not more) lead guitars join in later, but even then the atmosphere remains subdued and quiet, terms that don’t typically fit Jim Steinman.

One positive about Meat Loaf’s absence on this album is that this song feels less out of place than “Heaven Can Wait.” Meat Loaf’s vocal bombast is still present through so much of Bat out of Hell that even the other piano-led ballad, “For Crying out Loud,” doesn’t feel anything like it. But on Bad for Good, the almost elegiac track comes across as something of an orchestral cousin to “Surf’s Up” and “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through.” Even the fact that it’s almost entirely orchestral feels more in-place thanks to “The Storm.”

Lyrically, this is a simple song, though its feel belies the words. The second verse intones “We’ll never be as young as we are right now/Running away, and running for home” while the chorus proclaims, “Lost boys and golden corners/Down on the corner and all around the world/It doesn’t matter where they’re going or wherever they’ve been/’Cause they’ve got one thing in common, it’s true/They’ll never let a night like tonight go to waste/And let me tell you something, neither will you.” Essentially, it’s a plea to have sex while we’re still young.

Where “lost boys” as a phrase is clearly a typical Steinman Peter Pan reference, the phrase “golden girls” either did not have a cultural meaning in 1981 or that meaning has been obliterated by the television series. Since there are both boys and girls referenced, I suspect that the terminology is a reference to what I will call the Rock and Roll Mythos, as interpreted by the prophet Steinman. Rock and roll tells boys to stay party-hard, sex-obsessed, fight-first-ask-questions-never teenagers forever in pursuit of the ownership of one of those “golden” objects; and it does indeed treat women as objects. Its message to women is different, and that sets up the differing expectations of relationships that so often became Steinman’s subject.

Opening this song is a gentle downward-sloping arpeggiated piano riff changing chords a few times before being joined by a choir. I know I called this song the album’s equivalent of “Heaven Can Wait” just a moment ago, but this opening definitely recalls the opening of “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad,” but it’s more like an update to that original, trying out the choir in place of the earlier riff’s guitar/bass combo and giving that a few beats before allowing the vocals to join. The song stays piano, vocals, and choir with the exception of a guitar bridge that essentially repeats the melody with soft doubled leads that continue to add a bit to the sound from there on.

There remains an elephant in the room in the form of Rory Dodd. Dodd spent his career as almost entirely a backing vocalist, largely on projects helmed and/or written by Jim Steinman, but this album gives him three lead vocals, and this is the first. It’s clear why he was a successful backup singer, as his voice is fine and never sounds strained or weak the way Steinman does at some moments. But it’s also clear why he was not usually a lead singer, as his voice is also perfectly bland. There are definitely moments in Steinman’s work where Dodd showed more dynamism than he shows here, but here he comes across as a wholly unremarkable pop/rock singer, in both good and bad ways.

Taken as a whole, “Lost Boys and Golden Girls” is a very pleasant but very slight song. I’m not a big fan of the guitar tone used here (I think it sounds ’70s to an absurd degree) and it just feels rather unmemorable. As a young adult with this album, I was often skipping the song even though it’s quite pretty, because it’s sandwiched between two more fun songs in “Bad for Good” and one of my favorite pieces of recording (calling it a “song” is frankly wrong) in human history in “Love and Death and an American Guitar.”

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