For some reason, “Out of the Frying Pan (And into the Fire)” seems to get short shrift in being among Steinman’s real classics, even though it is a highlight every time it shows up anywhere, no matter who is singing it or what context is around it. Steinman has even done little to change it over the years, with the final version in Bat out of Hell: The Musical being little changed from its origin here, something we can’t say of many songs Steinman has reused over the years.
Opening the song is a relatively simple but still fantastic guitar riff. A second guitar joins in with the rhythmic piano riff that punctuates that guitar bed, joined by cymbals and bass. The guitars then get palm muted while the piano and Steinman’s vocals take the lead for the start of the first verse. The guitars and drums build up as we go through the verse, with a few moments of unmuted guitars punctuating the non-vocal moments. Backing vocals join Steinman, the guitars unmute, and a swirling string arrangement lead us into the pre-chorus, where the other instruments take a back seat to the strings, piano, and vocals before an absolute rocker of a chorus led by screaming guitars and piano straight out of Jerry Lee Lewis’s bag.
All of it is loud and absolutely amazingly fun, led by Steinman’s truly unhinged vocal delivery. He lacks personality as a vocalist most of the time, but here he sounds absolutely overflowing with a deranged joy screaming over the top of his work. He still lacks the lung power one would want for the high-pitched chorus, but otherwise there’s a real infectiousness to how much fun he sounds like he’s having, so much so that I would still take his original vocal over Meat Loaf’s.
And I suspect that he sounds like he’s having fun because this song, more than any other on the album, really is the Bat out of Hell crew entirely back together sans Meat Loaf: Roy Bittan is on piano, Todd Rundgren is on the guitar, Kasim Sulton is on bass, Max Weinberg is on drums, and Ellen Foley and Rory Dodd are providing backing vocals. The credits for this album are very complicated, with many musicians credited for specific tracks (like Allen Schwartzberg for drums on “Left in the Dark”), credited excepting specific tracks (like Max Weinberg for drums except on “Stark Raving Love,” “Dance in My Pants,” and “Left in the Dark”), or one of the few (Steinman, Todd Rundgren for guitars and vocals, Jimmy Maelen for percussion, and Rory Dodd and Eric Troyer for backing vocals) credited for the entire album; which makes it often confusing to find who played what. This song, however, credits every Bat out of Hell alumnus except for Roger Powell (Karla DeVito also doesn’t appear but she also didn’t appear on the album Bat out of Hell, even though she became a major part of the tour) who appears anywhere on the album and the only extra musicians are Maelen, Troyer, and string arranger Wil Malone, so it’s awfully close to a perfect reunion.
Once again, the lyrics are really just a plea for sex, but this time it’s more desperate. It’s not the violently aggressive protagonist of “Stark Raving Love” but rather the whining protagonist of “Lost Boys and Golden Girls” here. And even if the message is nothing particularly deep, “Come on, come on, there’ll be no turning back/You were only killing time and it can kill you right back/Come on, come on, it’s time to burn up the fuse/You got nothing to do and even less to lose” is still some great writing. The rhythm and feel of the words is consistently perfect (“You can feel the pulse of the pavement,” he intones as the propulsive drums kick in), and even the references to vampirism are vague enough that they can easily wash over someone without seeming to have that connection.
“Out of the Frying Pan (And into the Fire)” is one of my favorite Steinman songs ever, and this original is still my favorite recording. It has an amount of fun that Steinman songs rarely have even at their best and while it’s not wrong to say that it lacks lyrical depth, it still says what it wants to say very well. The guitars are great, the mix of instruments is great. Hell, even Steinman’s vocal is great. While even some of the best songs on Bad for Good were improved when given a more full production later (most notably on Bat out of Hell II: Back into Hell) and this song did get more full treatments later, I would still take the original recording as its definitive one, and as a masterpiece.
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