Crowd of Full Pockets

Movie and Music Analysis from One Lacking Any Credentials to Provide It

“Surf’s Up” by Jim Steinman

The Bad for Good equivalent of “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad” is Beach Boys-inspired ballad. The earlier track was more Eagles-inspired, a pop ballad bordering on country telling a tale of love gone wrong twice. This time, as befits being more of a Beach Boys sound, this song is, frankly, a beautiful build-up to a dick joke.

To me, “Surf’s Up” is something of the orphan of Bad for Good. “The Storm” would show up in pieces throughout Steinman’s career, Meat Loaf covered “Bad for Good” on an album we will not name, “Lost Boys and Golden Girls” is on Bat out of Hell II: Back into Hell, the biggest hook of “Stark Raving Love” became that for “Holding out for a Hero,” “Love and Death and an American Guitar” and “Out of the Frying Pan (And into the Fire)” and on Bat out of Hell II: Back into Hell and in Bat out of Hell: the Musical, and both Barbara Streisand and Meat Loaf covered “Left in the Dark.” Meanwhile, “Dance in My Pants” and “Surf’s Up” have basically disappeared. “Dance in My Pants” disappeared because it’s garbage, but “Surf’s Up” only got a Meat Loaf cover in 1984, when not even Meat Loaf’s family was listening. I think it’s a beautiful song, one of the three best on this album, but I suppose a five-minute dick joke has limited appeal.

The song opens with a lovely cascading piano hook that serves as the basis for the song. Rory Dodd’s lead vocals join and we get a verse and the chorus basically with just those two. Then a guitar solo opens and Max Weinberg’s drums become slightly more prominent. After a short solo, we take another trip through the solo but now with full instrumentation as Weinberg’s typically cavernous drums, Bittan’s piano and Davey Johnstone’s guitar blare underneath Dodd. Then we slowly fade out on piano and drums, with Johnstone switching over to a mandolin for a very similar solo to what he played on the guitar a moment earlier.

At the start, “Surf’s Up” has a romantic mood, which continues with lyric expressing “I wanna take your hand and make it feel so right” and “We’re running on the back of the wind.” But the romance turns to sexual desire as he equates their potential evening to the waves on the shore, and finally declares, “Surf’s up/And so am I.” The second time through the chorus, opening with “How hard, how hard, how hard do I gotta try?” becomes unbelievably silly, but by now that great big, bold Steinman chorus sound is really carrying things since the punchline is already past.

Returning to the lead vocal spot, Rory Dodd must have gotten the lead on this song because the high notes in the chorus were just beyond Steinman, and frankly it’s a strong lead vocal, because this song requires more range than Steinman’s songs typically do. Part of the trick to his songs is that they require lung power rather than range, which makes the sings sound impressive without it having to be technically difficult. Dodd here shows plenty of lung power and a range far beyond what Steinman or Meat Loaf possesses. It’s really a perfect performance from Dodd, one that really adds to the humor of this joke-as-song but probably doesn’t help take him as seriously as he deserves.

Steinman doesn’t seem to have had anything to say in this song, which is surely part of why it became the orphan of this album, but it’s a beautiful little song sort of in spite of the lyrics.






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