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

“Nowhere Fast” by Fire, Inc.

It’s a complicated story how it happened, but Steinman ended up writing and producing two songs for the score to the film Streets of Fire (Walter Hill, USA 1984). They were credited to “Fire, Inc.,” which was basically Steinman’s normal backing crew with Laurie Sargent added to some of the vocals. The film wound up being a big-budget disaster that didn’t actually appeal to the teenagers it expected as its core audience and couldn’t get the rights to its title song (Which had been released six years earlier. Perhaps that is a sign of why the film didn’t really connect with the teenaged audience.) while its music-based marketing only managed one hit. It’s more than a little like the story of Footloose except that where (at least commercially) Footloose managed to get everything right, this one got everything wrong.

When I say this is Steinman’s regular crew, I really do mean it: Roy Bittan is playing piano, Dave Johnstone and Mike Landau are playing guitar, Steve Buslowe is playing bass, Larry Fast is playing synthesizers, Steinman himself is playing “additional keyboards,” the Troyer/Dodd/Sherwood trio is providing backing vocals, and even the lead vocals are Rory Dodd and Holly Sherwood. Drum machine programmer Jim Bralower is the only person who hasn’t already been credited on a Steinman production and even he is credited alongside Joe Stefko, who has played drums for Steinman before. While he is not singing here, this song is every bit as much a solo recording as anything on Bad for Good.

Distressingly, the song opens with some electronic drums and surprisingly funky guitars. But then a piano plays a version of what will be the song’s main hook with some nice flourishes and helps pick up the sound, since it’s the first real full-throated instrument to play and that hook is fantastic. The doubled Dodd/Sherwood lead vocals then join in. And really all that happens to change after that is that the guitar is only really noticeable in instrumental sections and the “bigger” sounding sections of the song include more of the typical Steinman backing vocals. It ends up being a decent but rather small sound. It’s a bit like “Total Eclipse of the Heart” done on a budget, with the piano doing the vast majority of the lifting.

Sherwood and Dodd’s vocals are layered together throughout the song, which I think is mean to create the illusion of one vocalist for the film’s sake, and while it definitely works out better here than in Barry Manilow’s “Read ’em and Weep,” I still feel like it has something of a dampening effect on their emotional delivery–it makes the vocals come across as a bit mechanical and by-the-numbers. I suspect it could have been better with either just singing lead alone.

While it’s not one of his deeper lyrics, this is definitely one of the most clearly Steinman lyrics. The verses are a laundry list of typical teenaged concerns: cars, driving fast, having sex, cars, wanting out of your home town, escape from parenting, and cars. It all comes down to one vision: driving away out of this town to a land where sex and cars are all that matters. And it culminates in a gloriously fun chorus playing on the meaning of the idiomatic phrase “nowhere fast:” “You and me we’re goin’ nowhere slowly/And we gotta get away from the past/There’s nothing wrong with going nowhere, baby/But we should be going nowhere fast/Everybody’s going nowhere slowly/They’re only fighting for the chance to be last/There’s nothing wrong with going nowhere, baby/But we should be going nowhere fast.” Where the idiom “getting nowhere fast” means “failing,” what the song is saying is, “Yeah, we’re failing, because we want to go somewhere else, but at least we’re doing it with style–going nowhere fast.” The “Godspeed/Speed us away” section from “Bad for Good” returns on this song, and it really fits better here, with the shouts of “We’re going nowhere fast” serving as both a tempering of “godspeed” by the normal definition of the idiom and a defiant belief in themselves by the new meaning in the chorus

While it’s not anywhere near the list of my favorite Steinman songs, this one is high on the list of most quintessential Steinman songs. I can easily imagine an exchange between a teenager and a parent: “You’re going nowhere fast!” “At least it’s fast!” And that type of universality is exactly what a songwriter hopes for.






2 responses to ““Nowhere Fast” by Fire, Inc.”

  1. I was 12 in 1984, so this should be in my pop culture knowledge wheelhouse. But I have no memory of this song or this movie.

    Or maybe because I am 50 now, I just can’t *remember* them?

    1. I don’t think it would be terribly surprising either direction, really. Neither was a hit, and neither had real established star power connected to it. I was born in 1985, so I can’t speak with much authority to how much media attention (advertising or otherwise) the movie really got, but they opened it the same week as “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock,” so that doesn’t suggest a lot of studio confidence.
      I actually only know of the movie at all because of my Steinman obsession. I’m not sure that I ever would have heard of it otherwise.

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