Crowd of Full Pockets

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

“Nowhere Fast” and “Surf’s Up” by Meat Loaf

I’ve gone back and forth with myself about whether to cover these, but I decided it seems worthwhile. On Meat Loaf’s Bad Attitude album in 1984, he covered two Jim Steinman songs, “Nowhere Fast” and “Surf’s Up.” Steinman did not actually work on the album at all and while it was a hit in Europe, it caused so small of a ripple in the United States that his next album wouldn’t even get a US release. They’re not new songs, so they don’t take as much to write about.

“Nowhere Fast” has all-new verse lyrics that honestly don’t even sound like Steinman lyrics. It’s a small, heavily electronic production with cheesy ’80s synthesizers that were already going out of style at the time and what sounds to me like a tinny clicking drum machine. There are some squealing guitar bits at the beginning that suggest that the song will be heavier than it ever gets, with just some simple power chords actually providing all of the guitar sound outside of a solo so brief that I can’t even begin to tell you whether it’s any good.

The chorus still soars because it’s a great hook and lyric, but it doesn’t come together really well. Meat Loaf sounds great–there is no sign of his vocal damage from 1981–but it sounds to me like a cheaply-recorded knock-off song from someone’s basement. Some of that is just the dated synth and drum sounds (things Steinman’s own work around the same time were often guilty of) but it is how it sounds to me.

“Surf’s Up,” meanwhile has an arrangement much more like the original. It has more guitar, basically just playing the piano chords with the piano, throughout, but doesn’t have the mandolin solo. The guitar solo is also a bit more modern-sounding here than the very ’70s-sounding original but I still would take the original version’s solo. Meat Loaf sounds great again but his voice is buried beneath the thunderous piano in the mix and he just doesn’t have the range to sing it the way Rory Dodd did. There is also something about Dodd’s voice being more of a clean, traditional pop voice that makes the central joke of the song work better than with Meat Loaf’s voice–it’s more unexpected from someone who sounds like Dodd.

If I had never heard the original, I would be blown away by this recording. However, I have heard the original, and the arrangements are very close. I like Dodd’s vocal better and I don’t like how Meat Loaf’s is buried in the mix here. With two recordings this close, that’s enough to say that I clearly prefer the original.

As far as I can tell, neither of these songs is officially available anywhere at this point, but the official videos are both visible on a certain Google-owned video website. One thing that I took note of is that Meat Loaf also looks considerably thinner in those videos than he did for Bat out of Hell. We often hear about the ’80s for Meat Loaf like it was all a black hole, but he looks and sounds better here than a few years before, at least.






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