Crowd of Full Pockets

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

“The Invocation” and “Original Sin” by Pandora’s Box

With his mid-’80s success behind him, Steinman finally fully took the helm of a new album for the first time in nearly a decade in Original Sin, an album credited to the group Pandora’s Box. Pandora’s Box was listed as vocalists Ellen Foley, Gina Taylor, Elaine Caswell, and Deliria Wilde as well as keyboardist Jim Steinman while the instruments were mostly played by Steinman vets: Roy Bittan was on piano, Jimmy Bralower was on drums and drum machines, Steve Buslowe was on bass, backing vocals were by the Rundgren/Troyer/Dodd trio, and Eddie Martinez returned on guitar. The only newcomer was keyboardist Jeff Bova.

Steinman would compare his new vocal group to the Shangri-Las and other “girl groups” of his youth, but make no mistake, this was really a solo album just without his vocals. And with Steinman getting to indulge himself, all of his eccentricities are definitely on full display. There are three essentially music-less speeches, one performed by Steinman and the other two by Ellen Foley. There is a “prelude” (yes, the one titled “Pray Lewd”) that mixes together the main hooks of many of the songs on the album into one strange concatenation. And, weirdest of all, Steinman completely made up one of the group members. Deliria Wilde, the girl he said had been thrown out of a nunnery for doing something so obscene that even he wouldn’t dare repeat it, was entirely a product of Steinman’s imagination. I have a theory about why someone let him do all of this, but we’ll get to that later. For now, there is an entire album of Steinman music to think about.

The album opens with a short spoken piece named “The Invocation.” It’s Ellen Foley’s voice echoing in an otherwise soundless void: “If light were dark and dark were light/The moon a black hole in the blaze of night/A raven’s wing would be as bright as tin/And you, my love, would be darker than sin.” Steinman apparently did not actually write these words but they are gorgeous and absolutely fit the extreme, gothic atmosphere. The inversion of dark and light that he has so often played with in his vampire-themed writing is spelled out and the imagery that it creates is absolutely evocative. Foley has a sort of detached mood that actually adds to the atmosphere. However, that is literally the whole of “The Invocation,” so there’s only so much I can say about it.

After that, we get a soft piano joined by a dark, seductive voice that turns out to be guest vocalist Laura Theodore. The rhythm section and some electric guitar then joins as well as the swan symbol from Mario Paint. The backing vocals sort of jump in like stings until the chorus when all of the voices combine into a booming crowd of sounds. The song doesn’t really change much after that until a false ending sends us through the chorus with just drums and then the actual ending cuts back to just piano and vocals. It’s not one of his biggest songs in terms of how many elements are at play and it doesn’t build them together the way many of his songs do, but it does have deep, intricate multi-layered vocals that add a lot to the song.

I feel like this song is saying something deep about personal feelings of dissatisfaction. The singer is seeking excitement through every external source possible–dancing, “fly[ing] and never land[ing],” losing herself in pleasure–but can’t find what’s missing, so she’s looking for something new. A new crime against religion or a new crime against society, it doesn’t matter which–she just wants something new because she has lost faith in all of the institutions that precede her, to the point that even traditional rebellion doesn’t feel like enough. She threatens that “the natives are so restless tonight,” suggesting that there is a brewing rebellion around this dissatisfaction. It could be taken as general rock and roll rebelliousness, but it references both dancing (always a metaphor for sex and of course also related to music) and flying (always a metaphor for drugs) as things that “will never be enough.” I think Steinman is saying that “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” isn’t enough. It’s a statement against the general fake rock and roll rebelliousness, but it’s not Huey Lewis & the News praising “squareness”–it’s suggesting that the mythology’s time has passed and there has to be a new rebellion, because we still feel disaffected. Is it saying that the pursuit of “satisfaction” is futile? Perhaps.

The vocals are excellent throughout, with the numerous different voices, different mixes of voices, and different tones of the same voices all giving the impression that this is the anthem of an army or generation of the disaffected. They do a lot to give the song a real “call to arms” feel. And the fact that the recognizable voices are all female opens the door to a feminist interpretation of the lyrics–it’s the army of women saying that even in the modern world they are still not satisfied because they don’t have equality just because they have some freedoms they didn’t have in the past.

I still wish there were more going on in this song musically, or at least that it were a bit more of a “rock” song than it is, but it’s a fun song with a great chorus and some top-notch lyrics.







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