“Stark Raving Love” by Jim Steinman

This is one of the more quintessential Jim Steinman songs to me, because it’s this enormous, glorious mess. Not all of the parts seem to belong, but they’re all good, and there are some just wonderfully garish lead guitars culminating in a fantastic solo from Todd Rundgren.

The song begins with a booming guitar chord on top of a flamenco-style piano riff that even non-Steinman obsessives will recognize as the later basis for “Holding out for a Hero.” A funky second guitar joins, then a wordless choir, then Roger Powell’s synthesizer, and finally Steinman’s vocals. It’s a loud sound, even for Steinman, and coming after the softness of “Lost Boys and Golden Girls” and then a speech, it’s almost jarring. The flamenco piano calms down into a more typical pop riff in the chorus but otherwise most stays the same. Musically, the song largely continues in the same wall of sound, except for a brief clapping breakdown using a faster version of the chorus of “Lost Boys and Golden Girls” after the second chorus that leads into a short-but-fun guitar solo from Davey Johnstone, Todd Rundgren, or both and then another, much longer, solo at the end.

Continue reading

“Bad for Good” by Jim Steinman

In the wake of Steinman’s death, articles across the web paid tribute to the Lord of Excess beyond the Bat albums and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by mentioning his solo album, and somehow they came to a consensus in suggesting that the title track was the cream of the crop. There are probably reasons for that decision that are not related to the song’s quality (Can you really talk about his solo album in a reverent, respectful way while also recommending a song he didn’t actually sing? And what song on this album best exemplifies the type of dramatic, long, mini-opera power ballad that he was most known for? And how many of those writers had listened to more than the first song on the album?), but the song is in many ways this album’s version of “Bat out of Hell” and as such is something of a defining track for the album.

Lyrically, Bad for Good is one of the more obvious times that Steinman was really still working on what would become Bat out of Hell: The Musical. The singer opens by suggesting that he is chasing “you” in a very bestial fashion, fighting through the burning of the Northern Lights (“giving off sparks,” hmm, I think we will hear that again . . . ), a storm, and icy cold to get to his quarry’s window. Yep, this is definitely a vampire. Then he exclaims that the now-defined girl needs to, essentially, loosen-up in a very traditionally vampiric fashion because, after all, “I’m gonna be like this forever/I’m never gonna be what I should/And you think that I’ll be bad for just a little while/But I know that I’ll be bad for good.”

Continue reading

“The Storm” by Jim Steinman

Jim Steinman described the track “The Storm” as the prologue to his solo album, so we will begin there, even though it was not originally released on the album proper.

“The Storm” is really a classical piece that sounds more like a film score than anything else. Steinman had scored the film A Small Circle of Friends (Rob Cohen, USA 1980) a year before, and that experience seems to have influenced him to write this type of track that doesn’t so much cohere as its own statement as serve as a sampler of ideas that he would more fully flesh out elsewhere (and a Steinman fan can find embryonic versions of many of his memorable later melodies in that score). Later on, we would find similar concepts in “Pray Lewd” on the Pandora’s Box album and “Back into Hell” on Bat out of Hell II: Back Into Hell.

If anything, “The Storm” feels even more like a collection of dramatic scenes than a typical film score. It opens with a call-and-response between impossibly loud horns and strings that he would repurpose a number of times over the years (in my mind, it is most memorable as the opening of “Totale Finsternis” on Der Tanz der Vampire). The call-and-response breaks down into a very ominous but still booming horn and strings section that feels to me like a camera panning over something dangerous. For me, this sounds like it is all proclaiming the arrival of some conquering force. It’s dramatic and loud even by Steinman standards, which means it’s otherworldly on both counts by any reasonable standard. It has always sounded to me like it’s somehow rushed, but it definitely has an atmosphere.

Continue reading