“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

“Love and Death and an American Guitar” by Jim Steinman

“I remember everything! I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday.” So begins Steinman’s first (but not last) solo speech on record, his tale of fantastical guitar smashing. There are background sounds from synth player Larry Fast, but those frankly do not matter much. This is a dramatic monologue, and this is probably the moment that led critics to say that the album was too strange for a mainstream audience.

On a personal level, I absolutely love this speech. In high school, I took guitar class at school, and each semester ended with each student doing a short performance of five songs. I took four semesters, so I did four of these performances. I did not repeat anything else, but every one included “Love and Death and an American Guitar” (with a guitar backing I had written, all of which were basically punctuating the shouting with the chords of the next song–I’m clearly a compositional genius), with minor language editing (my high school would not have been okay with “Goddamn it, Daddy!” or probably “horny angel”). It always got a reaction and everyone remembered it later, which is a testament to what a fun piece it really is, because I’m certain my performance (though that astonishing ability to use the power chords from “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” at every exclamation point was pretty special . . . ) had little to do with it.

Continue reading

“Lost Boys and Golden Girls” by Jim Steinman

The Bad for Good equivalent of “Heaven Can Wait,” “Lost Boys and Golden Girls” is a gentle, sweeping, piano-led ballad with an almost lullaby feel. A choir and some doubled (if not more) lead guitars join in later, but even then the atmosphere remains subdued and quiet, terms that don’t typically fit Jim Steinman.

One positive about Meat Loaf’s absence on this album is that this song feels less out of place than “Heaven Can Wait.” Meat Loaf’s vocal bombast is still present through so much of Bat out of Hell that even the other piano-led ballad, “For Crying out Loud,” doesn’t feel anything like it. But on Bad for Good, the almost elegiac track comes across as something of an orchestral cousin to “Surf’s Up” and “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through.” Even the fact that it’s almost entirely orchestral feels more in-place thanks to “The Storm.”

Continue reading