In Three Songs: Jim Steinman
You like Holding Out for a Hero? You like Total Eclipse of the Heart? I might sound like I’m trying to flog you a package holiday that will certainly end in your death, but if you like these songs then you’re a Jim Steinman fan whether you like it or not. This is the man behind all the Kind of hits that I like; big, brash, beatifully put together pieces of music. So for the second edition of In Three Songs, welcome to the stage the man behind the eighties, Jim Steinman.
Song One: Nowhere Fast
I’m going to skip right over all the other huge hits he composed on the premise that you’ve likely heard them already, and dive straight into this. Nowhere Fast has the benefit of opening up one of my favourite films of all time, Streets of Fire, but just the song itself-performed here by Fire Inc- is a Cracker. Listen to that piano, those vocal harmonies, those ridiculous lyrics that define exactly how clever pop is allowed to be. It starts off with rock and roll, slides into a power ballad, then ends up as some great rousing anthem. This is complete confection, but damn if it isn’t tasty. And for those wondering: yes, that is a Young Willem Dafoe in the video, in his finest role as Streets of Fire villain Raven Craddock.
Song 2: Bad for Good
Jim Steinman did manage to eke out one album of his own in between making everyone else a star (yeah, I’m looking at you, Meatloaf), and here is the title track from that very LP. I’ll hear no complaints about this being eight minutes long; not a second of it is wasted. People talk about symphonic music, and this track is one of the few non-actual-symphonies that earned that title. This has a rise and fall and a rise. It takes it’s time to breathe, to elecit emotion, and to revel in just how silly everything is. There’s a thin line between making satirical music and musical satire, and this is firmly the former. Of course this is poking fun at the pompous music around at the time-Christ, he was writing most of it- but accepting that that particular style had a lot going for it. It’s stunning. So much so I sat with my head against the wall for the last two minutes, staring at the ceiling, wondering how wrong it is to physically love music.
Song 3: Love and Death and an American Guitar
Speaking of ridiculous. This is basically a spoken-word piece written by a man who has dropped enough acid to kill a pony. This is usually the maker-or-breaker, an insane interlude to an album so Godlike that it makes Ozzy Osbourne look mortal. Basically a Long intro to Stark Raving Love, Steinman monologues over some leftover sound effects about smashing up a guitar. “I smashed it against the floor…I smashed it against the body of a Varsity cheerleader…I smashed it against a 1981 Harley Davidson. The Harley howled in pain, THE GUITAR HOWLED IN HEAT!”
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