I’ve had Jim Steinman’s music on repeat in my head over the past few days so figured now is as good a time as any to share. Perhaps in the process, I’ll get the tunes of this musical genius out of my head. I think it’s fair to say that Steinman’s music is more well-known than his name. A few years ago, I came to like the German musical Tanz der Vampire, which flopped on Broadway as Dance of the Vampire. The New York production just goes to show don’t fix what isn’t broken, but that’s a different rant. Recognizing a few of the tunes, a friend played Steinman’s Bad for Good for me. Up until that solo album and musical, I’d only been familiar with his songs performed by Meat Loaf on the first two Bat Out of Hell albums. A gateway into music swung wide open.
I tend to lean more towards lyrics that can stand on their own as poetry. Steinman’s lyrics are evocative and full of imagery. One of my favorite stanzas is from his “Bad for Good”:
“The icy cold will cut us like a knife in the dark
And we may lose everything in the wind
But the Northern Lights are burning
And they’re giving off sparks
I want to wrap myself around you like a winter skin”
His compositions are phenomenal and at times are ready to blow the listener away. A prime example is Tanz der Vampire‘s overture, part of which is in his older instrumental piece “the Storm”:
Another thing I like about Steinman is that he recycles his music. One of my friends calls it cheating, but I disagree. Even if it’s already thought of as perfect sometimes art needs to be revamped. Doing so can also bring out more depth or show another interpretation. Since 1983 “Total Eclipse for the Heart” has become one of Steinman’s most acclaimed songs and has been covered by numerous singers. It was reincarnated in 1997 for Tanz der Vampire when Count Von Krolock is trying to court Sarah, who is needed so vampires can walk in daylight.
“Totale Finsternis” with Steve Barton and Cornelia Zenz:
Steinman and Meat Loaf used to be inseparable, but artistic and personality differences plus financial and legal disputes created a rift. While Meat Loaf was always revved up to go and loved the spotlight, the somewhat eccentric and quieter Steinman preferred working at his own pace. It didn’t help that Meat Loaf received more of the recognition for Steinman’s music on Bat Out of Hell. Meat Loaf’s vocal problems caused the album’s sequel to be postponed, during which Steinman proceeded and released Bad for Good in 1981. Finally sixteen years after the first, Bat Out of Hell II was released. 2006 brought Bat Out of Hell III, for which Steinman wrote only a few songs. The album opened a new can of legal worms and possibly reopened old wounds so that third album may be their last collaboration.
Since the seventies, Steinman’s music has made its way into numerous crevices. Performed by Bonnie Tyler, “Holding Out for a Hero” made its way onto the soundtrack for Footloose. A short list of others who have his music on their albums are Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, and Barry Manilow. Def Leppard hired and then fired him during an album project. Apparently Andrew Lloyd Webber approached him to write the lyrics for the Phantom of the Opera, but due to other obligations Steinman declined. He admitted that it was an artistic mistake to which I agree, it would be interesting to see what he came up with. However, Steinman later accepted the position of lyricist for Webber’s musical Whistle Down the Wind.
Bonnie Tyler with “Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts” during a tribute to ALW:
Since placing the man with the music, I’ve come to own more of Steinman’s projects. The friend who introduced me to Bad For Good came back from Germany a huge gift, the soundtrack for Tanz der Vampire. Aside from the solo album, she also gave me Original Sin from Steinman’s band Pandora’s Box, the rock and roll fable Streets of Fire, and the Confidence Man, a musical based on Melville’s novel for which he wrote the music. I paid her back by “dragging” her to a Meat Loaf concert. I found the soundtrack for the film A Small Circle of Friends, which he composed the orchestral score for in 1980, on my own. Oh yea, I also own “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” thanks to Celine Dion’s Falling Into You and, more recently, Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell III. Yep, I’ve come to like some Steinman.
Celine Dion, “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”: