“Someone must have blessed us when he gave us those songs…”
New Yorker James Richard Steinman, more commonly known as Jim Steinman, is the zeitgeist figure of AOR (album-oriented rock). Steinman exploded onto the music scene in 1977, through the bombastic voice of Meat Loaf (Marvin Lee Aday) and their first collaboration Bat Out Of Hell. This album would go on to sell 43 million copies. To put that into context, it is the equivalent of every man, woman, and child in Ireland owning eight copies. Indeed, Bat Out Of Hell spent a staggering nine years on the UK charts. All of this led to Steinman becoming one of the most sought-after songwriters in the late ’70s, and throughout the ’80s.
At the time of release, the music scene was crying out for a return to ’50s style rock and roll. In a world dominated by the political malice of punk, Bat Out Of Hell arrived at just the right time. Its success is not just in Meat Loaf’s delivery, but the lyrics and song structure. Simple language, in a clever order, without too much heavy prose. Below are ten examples of Jim Steinman’s peerless rock composition. Jim Steinman is the maestro with the Midas touch—and his work has ruled the airwaves for over forty years.
#1. Meat Loaf – ‘Bat Out Of Hell’
Starting where it all began, with the story of a teenage adolescent speeding his motorbike into an inescapable faith—a collision and the loss of his life. This track was originally intended for the Steinman Neverland musical, which follows a figure one part Peter Pan, and one part James Dean. The song cycle erupts from this point, as the album progresses perfectly. The remainder of the record features the unnamed teenager reflecting back on his life, from first love to sexual experiences (‘Paradise By The Dashboard Light’) and the regret of broken hearts (‘Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad’). This is ground zero on the achievements of Jim Steinman, and the true beginning of his success.
#2. Bonnie Tyler – ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’
This track launched Welsh lady Bonnie Tyler into the arms of the music buying public, reaching number one on the US, UK, and Irish charts in mid-1983. Not a commonly known fact, but ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ is part of a larger Steinman concept. A rock opera called Tanz Der Vampire (Dance Of The Vampire), which chronicles the love between mortal Sarah and Nosferatu.
“Once upon a time there was light in my life
But now there’s only love in the dark…”
#3. Air Supply – ‘Making Love Out of Nothing at All’
The soft rock duo Air Supply scored big with a Steinman song. ‘Making Love Out of Nothing at All’ is taken from the band’s Greatest Hits album from 1983. It soared up the US Billboard chart, reaching a high of number two, kept off the top spot, somewhat ironically, by ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’. For three weeks in mid-1983 two tracks composed and produced by Jim Steinman held fast at the top of the charts.
#4. Pandora’s Box – ‘It’s All Coming Back To Me Now’
This all-female super-group consisted of regular Steinman collaborator Ellen Foley, along with Elaine Caswell, Gina Taylor, and Deliria Wilde. They released one record, acclaimed concept album Original Sin (1989). This track, however, is more commonly known for the ’90s cover version performed by Celine Dion, though it is the original which holds the passionate spirit of Steinman’s vision.
#5. Fire Inc. – ‘Nowhere Fast’
An oddity in the Jim Steinman canon, but a worthwhile listen all the same. Fire Inc. was a makeshift band put together to produce music for the 1984 movie Streets Of Fire (Walter Hill). The movie was billed as a neo-noir action outing, with a rock and roll soundtrack to match the stylish production. However, the film bombed on release, recouping only half of its budget. The soundtrack included two tracks composed by Steinman, ‘Nowhere Fast’ and ‘Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young’, both sung by Laurie Sargent.
#6. Sisters of Mercy – ‘More’
There were many tracks co-written and co-produced by unlikely collaborators Andrew Eldritch (Sisters of Mercy) and Jim Steinman. Their collaboration was a creative peak for the band, showcased best on this track ‘More’. The first single from 1990 album Vision Thing, it became one of the biggest hits for Sisters Of Mercy. Also worth noting is Sisters of Mercy goth anthem ‘This Corrosion’—while not written by Jim Steinman, he did produce it and it holds the signature sound of his work.
#7. Ellen Foley – ‘Heaven Can Wait’
Actress and musician Ellen Foley is rock music’s secret weapon. Starting off as backing vocalist on Bat Out Of Hell, Foley went on to release three solo albums, the second of which, Spirit of St. Louis, featured The Clash as backing band and songwriters. Here is Foley’s version of ‘Heaven Can Wait’. In fact, some deem her telling as the superior and original version of the Bat Out Of Hell classic.
#8. Tom Jones with Sounds of Blackness – ‘Vaults Of Heaven’
This was the result of a collaboration between British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and Steinman for the musical Whistle Down The Wind. Originally released in 1996 as a stage show, with Webber providing the music and Steinman the lyrics. The twelve-track concept album followed two years later, with artists such as Boy George, Tina Arena and Tom Jones, who provides vocals for the opening track.
#9. Jim Steinman – ‘Bad For Good’
From Steinman’s one and only solo album, Bad For Good (1981)—originally intended as a follow-up to Bat Out Of Hell titled Renegade Angel. Due to Meat Loaf’s physical condition, from touring and addiction, he was unavailable. So, in 1980, Steinman began working on the album as a solo project, handling lead vocals on this track along with five others. The majority of the material on the album was reworked, but this track showed the vocal talent of Steinman.
#10. Meat Loaf – ‘Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through’
Ending just like it started. In 1993 Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman joined forces again to finally bring audiences Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell. The preceding single, ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’, hit the top of the charts in twenty eight countries, earning Meat Loaf a Grammy Award. However, a lot of the material on this Bat Out Of Hell sequel had already seen daylight, including ‘Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through’, which appeared on Steinman’s Bad For Good album. The track fit perfectly into the mission statement of both singer and composer, and so it got a fresh coat of paint for a new decade.