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About Jim Steinman
Jim Steinman didn't invent theatrical rock & roll, but it could be argued he perfected it. Steinman's solo discography may be meager -- he released just one album in his decades-long career, 1981's Bad for Good -- but his signature is indelible: bombastic melodies delivered with the melodrama of opera, the volume of arena rock, and the angst of teensploitation. No matter the singer, the overblown sound remained the same, all patterned after the songwriter's big breakthrough and magnum opus -- Meat Loaf's 1977 album Bat Out of Hell, a Springsteen homage polished by Todd Rundgren. Over the next 20 years, Meat Loaf and Steinman would reunite on occasion -- their big comeback arrived in 1993, with the explicit sequel Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell -- but the songwriter's signature lived on through other artists. Bonnie Tyler took "Total Eclipse of the Heart" into the charts in 1983, the same year that Air Supply had an adult contemporary hit with "Making Love Out of Nothing at All," while Celine Dion's first massive American hit came with "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" in 1996. Once the hits began to fade, Steinman split his time between production and writing, often circling back to Meat Loaf. The pair reunited for Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose in 2006, then, a decade later, Steinman turned his Bat songs into the jukebox musical Jim Steinman's Bat Out of Hell, bringing him to the Broadway stage, where he always belonged.
Born and raised in New York City, Steinman graduated from George W. Hewlett High School in 1965 and started to pursue a professional musical career in earnest while attending Amherst College in the late '60s. While he was an Amherst student, he composed music for the school's adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's A Man's a Man in 1968; that same year, he performed a similar task for an adaptation of Brecht's Baal at the Island Theatre Workshop. During his final year at Amherst, Steinman wrote the musical The Dream Engine, which contained traces of the pop songs he'd later write.
Upon his graduation from Amherst, Steinman signed up with Joe Papp's Public Theater, where he toiled away on musicals, including a collaboration called Ubu with the puppeteer Demian and an adaptation of Wagner's Das Rheingold. Despite this, Steinman's first success arrived through pop, when Yvonne Elliman recorded his "Happy Ending" for her 1973 album Food of Love. A more pivotal event in 1973 was Steinman meeting Marvin Lee Aday, the singer who adopted Meat Loaf as his stage name. Meat Loaf appeared in More Than You Deserve, a musical written by Steinman, laying the foundation for a collaboration that lasted for decades.
As Steinman's union with Meat Loaf began in earnest in 1974 through the creation of the Peter Pan adaptation Neverland, the composer saw a pair of his works produced: Thomas Babe's 1975 play Kid Champion and 1976's The Confidence Man. Soon, Steinman and Meat Loaf recognized the germ of a rock & roll album within Neverland, so they decided to write an album and shop it to record labels. No label decided the album was worth the investment.
Eventually, Steinman connected with Todd Rundgren, who was delighted with the demos and decided to produce the record. Settling at Bearsville Studios, Rundgren brought in members of his band Utopia, along with Max Weinberg and Roy Bittan from Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band, and cut the record quickly, but still nobody wanted to release the finished product. After some struggle, the pair secured release through Cleveland International, a subsidiary of Epic Records, who issued Bat Out of Hell in October 1977. Bat Out of Hell wasn't an instant hit, but word of mouth grew, thanks in part to its steady success in the United Kingdom. Soon, it became a phenomenon, selling over 45 million copies worldwide, establishing both Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman as stars.
It took a while for Bat Out of Hell to be a hit, so it made sense that it took a while for Steinman and Meat Loaf to return with their next project. Initially, Steinman planned their second album to be a record called Renegade Angel, but a series of setbacks including a swiped lyric book and Meat Loaf losing his voice, pushed its recording back -- so far back, Steinman decided to take the material for Renegade Angel and turn it into his 1981 solo debut, Bad for Good. Arriving in April 1981, Bad for Good cracked the British Top 10, but only went to 63 on Billboard's Top 200; its accompanying single, "Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through," peaked at 32 in the Top 40 and 14 in the Mainstream Rock chart.
A few months after Bad for Good, Meat Loaf released Dead Ringer, which was a new collection of songs composed by Steinman. The record didn't perform commercially, one of several reasons Meat Loaf and Steinman parted ways after its release; the disagreements escalated into the courts not long afterward. Shortly after this, Steinman scored two of his biggest hits. He wrote and produced Bonnie Tyler's 1983 album Faster Than the Speed of Night, which featured the smash single "Total Eclipse of the Heart." While the Tyler single was at number one, the power ballad "Making Love Out of Nothing at All" by Air Supply was at number two for a short spell.
With this success under his belt, Steinman entered a period where he was an in-demand pop songwriter. He placed songs on the soundtrack of Walter Hill's rock & roll 1984 musical Streets of Fire, produced Billy Squier's 1984 LP Signs of Life, and wrote the music for "Holding Out for a Hero," a Bonnie Tyler hit from the Footloose soundtrack. Steinman didn't act like a snob, nor did he exist solely in the mainstream; he wrote a theme song for pro wrestler Hulk Hogan in 1985 and turned his attention to producing Floodland, the second album from goth rockers Sisters of Mercy. Steinman wrapped up the '80s assembling the group Pandora's Box, which featured himself as well as Ellen Foley, who had gained fame singing on Bat Out of Hell. The group released Original Sin in 1989, then Steinman worked with Iron Prostate, but the group fell apart during the recording of the album.
Steinman reunited with Meat Loaf in the early 1990s, creating the album that became 1993's Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell. An unexpected blockbuster thanks to the hit "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)," Bat Out of Hell II brought Meat Loaf back into the mainstream and offered further confirmation of Steinman's hitmaking prowess. The songwriter's next big smash was "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," which Celine Dion took to number two in 1996. During the late '90s, Steinman alternated his time between soundtrack appearances and stage musicals -- he wrote the lyrics for Andrew Lloyd Webber's short-lived 1996 musical Whistle Down the Wind and the 1997 musical adaptation of Roman Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers -- while producing the occasional pop hit. Most notable of those was Boyzone's 1998 hit "No Matter What."
During the 2000s, Steinman busied himself with musicals, including a 2002 musical about Greta Garbo; he also worked on a Batman musical that never materialized. During 2003, he was credited as an executive producer on MTV's adaptation of Wuthering Heights; he also produced much of the soundtrack. In 2006, he re-teamed with Meat Loaf for Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose; half of its 14 songs were written by Steinman. Around its release, the singer and songwriter once again got into a legal dispute over the use of the title "Bat Out of Hell." An out-of-court settlement allowed Meat Loaf to release his album as a Bat Out of Hell sequel, while letting Steinman produce a musical called Jim Steinman's Bat Out of Hell.
It would be another decade before Jim Steinman's Bat Out of Hell surfaced via a February 2017 premiere in Manchester. In between, Steinman attempted an adaptation of The Nutcracker with Monty Python's Terry Jones, and he also reunited with Meat Loaf to contribute new material for the 2016 album Braver Than We Are.
After its Manchester premiere, Jim Steinman's Bat Out of Hell staged productions in London and Toronto in 2017. An original cast recording of the production also appeared that year. The musical made its New York debut in the summer of 2019. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
- Claremont, CA
- 1 Nov 1947
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