April 21, 2021
The brilliant songwriter for Meat Loaf, Céline Dion and Bonnie Tyler, who has died aged 73, reminded us that pop music should involve fantasy and a sense of the ridiculous
Jim Steinman, master of the power ballad, gave pop an operatic energy
In 1989, the NME interviewed Jim Steinman. The late journalist Steven Wells found him on fine, very Jim Steinman-ish form. He was presiding over a video shoot for a single by his new project Pandora’s Box, directed by Ken Russell, a man who shared Steinman’s zero-tolerance policy towards subtlety and good taste. Amid Russell’s exploding motorbikes, white horses surrounded by fire, and S&M gear-clad dancers gyrating on top of a tomb, Steinman offered his thoughts on current rock (U2 were “the most boring group in the world”) and dished scandalous gossip about the artists he’d worked with. He also announced that the Pandora’s Box album had been inspired by a scene in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights where Heathcliffe exhumed Cathy’s corpse and “danced with it on the beach in the cold moonlight”. It should be added that this scene seems to have existed entirely in Steinman’s head – nothing like it happens in Brontë’s book. But then, Jim Steinman seemed very much the kind of guy who might read Wuthering Heights and decide it needed amping up a little.
He also ruminated on his own position within rock music. “It’s always struck me as weird that a lot of people in rock’n’roll think my stuff is ridiculous,” he said. “I think that so much rock’n’roll is confessional. It’s like black and white film. That’s what a lot of people think rock’n’roll should be … I just see it as fantasy, operatic, hallucinations, stuff like that … I kinda think rock’n’roll is silly, in the best way. The silly things are kinda the things that are alright.”
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