Sunday, May 27, 2018

Fire Inc. - Nowhere Fast & Tonight is What it Means to be Young

Nowhere Fast:

Tonight is What it Means to be young:

1984’s “Streets of Fire” is not a good movie, but it has proven to have some impressive staying power. The movie is self described as “a rock and roll fable” and I would agree that is an appropriate description. It took me a long time to final get around to watching “Streets of Fire” but it was a movie I knew I needed to see, if for no other reason the involvement of Jim Steinman.

I have talked about Jim Steinman a few times previously. He is most famous for writing the music of Meat Loaf, but he is also written many songs performed by famous musicians like Bonnie Tyler, Air Supply and Celine Dion. But of all the crazy places Steinmen’s music has shown up, my favorite is probably his insane German vampire rock opera “Tranz de Vampire” which I talked about last year:

Of all the places I have come across and investigated the works of Jim Steinman’s the movie “Streets of Fire” always stood out as highly interesting, however for a variety of reasons it remained on the back burner as a priority to actually sit down and watch. It looked like a bad movie, like a really bad movie, but it had William Dafoe, so it was probably secretly awesome. Somehow it was both.

It is a goofy movie, with a very simple plot, and very contrasted quality in acting, for example the female lead Diane Lane, who was eighteen at the time, is terrible, but, unsurprisingly William Dafoe as the antagonist Raven is great. It is also a movie that has aged in a very strange way, because it is super eighties, but the movie is trying to look like the fifties, so it feels double aged from two vantage points, but creates a sort of fascinating visual experience. The script is also garbage, probably the weakest point is the script. Then there is the music, which is sort of a mix bag of decent and amazing.

I think the soundtrack is decent with the exceptions of the opening and closing songs which are the two songs written by Jim Steinman. Fire Inc., the band, was created specifically to perform and record these two songs for this movie. They might as well have credit Jim Steinman directly, but I guess that was not dramatic enough band name.

The movie opens with an Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) concert and the mood is set by the song she lip-syncs “Nowhere Fast.”

I love “Nowhere Fast.” To me, it is a perfect Jim Steinman song. A rock song with lots of piano that feels like part of a rock opera with strong lead vocals… being lip synced by a younger female… and with lyrical content that is a combination of poetry and sarcasm.

I like to call it the “Steinman Witt.” The man had a way with words where he would always find some way of slipping something incredibly smart ass at the end of a very powerful line. Look at the entirety of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” as a perfect example, or the line that immediately follows “You Took the words right out of my mouth,” “It must have been while you were kissing me.” Pure smart ass, and I love it.

In “Nowhere Fast” the chorus is the most Steinman chorus in any Steinman song ever written:

“You and me we're going nowhere slowly,
And we've got to get away from the past.
There's nothing wrong with going nowhere, baby,
But we should be going nowhere fast.

Everybody's going nowhere slowly,
They're only fighting for the chance to be last.
There's nothing wrong with going nowhere, baby,
But we should be going nowhere fast.
It's so much better going nowhere fast.”

Did you catch it? The most Jim Steinman lyric in all of Jim Steinman’s work. Here I will point it out for you:

“Everybody's going nowhere slowly,
They're only fighting for the chance to be last.”

At one point in time I had misheard the lyric and instead of “slowly” I thought they said “someday,” further implying that everyone dies someday, and we are only fighting against this unavoidable eventuality. I still believe that is the intended take away from this lyric, were going literally nowhere slowly/eventually, were only fighting for the chance to be last.

I have actually been listening to “Nowhere Fast” years before I knew of the existence of “Streets of Fire.” Not everyone has bothered to learn this, but Meat Loaf had four albums between “Bat Out of Hell” and “Bat Out of Hell 2.” In 1984, the same year “Streets of Fire” was released, Meat Loaf released “Bad Attitude” which include a cover of “Nowhere Fast.” To say “Nowhere Fast” was my favorite song off of “Bad Attitude” would be an understatement, it was by far the best song on that album. Meat Loaf’s version is excellent:

Meat Loaf - Nowhere Fast:

It is unlikely I will revisit the topic of “Streets of Fire” again anytime in the foreseeable future, so I would be remised if I did not discuss the other song written by Jim Steinman for this movie, “Tonight is What it Means to be Young.”

The original plan for the ending of “Streets of Fire” was to have the character Ellen Aim perform a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Fire.” Makes sense. However, they could not get the rights to Springsteen’s song, so the asked Jim Steinman to write a new song, which he did, in two days.

Jim Steinman is very proud of “Tonight is What it Means to be Young,” and rightfully so, it is a very complete and full sounding song. It is insane to think that Steinman some how crafted such a song in only two days, but I guess that is genius for you.

Apparently, the reshooting of the ending to accommodate the new song costs something unseemly, which contributed to the failed Tom Cody trilogy. Oh right, they planned to make three films about the protagonist Tom Cody, but after the box office failure “Streets of Fire” had, the idea was canned.

Or was it?

In 2008, Michael Pare agreed to reprise the role of Cody, in the unofficial, ultra violent, sequel “Road to Hell.” I have not seen this movie. I cannot find any means to see this, interesting film, but I want to just for novelty of it.

The new versions of Jim Steinman's songs look, I do not know uninspired, and once again lip-synced.

Road to Hell - Nowhere Fast:

Road to Hell - Tonight is What it Means to be Young:

Judging from all metrics “Streets of Fire” should have been forgotten, poor reception, universally agreed as a bad film, and made no money, that should have been the end of it. It should have had a fate of obscurity. Yet it has lived on, and its cult following is strong enough to encourage an eccentric director like Albert Pyun to make an unofficial sequel. From my perspective the only really great thing about “Streets of Fire” was Jim Steinman’s involvement, he wrote two excellent songs, two of the best songs Steinman ever wrote were for this train wreck of a film, and I believe that is the primary reason this movie is still so fondly remembered. It is the only reason I watched it, and by far the biggest reason I was able to enjoy it.

It just goes to show what a great original soundtrack can do for film.

- King of Braves

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