Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Total Eclipse of Subtlety


It’s all connected: I think we knew songwriter/producer Jim Steinman’s songs (such as Meatloaf’s best-known stuff) are Wagnerian. What I didn’t realize is that he got his start in college actually writing an updated version of a Wagner opera. Since then, his stuff has been distinctive enough that I correctly guessed the man behind “Total Eclipse of the Heart” also wrote Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing At All” (which would be almost as cool as “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” it struck me one day, if only Bonnie Tyler sang it instead of wussy Air Supply — hey, wait a second, I thought…).

More recently, it dawned on me (again correctly) that he must have written “Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young” by Ellen Aim and the Attackers (a.k.a. Fire Inc.) from the movie Streets of Fire, a film responsible for one of my fondest radio interview memories.


The Fixx were being interviewed, talking about doing a song — the great “Deeper and Deeper” — for the soundtrack of Streets of Fire, and they said they wanted their song to play during the end credits instead of during a scene to avoid having the lyrics contradict the action. But during a commercial at the radio station, due to a technical mishap, you could still hear Fixx lead singer Cy Curnin “discreetly” explaining that he hated movies like Pretty in Pink for making little effort to match music meaningfully with plot.

(And, of course, by that standard, things have gone way downhill since Echo & the Bunnymen and Psychedelic Furs’ fairly-relevant contributions to that film — and Curnin has gone into hat-making, but I’ll nonetheless see the Fixx in concert next month, for what I’m afraid is about the seventh time, along with English Beat and the Alarm, the latter of whom my college roommate Marc Steiner along with me actually saw in concert with the Fixx about twenty years ago in Rhode Island, at what Marc then called the “Fixx the Alarm” concert.)


As a special Todd-alerting bonus, Wikipedia describes Steinman’s political views as “libertarian” (presumably of a decidedly antiwar sort, since he, like Ron Paul, has praised Kucinich), and the entry mentions that, in addition to a vampire musical, Steinman produced a song for the trashy military thriller Iron Eagle, which will perhaps be best remembered as the movie that a laughing Lois on Family Guy, with adorable insensitivity, tells Brian his perpetually-unfinished novel resembles.

Speaking of Wagner, by the way, that Morrison interview I linked to yesterday confirms that he’s cramming everything from Gotterdammerung to the Hopi Fifth World into his Final Crisis miniseries. Bring it on!

ADDENDUM: You know, I just realized the Echo & the Bunnymen video contains a scantily-clad guy in a unicorn mask not so unlike the one I described Rev. Jen Jr., the performance art chihuahua, barking at ferociously in my final Month of the Nerd entry.  If you watch the video and imagine being a chihuahua, you can see how it might be alarming.  And the video unicorn is in significantly better shape and is moving around less.


Xine said...

“Deeper and Deeper” is, for this Fixx-loather, the only great Fixx song. But I’m surprised at Cy Curnin’s claim that *Pretty in Pink* is an instance of mismatch between soundtrack and plot. In fact, it’s a rare example of how well a carefully chosen soundtrack could reflect the plot (and I remember the *Rolling Stone* review saying as much). “Wouldn’t it Be Good”? “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”? The terrific song “Left of Center,” sung by Suzanne Vega (usually, ick) and with a brilliant piano part by Joe Jackson? All seemed very, self-consciously, apt. Of course, Molly Ringwald’s character wasn’t the slut described in “Pretty in Pink.”

Todd Seavey said...

Well, I hope I didn’t mishear as I was listening to comments never meant to be aired, but I think that was the gist — though after all this time, I can’t be sure he didn’t segue from complaining about music/plot mismatches to complaining about “movies that are just an excuse to sell soundtracks” or something along those lines.

I am more confident I recall Michael Sembello, who sang “Maniac” from _Flashdance_, the poor bastard, saying something even more out of step with the times: In the early 80s, he said he wasn’t sure he wanted there to be videos for his songs since they so often contain imagery unrelated to the lyrics, such as (as he put it) some guy singing “Oh, yeah, I really dig my girlfriend” while you see a Roman legion marching across the land.

(Of course, if the narrator were singing about a historian, that might almost make sense.)