Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young

You can’t write a post about James Richard Steinman without mentioning Meat Loaf…so now that we’ve done that…let’s get back to Jim.

Steinman passed away in April 2021 at the age of 73. In his legendary musical career, among other things he was a composer, arranger, lyricist, producer, and performer.

While in school at Amherst College, Jim created a musical which got the attention of one Joseph Papp, he of the New York Shakespeare Festival. After Steinman graduated, Papp hired him to help compose a musical called “More Than You Deserve.” And that is where Jim Steinman met one Marvin Lee Aday aka Meat Loaf, who was in the musical’s cast. It was the beginning of a relationship which lasted over four decades.

Jim wrote big, bombastic, theatric, over-the-top orchestrations which aligned perfectly with Meat Loaf’s desire to not just be a singer on stage, but an actor as well. Steinman wrote mini-operas, not just songs. In an era of disco and punk, no major recording companies wanted any part of the Steinman-Meat Loaf collaboration which eventually became “Bat Out Of Hell,” one of the biggest selling albums in history. The opening, title track is almost ten minutes long. Seven songs in all…all heavily influenced by opera, one of Jim’s boyhood passions. Just a few years ago, Steinman’s vision of “Bat Out Of Hell” becoming a stage musical was finally realized, and remains on tour to this day.

When I met my wife, I learned she was a fan of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” movie which Meat Loaf co-starred in. She also introduced me to “Bat Out Of Hell,” and that’s how I became a fan of both Meat and Jim. We wound up seeing Meat Loaf in concert on multiple occasions before he passed away in January of this year at the age of 74. My wife and I even got to meet Meat once. The best thing about his performances was you could easily see he was giving everything he had each time out.

We unfortunately never got to meet Jim Steinman. His career has certainly always been tied to Meat Loaf’s, but below is a sampling of Jim’s better-known works, some of which he also performed himself:

“Bat Out Of Hell” (Meat Loaf)

“Dead Ringer” (Meat Loaf with Cher)

“Heaven Can Wait” (Karla DeVito, Ellen Foley, Meat Loaf)

“Holding Out For A Hero” (Bonnie Tyler)

“I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” (Meat Loaf)

“It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” (Celine Dion, Meat Loaf with Marion Raven)

“Left In The Dark” (Barbra Streisand, Meat Loaf)

“Making Love Out Of Nothing At All” (Air Supply, Bonnie Tyler with Matt Petrin)

“More Than You Deserve” (Meat Loaf)

“Paradise By The Dashboard Light” (Meat Loaf with Ellen Foley)

“Read ‘Em & Weep” (Barry Manilow, Meat Loaf)

“Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” (Meat Loaf)

“Total Eclipse Of The Heart” (Bonnie Tyler, Nicki French, Tori Amos)

“Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” (Bonnie Tyler, Todd Rundgren, Olivia Newton-John, Meat Loaf)

“You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth” (Meat Loaf)

Yet, when I thought of Jim Steinman recently it was in reference to two songs in a largely ignored 1984 Walter Hill film, “Streets Of Fire.” The songs were performed under the name Fire Inc. even though such a band never actually existed. The two songs, “Nowhere Fast” and “Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young” respectively open and close the film.

“Streets Of Fire” stars include Diane Lane, Willem Dafoe, Amy Madigan, Bill Paxton, and Rick Moranis. The tagline for the movie is “A Rock and Roll Fable.” It’s a story of an unlikely group of heroes who set out to rescue pop star Ellen Aim (Lane) from the Bombers biker gang led by Raven (Dafoe).

“Nowhere Fast” sets the pace, while “Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young” brings down the curtain. There’s an interesting story behind the latter. Originally, the movie was to close with Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets Of Fire” but negotiations for the rights took too long and the movie had to make its release date, so the producers of the film asked Steinman to write a song to finish the film with.

In just two days, Jim turned in “Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young.” The producers were so blown away by his song they commissioned a million-dollar reshoot of the final concert scene so the performers could be seen singing it. I believe that reshoot resulted in one of the better film finales you will ever see. “Streets Of Fire” is certainly not for everyone. It is different.Β Yet, no matter what one’s overall takeaway of the film is, I am confident most who have seen it find the end scene satisfying.

Tres Dean of Vulture best describes the film and its ending:

“Streets Of Fire is very much a cult film, which is to say that it will not work for everyone. But if you are one of the people it was made for, those seven minutes will break your heart and, moments later, stitch it back together.”


Picture Courtesy Wikipedia

56 thoughts on “Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young”

  1. I immediately checked my Firestick to see if I had the movie… Sigh. I was hoping there was a free version. The song sounds like something Meat Loaf could have sung. It was his style and shows the collaboration from over the years.
    This was a very interesting post, Bruce. Thanks for learnin’ me somethin’ new!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I checked to see if Diane Lane sang in the movie (she doesn’t) and I might sign up for the free trial of Hollywood Suite just to watch it.
        Ya done good! πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Did you guys get dressed in costume to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show?! I love that movie, but the audience is such a fun part of the whole experience.
    Streets of Fire…I don’t recall that movie, but what a great cast.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amazing! I was aware of both guys and have enjoyed all these songs, but didn’t make the connection–thanks! The guy you didn’t mention was an old fav–Michael Pare–Eddie and the Cruisers and redux and eye candy in this film as well! This really is a sort of neo noir rock opera, a strange and curious music rich film. Only song missing was ‘young AND foolish…?’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Meat Loaf had a way of answering interview questions differently depending on his mood. In this instance, he often pointed out there are different lines before each chorus and those are specifically the things he would not do. In other times, he said we should just insert our own lines.πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I absolutely loved this movie and the two songs that framed it, Bruce. Yes, fan of Steinman since I first heard β€˜Bat Out of Hell.’ The initial introduction was out of the big speakers at The Mad Hatter of Stony Brook, a rock club on Long Island, and I thought it sounded like an amped-up combo from the minds, hands and throats of Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen. Anyway. RIP Jim and Meat, whose work gave me so much great pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Meat Loaf offered Jim a cool $2 million for the sole rights to “It’s All Coming back to me now”, but Jim said he wrote it specifically for Celine Dion and passed. Celine did a great job, but Meatloaf would have done better.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lulu: “Our Dada has this movie on DVD and of course he also has the soundtrack on CD. He says both are excellent.”
    Charlee: “DVD? CD? So retro.”
    Lulu: “You think THAT’S retro, he also has some other weird animated movie on DVD called ‘Rock & Rule’ where all the humans are gone and the world is run by anthropomorphic animals.”
    Chaplin: “Cats?”
    Lulu: “Dogs, mostly, sort of.”
    Charlee: “How horrifying.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is so cool Dad has the movie and soundtrack, and he is a fan of both! Believe it or not, we still have a few VHS tapes here of other movies (though I have no idea why…). Ask your Dad about how retro THEY must be!


  7. I remember seeing “Streets of Fire” back in the eighties. I was always into the lesser known flicks, and still am. I had no idea as to the history of this little gem though. Gracias for the 411.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You’re educating me on music I’m not really familiar with. In fact, here’s a “weird” story. I was teaching a creative writing class and my prompt was something about a memory while listening to a song. One of the students wrote about necking in a car with a boyfriend while Meatloaf was singing. Who’s Meatloaf? I asked. The rest of the (adult) students couldn’t believe my lack of music education. The next day they sent me links to some of his songs, and then, that same day, we got notification that Meatloaf had just passed away. Whoaaaa.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Pam, that is an awesomely-weird story. 😱 Life once again working in mysterious ways. I am sure the day he passed away a lot of folks were “doin’ the Google” trying to figure out what a guy named Meat Loaf was all about. Thanks for sharing that experience…as well as the follow!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Steinman a fantastic writer. Every time i go back to Streets of Fire I usually end up lingering on Tonight. sometimes I just check that song out on YouTube and just watch that. It’s beautifully done on the screen, too, especially as it’s a female singer rather than Meat Loaf, so there’s more focus on the other bandsmen as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Fascinated to read this post. Must track down the film. Much as Meatloaf had awesome success with the Bat Out of Hell album I rate The Bad for Good album in which Jim ended up recording (whilst waiting for Meatloaf) every bit as good. You could easily have added to the playlist in your post nearly all the songs on that album but especially songs such as Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through, Bad For Good, Out of the Frying Pan (And Into The Fire) and Stark Raving Love in my opinion. Such a shame Jim and Meatloaf have passed.
    Thanks again for your post. Cheers, Mark

    Liked by 1 person

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