- Counter-Currents - https://counter-currents.com -

A Tip of the Trilby:
On the Passing of the Dynamic Duo, Meat Loaf & Jim Steinman

[1]

Meat Loaf

3,393 words

“We didn’t know each other, we were each other.” — Meat Loaf on Jim Steinman[1] [2]

On Thursday, as it must to all men, death came to Marvin Lee Aday [3], known professionally as Meat Loaf. Mr. Loaf was perhaps an acquired taste, but he was certainly an energetic performer — on one occasion, falling off the stage, only to insist on completing his tour in a wheelchair. Despite his prodigious girth and periodic drug abuse, he more than fulfilled his Biblical three score and ten, dying at 74. Indeed, he seemed to lead a charmed life, of a sort [4]:

Meat Loaf’s baffling number of injuries and near death experiences led him to describe himself as a “cat with 48 lives”.

In 2013, he told Ultimate Classic Rock he suffered 18 concussions, survived eight car crashes, and had close calls on planes. He also claimed he had “fallen three storeys” and had so many near misses and collisions that he “should have died” — but the truth of these accidents has never been verified.

Meat Loaf even claims his singing voice came as the result of a 12-pound shot put being thrown at his head from 62-feet away during school. He told The Telegraph: “Didn’t even knock me out. Weird.” Shortly after he was trying out for a choir and found he suddenly had a three-and-a-half-octave vocal range. He was also left with a dent in his head.

Despite the usual rock ‘n roll excesses, Mr. Loaf is something of a conservative, or Right-wing, figure. Indeed, his career was bookended by two iconic Rightist movie roles; first, as the doomed biker Eddie in The Rocky Horror Show, which Edmund Connelly has recently discussed here as a “reactionary morality tale [5],” describing Mr. Loaf’s role thusly:

We enter into an unexpected moral dilemma as a scene of irrepressible power and creativity overtakes us. From a large freezer emerges an ice-covered biker carrying a saxophone. The biker is none other than the iconic Meat Loaf, scarred and oozing primal male power, which is apparently what drew Columbia, an old girlfriend, to him.

Meat Loaf as Eddie belts out a powerful rock-‘n’-roll song, completely upstaging the fuming Frank-N-Furter, a vain and spoiled individual. After finishing his sax solo, Eddie rides around the large room on his large Harley, continuing to dominate the scene. Furious, Frank grabs a pick and threatens the much larger Eddie, who fearfully backs into the foggy freezer, from which we hear the horrible sounds of pick ripping flesh, with screams from Columbia. Soon, the bloodied Frank-N-Furter exits, stumbling after such exertion. Rushing over to his love creation, he consoles an agitated Rocky, “Don’t be upset. It was a mercy killing. He had a certain naïve charm — but no muscle.”

[6]

You can buy James O’Meara’s End of an Era here [7].

In a sort of degenerate parody of the premise of Hitchcock’s Rope, Frank will serve Eddie’s remains to his captive guests: “All are appalled except for Frank, who blithely continues to assume that power trumps any old-fashioned concepts of morality.”

Apart from all the soon to be socially fashionable depravity around, it is Eddie’s death — the death of the truly masculine figure, replaced by the synthetic, hairless, pumped-up masculinity of Rocky (or “The Creature,” as the credits refer to him) who is intended as a toy for the amusement of the epicene Frank — that serves as the moral aporia at the center of the film.

Indeed, towards the end of his career, Mr. Loaf again personified threatened masculinity on screen in a film more commonly associated with the Right than Rocky Horror: David Fincher’s Fight Club.[2] [8] In Jef Costello’s landmark essay “Fight Club as Holy Writ [9],”[3] [10] he reflects on Mr. Loaf’s character, Bob:

The story of Fight Club starts when Jack, an emotionally repressed insomniac looking for some kind of catharsis, visits a support group for men with testicular cancer: “Remaining Men Together.” Some of these men have literally been emasculated. One of them, Bob, has developed “bitch tits” because testosterone therapy caused his body to up his estrogen level.

How did Bob get in this predicament? We are told that he was a “champion bodybuilder.” And like all champion bodybuilders he was a ‘roid head. (Bob gives us a litany of the drugs he used to use, saying of one of them “They use that on racehorses for Christ’s sake!”). It is implied that Bob’s steroid abuse led to his testicular cancer. How ironic. Here’s a guy who pumped himself full of synthetic man hormones and built enormous man muscles — why? Well, to be manly for gosh sakes. And it led to his manhood being removed.

Punishment from the gods, if you ask me. Like Jack and so many other men today, he felt a sense of masculine inferiority. And like so many men today he addressed it through the external, through the cosmetic. So he built big muscles (which, of course, any fairy can do in a gym in Chelsea). Others allow a quarter inch or so of stubble to accumulate on their faces, and carefully trim it every few days. Others buy snazzy cars.

So, while Eddie is chopped up by transvestite Frank “N” Furter to be replaced by the artificial muscle-man Rocky,[4] [11] Bob is an artificial muscle-man whose drug regimen has lopped off his testicles and added tits. Manhood doesn’t seem to stand a chance these days.

Personally as well, Mr. Loaf was known as a Trump supporter, certainly a bold stance in the “entertainment industry,” although it may have been a somewhat, um, rocky relationship [12].

So fare well, big guy. Given the furious, gung-ho nature of his performances, perhaps Hunter Thompson’s epitaph for Dr. Gonzo himself applies as well or better:

There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.

But although I did not come here to bury Mr. Loaf, I did not exactly come here to praise him; rather, I wanted to say a few words about his Svengali: Jim Steinman, who, somewhat weirdly, died just last year — April 19, 2021 — at almost 74 himself. Steinman was a rather literal Svengali to Mr. Loaf’s Trilby, being not only the mastermind behind the music but about as Jewish as they come in America: scion of some sort of construction mogul on Long Island.

His work included albums such as Meat Loaf [13]‘s Bat Out of Hell [14] (one of the best selling albums in history) and Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell [15], and producing albums for Bonnie Tyler [16]. His most successful chart singles include Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart [17],Air Supply [18]‘s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All [19],” Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) [20],the Sisters of Mercy [21]‘s “This Corrosion [22]” and “More [23],Barry Manilow [24]‘s “Read ‘Em and Weep [25],Celine Dion [26]‘s cover of “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now [27]” (originally released by Steinman’s project Pandora’s Box [28]) and Boyzone [29]‘s “No Matter What [30]” (the group’s first and only single to be popular and chart in the US). Steinman’s only solo album Bad for Good [31] was released in 1981.

Steinman’s work also extended to musical theater, where he began his career. Steinman was credited with the book, music, and lyrics for Bat Out of Hell: The Musical [32], as well as lyrics for Whistle Down the Wind [33], and music for Tanz der Vampire [34].[5] [35]

If you’re of a certain age or spent too much time watching VH1 or were ever stuck in an elevator or a mall, you know all or most of this music. And while there’s certainly nothing unusual about a successful Jewish songwriter, what’s peculiar here is that I, at least, find Steinman’s most characteristic music to be rather, um, Aryan.

But first, let me observe that one of the cruel truths of post-high school life is that popularity rarely, if ever, correlates to “coolness.” If asked by any kind of high-status person who your favorite pop composer is, the answer “Jim Steinman” would be greeted perhaps by puzzlement — “Who?” — and then, when several examples of his songs are cited, there would be a sad shake of the head and perhaps the mouthing of the word “loser.”[6] [36]

So while popular among white people, you could not call it “Music White People Like.” Quite the contrary; or rather, it was and is popular among a certain sort of white people — most likely to be found in some basket of deplorables, or shopping without a mask — and hated, or mocked, by another sort: those who think themselves to be part of an elite, the actual Stuff White People Like (SWPL) crowd,[7] [37] made up of those who, among other things, hate or mock that kind of music.[8] [38] And not coincidentally, they, though white themselves, often hate or mock White People: racists and so on with, as a thoroughly indoctrinated white high schooler famously complained, no culture.

So the thing about Steinman’s music is that I find the themes and production are quite Aryan, or even Faustian; they deal with tragedy, romance, tragic romance, romantic tragedy, White men exploding atoms and traveling to the moon (the secret themes of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”) and especially heroism.

I mean, really:

Holding Out for a Hero
(“Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire” Version)

Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where’s the street-wise Hercules
To fight the rising odds?

Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn, I dream of what I need

I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night
He’s gotta be strong
And he’s gotta be fast
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight
I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the morning light
He’s gotta be sure
And he’s gotta be soon
And he’s gotta be larger than life
Larger than life

Somewhere after midnight
In my wildest fantasy
Somewhere just beyond my reach
There’s someone reaching back for me

Racing on the thunder and rising with the heat
It’s gonna take a superman to sweep me off my feet

I need a hero etc. [repeat]

Up where the mountains meet the heavens above
Out where the lightning splits the sea
I could swear that there’s someone somewhere watching me

Through the wind and the chill and the rain
And the storm and the flood
I can feel his approach
Like the fire in my blood [repeat]

I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night
He’s gotta be strong
And he’s gotta be fast
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight
I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the morning light
He’s gotta be sure
And he’s gotta be soon
And he’s gotta be larger than life

And of course the official video is based as all Hell. It makes Jack Donovan look like Klaus Nomi:[9] [39]

Now I need to deal with the rebellion I can already feel starting up.[10] [40] This is “bombastic.” This is “over the top.” [11] [41] This is “self-parody,” or even worse, unconsciously parodic. And I see that, I really do. But I find it charmingly earnest, not something to be mocked and condemned as “camp for straight people.”[12] [42]

The latter attitude I find to be an example of the modern pose of Irony, which has been an acid rotting away any serious or even playfully earnest aspect of white culture and civilization for decades, replacing it with a bored, literally sophomoric been there/seen through that reflex that makes any kind of serious engagement with the world, art, or society impossible.

Writing about Kill Bill Vol. I, Trevor Lynch observes [43]:

There are scenes in Kill Bill that are genuinely powerful and moving. But just when you find yourself caught up in the film, just when you are starting to take it seriously, Tarantino douses your enthusiasm with a bucket of cold irony.

[By] “irony” I mean a refusal to take serious things seriously, specifically a refusal of respect or allegiance to ideals, a refusal of their demand that we must elevate and transform our lives in their image, or even sacrifice our lives for their greater glory and continued sway.

By “irony,” I mean the cynical pretense of having seen through the emptiness and vanity of all ideals.

[This] is a sign of decadence, because a healthy soul and a healthy society need ideals. Ideals are the only things that raise the human soul above the brute animality of our carnal desires.

The desires for food, security, sexual gratification, and continued existence do not set us apart from the animals. What sets us apart is our ability to give these things up for something higher. The desire to conform to a social hierarchy to ensure the satisfaction of our desires does not set us apart from wolves, apes, or even insects like ants and bees. What sets us apart is the ability to rebel in the name of ideals like liberty and justice.[13] [44]

[45]

You can buy James J. O’Meara’s Passing the Buck here [46].

So if you think you’re too good for this music, I say get over it, and get over yourself. Treat it with a smile of indulgence, if you must, but get rid of the smirk of irony; it’s for your own good, as well as your nation and your race.

Speaking of race, and the acid of irony, one must also face this aspect of the Jewish Question. As already pointed out, Steinman was Jewish.[14] [47] I suppose it’s possible that he devoted his entire career to one long Andy Kaufman-style put-on, mocking, by pretending to embody, the worst features of goyishe music, rather like Sasha Baron-Cohen’s Borat.[15] [48]

But surely its more likely that the worst features of Steinman’s music are accidental. We have an example, in the genre of pop music, of a phenomenon well known to classical buffs. E. R. E. Knutsson writes:

Rudolf Louis [49], one of Mahler’s anti-Semitic critics, summarized it thus in 1909: “What I find so utterly repellent about Mahler’s music is the pronounced Jewishness of its underlying character. . . . It is abhorrent to me because it speaks Yiddish. In other words it speaks the language of German music but with an accent, with the intonation and above all with the gestures of the Easterner, the all-too-Eastern Jew.” Louis’s choice of words, according to Julian Johnson [50], “underlines something true about Mahler’s music: it speaks the language of the Austro-German tradition but with a different tone, accent, and voice. It remains contested whether this difference is explained by Mahler’s Jewish origins . . . or whether it results from a modernist attitude toward [music] (marked by irony, parody, exaggeration) that exceeds the specific category of Jewish identity.”[16] [51]

In “Why Mahler? Norman Lebrecht and the Construction of Jewish Genius [52],” Brenton Sanderson quotes the titular Jewish critic thus:

For Lebrecht, in the funeral march in Mahler’s First Symphony [53] he ‘is writing as a Jew and the irony he uses is not classical Greek but everyday Yiddish, a dialect that changes meaning by gesture and inflection. Any statement in Yiddish can be made to mean the opposite . . .[17] [54] the conjunction of gravity and gaiety is a facet of Jewish psychology and a driving motive of Mahler’s First Symphony. Played without irony, the music sounds shallow. Played with too Jewish an accent, it attains self-parody. Mahler leaves it to interpreters to strike the correct balance.’[18] [55]

I suspect that’s what we have here; as with Mahler, in the wrong hands — and all too frequently, those are Jim Steinman’s hands — pop music in the style of Wagner “attains self-parody.”[19] [56]

I suggest this is something else we need to, as Jonathan Bowden would say, “step over.” Steinman may have, due to his tribal handicap, gotten the accent wrong on occasion, but his intentions seem honest enough and the results speak for themselves, or will if we ignore our “betters” and accept them at face value. There’s precious little spiritually affirmative music in the pop world these days, and we need to make the most of whatever we may find.

*  *  *

Counter-Currents has extended special privileges to those who donate $120 or more per year.

To get full access to all content behind the paywall, sign up here:

Fill out this field ONLY if you want to be included in our Paywall Insiders Chat. Keep in mind that membership is open to paywall subscribers only, but there is no further vetting. If you do not want your phone number to be visible to the group, check your profile privacy settings before joining.

Paywall Gift Subscriptions

[57]If you are already behind the paywall and want to share the benefits, Counter-Currents also offers paywall gift subscriptions. We need just five things from you:

To register, just fill out this form and we will walk you through the payment and registration process. There are a number of different payment options.

Notes

[1] [58]  Andy Green, “Meat Loaf Remembers Jim Steinman: ‘He Was the Centerpiece of My Life'” [59]Rolling Stone, April 23, 2021.

[2] [60] Reviewed by Trevor Lynch here [61], and reprinted in his collection Trevor Lynch: Part Four of the Trilogy; edited by Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2020), available here [62].

[3] [63] Reprinted in his collection The Importance of James Bond & Other Essays; edited by Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2017), available here [64].

[4] [65] Frank introduces his creation with a song that references, ironically, the Charles Atlas bodybuilding slogan, “In just seven days I can make you a man!”; however effective or not the Charles Atlas course [66] was, at least it was a regimen — an ethos, if you will [67].

[5] [68] He almost wrote The Phantom of the Opera for Anthony Lloyd-Weber, but chose to finish a Bonnie Tyler album instead. Again, one notes the “man behind the music” motif.

[6] [69] Or perhaps this [70].

[7] [71] See Greg Johnson’s “Smells Like . . . White Guilt: Christian Lander’s Whiter Shades of Pale [72],” reprinted in his collection Confessions of a Reluctant Hater; second ed., revised and expanded (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2016).

[8] [73] They’re the people who think, or claim to think, as a sort of badge of Internet coolness that Starship’s “We Built this City on Rock and Roll” is, like, “the worst song ever [74].”

Say you don’t know me or recognize my face

Say you don’t care who goes to that kind of place.

[9] [75] Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Here’s Klaus’ “Total Eclipse [76],” which doesn’t seem to be Steinman’s song, but sure gets the production values.

[10] [77] “Oh, you’re all coiled up like a rattlesnake ready to strike me!” That’s Brother Stair [78] and one of his typical proactive, passive-aggressive “I ain’t a smooth-talker” remarks after, say, denouncing the “Pope of Rome” as the Whore of Babylon, along with her “daughters of harlotry” — everyone else but him.

[11] [79] From the “Total Eclipse of the Heart” Literal Video [80]: “The gayest man on Earth would call this ‘over the top’.”

[12] [81] Writing about another “implicitly white” form of music, exotica, and tiki culture in general, I pointed out [82] that tiki had a surprising recurrence at Charlottesville: “Perhaps the most enduring image of the infamous Unite the Right march — also known as ‘Charlottesville,’ like some historic Confederate rout — is the tiki torchlight parade. You can see why: On the one hand, a torchlight parade sounds ominous, right out of the Hollywood Nazi playbook; on the other hand, it sounds ridiculous — combined with the polo shirt and khaki wardrobe, it calls to mind the way someone once described the music of Jim Steinman: camp for straight people. I see that the only reference for this is an earlier article of . . . my own [83]. But I swear I saw it somewhere on the internets.”

[13] [84] See also Greg Johnson, “Postmodernism vs. Identity, Part 2: Identity vs. Irony [85],” reprinted in his collection From Plato to Postmodernism (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2019). Especially good, and brief, is the video by Academic Agent, “Deconstructing Boomer Truth #6: Generation X and the Rise of the Midwit [86],”which examines Mike Judge’s cartoon character Daria as an archetype of Gen-X ironism.

[14] [87] Or at least a “half-Jewish New Yorker,” according to The Sunday Times [88].

[15] [89] Even Baron-Cohen quickly grew tired of the joke, and now lectures us on anti-Semitism via the ADL.

[16] [90]The Archaeology of Postmodernity, Part I: Viennese Mutations [91].” Knutsson [92]?

[17] [93] As a student I was told a joke, possibly a real event, where a practitioner of British “ordinary language philosophy” was lecturing at, I think, New York University, and said, “In many languages a double negative may indicate a positive, but there is no language in which a double positive conveys a negative meaning,” when from the back someone muttered “Yeah, yeah.”

[18] [94] Interestingly, no less than Clive Davis of CBS refused to let the title of Meat Loaf’s first album include “Jim Steinman presents . . .” because it “sounded too Jewish;” see the American Israelite’s obituary [95]. Shades of Mel Brooks [96].

[19] [97] Not that Jews have any objection to appropriating it for themselves. Here’s Valerie Landsburg’s version of “Holding Out for a Hero [98].” Appropriately, this was recorded at the Jones Beach Amphitheatre on Steinman’s home turf, Long Island, as part of the Fame TV show’s concert “The Heart of Rock ‘n’ Roll” in 1984. Julia Louis-Dreyfus may have millions in the bank and played a Vice President on TV, but this is how she sees herself to this day.