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Jim Steinman: Bad For Good - Album Of The Week Club review

Jim Steinman's Bad For Good was meant to be the sequel to Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell, but when then big man lost his voice Steinman stepped up to the mic

Jim Steinman: Bad For Good
(Image: © Sony Music)
Jim Steinman: Bad For Good

Jim Steinman: Bad For Good

(Image credit: Sony Music)

Bad For Good
Lost Boys And Golden Girls
Love and Death And An American Guitar
Stark Raving Love
Out Of The Frying Pan (And Into The Fire)
Surf's Up
Dance In My Pants
Left In The Dark

The Storm*
Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through*

*included on the 7" single that accompanied the original vinyl release, and included on subsequent digital versions 

The songs Jim Steinman wrote for Meat Loaf were epics; 10-minute mini-operas filled with breathless tales of teenage lust and last-minute redemption that rumbled and throbbed like demonic speed machines. As Steinman said in the illuminating 1999 documentary Classic Albums: Bat Out of Hell: “They were all motorcycle rock songs. Even the ballads were motorcycle rock ballads."

Those songs had originally found a home on Meat Loaf’s monstrous Bat Out of Hell album, produced by Todd Rundgren and recorded with musicians that included members of Rundgren’s band Utopia and Bruce Springteen’s E Street Band. Released in October 1977, it would go on to sell more than 50 million copies worldwide. 

The tour that followed was one of rock's most volatile. There were fights, mutinies, drugs and over-indulgence at every stop. Meat pushed himself so hard physically every night that he required oxygen to revive him – an iconic image that would become a symbol for 70s excess. The injuries and madness mounted, climaxing in Meat breaking bones after a tumble off stage in Ottawa.

By 1978 it was all becoming too much for the band. The Bat Out Of Hell album had sold millions and they’d toured the world, and still there was no end in sight. Jim Steinman wanted to leave the tour and start working on the second Bat… album; eventually Meat’s voice began to give out on him, and the band simply wanted to stop while they still could.

The band went their separate ways, but Meat Loaf’s voice didn’t recover in time to sing on the album that was initially slated as the follow-up to Bat Out Of Hell, so Jim Steinman sang the songs himself and released it under his own name. He called it Bad For Good.

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in April 1981

  • Modern Times - Jefferson Starship
  • Fun in Space - Roger Taylor
  • Prayers on Fire - The Birthday Party
  • Faith - The Cure
  • Come an' Get It - Whitesnake
  • The Flowers of Romance - Public Image Ltd.
  • Don't Say No - Billy Squier
  • Of Skins and Heart - The Church
  • Go for It - Stiff Little Fingers
  • Hit and Run - Girlschool
  • Twangin... - Dave Edmunds
  • Fair Warning - Van Halen
  • The Completion Backward Principle - The Tubes
  • Dedication - Gary U.S. Bonds
  • The Nightcomers - Holocaust
  • Punks Not Dead - The Exploited
  • Spellbound - Tygers of Pan Tang
  • Waiata - Split Enz
  • Zebop! - Santana

What they said...

"An epic slab of operatic rock that is very much in the same vein of Meat Loaf's work, but nowhere near as satisfying. The first problem is Steinman's voice: he simply doesn't have the vocal range or lung power necessary to make this dramatic style of rock & roll work." (AllMusic)

"His voice may lack the dynamic range of Meat Loaf's, but when you couple the fact that there's nothing like the real, old-fashioned songwriter singing his own material, with production and playing (again) by Todd Rundgren and some E-Street Mafia, you get a Bad For Good that's a lot more than the pale shadow of what might have been. This is the new Bat Out Of Hell, if only the punters will realise it." (Sounds)

"Highlights are Davey Johnstone's absurdly genius guitar playing on the duelling solo at the end of Stark Raving Love – that has to be heard to be believed – and the bombastic drumming of Max Weinberg throughout. With otherworldly playing, existential lyrics and with a seemingly carte blanche from Epic to do what he wanted to, Steinman delivered an album transcending excess." (Rocktopia)

What you said...

Shane Reho: This album has its moments, but overall it's surely no Bat Out of Hell. Things start off well enough, the title track is definitely one of the best songs Steinman wrote and his vocal on it is pretty good, Lost Boys And Golden Girls is good enough (better than the version on Bat II), and Love And Death And An American Guitar is a good little interlude. The only issue with Stark Raving Love is that it goes on too long and doesn't really go anywhere doing it. 

The album gets back on track with Out Of The Frying Pan And Into The Fire, the only issue with that is the corny sounding background vocals (an issue the title track has as well). Surf's Up has a good Rory Dodd vocal, which makes it kinda odd that I'd say it's the track where Meat Loaf is missed the most. Dance In My Pants has one of the worst sets of lyrics I've ever heard, which is really annoying because Karla DeVito's vocal is great and this song could've been a worthy successor to Paradise... if she had good lyrics to work with. Instead, it just comes off as formulaic. 

Left In The Dark is okay, but it's definitely the moment where Steinman sounds out of his league vocal-wise (something I've never complained about very much about with this album, which seems pretty popular to do). There's nothing wrong with The Storm, it just doesn't really accomplish anything. 

Obviously Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through is the classic it deserves to be, and I don't see why Steinman didn't take the vocal for himself on this one, it's well within his range (except for the "keep on believing" bit, which has background singers anyway, so what difference does that make). My only issue with that is the coda, which also doesn't really accomplish anything other than making the song longer. Overall, a decent album, but only two songs (title track and Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through) are essential, the rest are a mixed bag. 6/10.

Carl Black: So here are a couple of the things that I was thinking about when I was listening to this record.

  • Sitting listening to my dad's records in front of his hi-fi
  • Knowing the songs without hearing them before
  • Getting together with your first girlfriend
  • Losing your virginity
  • Splitting up with your first girlfriend
  • Getting together with someone new after your first girlfriend
  • Cruise ships
  • Broadway
  • The West End
  • Vaudeville (whatever that is, I'm a fairly uncultured swine I just thought it sounded good)
  • Jim Steinman winding-up Joe Elliot on the recording of Hysteria

Most of these things are very joyous, as was listening to this album. Meat definitely has the voice though. It's basically a rewrite of Bat Out Of Hell but I enjoyed listening to it.

Bon voyage Sir, and thanks for the music

Happs Richards: Like some of the other contributors I’d never heard this before although I recognised some of the tracks from where they’d been reworked for later Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler collaborations, but this is a big bundle of silly, overblown, unashamedly cheesy greatness which sounds like it could of been the soundtrack of an 80’s rock opera.

I’m sure there will be a good selection of 'classic rock connoisseurs' who will write this off as a bit of silliness, but it’s just fun and whether you play it loud and proud or it’s a guilty pleasure it’s a great album I never knew about!

Marco LG: Before this week I did not know Bad For Good existed. While this can be somewhat understandable, I also need to confess before this week I never listened to Bat Out Of Hell either. I knew of the latter of course, but I never sat down and listen to it in its entirety.

Given my ignorance, I took the chance to listen to both albums in quick succession for this review. And. I. Loved. It!

It is rather satisfying to hear the two albums back to back, for at least three reasons: the musical journey, the piece of theatre in the making and the genius of the composer.

The musical journey is a deep dive in how things changed so drastically and suddenly between the 70s and 80s. Where Bat Out Of Hell is rooted in the 70s, with long songs and indulgent soloing, Bad For Good is through and through an 80s album, with sharp choruses and brief instrumental breaks. The contrast is so stark it actually counterpoints the storyline, making it extraordinarily enjoyable. But while it does work as an album (or two) the whole experience feels like its missing out on a big and over the top theatre production. Obviously we now have a stage production which hopefully gives some justice to this nagging feeling, but I have not seen it (yet).

What comes out most however is the genius of the composer. Hearing all the magic moments, and all the echos of massive hits to come, one cannot avoid marvelling at how small pieces of a giant puzzle came together in different forms most beautiful.

Ultimately however, we are here to judge Bad For Good in isolation. My take on it alone is that it is great fun, but without Bat Out Of Hell doesn’t quite work as a standalone album, and without Meat Loaf or Bonnie Tyler doesn’t quite work as a great performance either. My score will be 7, for the genius of the composer, and for the great theatre production to be.

Gary Claydon: Let's face it, it was always gonna be a struggle following the overblown, bonkers-brilliant Bat, wasn't it? Especially if you're just going to churn out more of the same. I admit, I've never been a big fan of Steinman's 'Cecil B DeMille-ian' approach - assemble a cast of thousands then chuck the kitchen sink at it - but can't deny that when it works, it does so spectacularly well. 

Trouble is, away from Bat, it doesn't work too often. It's a moot point whether this would have been a better album with Meat on board. For what it's worth, I don't think his later versions of some of the tracks fared any better than they do here.

I remember reading two reviews of Bad For Good when it was released. One was in Sounds, my go-to music paper at the time, which heaped lavish praise on the album. The other, I can't actually remember where it was from (NME maybe?), referenced the title track's lyrics, 'You thought I'd be bad for a little while but I know I'll be bad for good' or something along those lines, citing them as the best self-review of any album ever recorded. My score will give away which review I'd lean towards. 3/10.

Stephen Grimes: Overblown, over produced very much of its time. Suspect if Bat Out Of Hell hadn't been the success it was would never have seen the light of day or disappeared in the bargain bin within a couple of weeks.

Geir Magne Nes: I'm blown away! Mea Lloaf never did a lot for me, and a songwriter performing his own songs has a great nerve to it. Just great! Not my style, not my period, not my sound but somehow it hits right home. A surprising 10 from me ❤ RIP Jim.

Philip Qvist: I was never really into his music, although I did like the odd song, provided it was sung by somebody else - Meat Loaf, Bonnie Tyler, Air Supply, etc, because Jim Steinman might have been a good songwriter but he sure as hell wasn't a great singer, as this album proves.

Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through (sung by Rory Dodd) is probably the only song on that album that I came close to liking. Respect to the artist (RIP) but this just isn't for me I might abstain from voting this time just to be fair.

Greg Schwepe: I really like Led Zeppelin. I like Aerosmith too. And Van Halen, and AC/DC. Total rock out stuff.

But you know what? I also really like bombast. I like triple layer harmonies. I like lots of instrumentation and orchestration. I like well written songs with emotive vocals. So, I really liked Jim Steinman’s Bad For Good.”7 out of 10.

And yes, you could say this is a “vegetarian” album with “Meat Substitute” instead of Meat Loaf. But I don’t mind Steinman’s vocals at all. Also, since he wrote these, when he got to the recording booth there wasn’t a lot of people telling him how to sing the songs.

I was in college when this album came out and do remember hearing Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through on the radio, with the DJ explaining who the heck Jim Steinman was. “This is the guy who wrote Bat Out Of Hell”…” “OH, that guy!”

While I heard the Bat Out Of Hell album when it came out, I didn’t own and become totally familiar with all the three Bat albums until later. And looking at Steinman’s song listing, I now realise where these songs appear again on the remaining Meat Loaf Bat albums.

No reason for me to provide a really detailed, in-depth review on this one. Just a genre I happen to like. And this kind of stuff is not for everyone. But for those who do, it’s a nice treat. And Jim is probably writing more angelic sounding songs these days from a perch above us all.

Adam Ranger: This is quite dire really. Like a bad Meat Loaf tribute. Musically, and lyrically it's like good Meat Loaf album (apart from the spoken word bits). But Steinman's vocals just don't cut it. He does not have the chops to carry it off.

Love him or hate him this album needs someone like Meat Loaf to make it work. Without epic vocals the album is kinda flat.

Mike Canoe: It probably started with constantly listening to the Grease soundtrack with my little sister when we were kids. That begat a lifelong fascination with horror musicals like Phantom Of The Paradise and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Throw in pomp rock like Styx, ELO, Kiss, and, of course, some Paradise By the Dashboard Light, and I realise I have prepared for this album my whole life, even though I didn't even know it existed until I read Jim Steinman's obituaries.

It's ridiculously over the top, and it's meant to be. This is the guy who coined the term "Wagnerian Rock," after all. I imagine it as an unproduced musical (or opera). As such, Steinman's voice doesn't bother me. I listen to it as if he's playing a character: a horny weirdo who thinks he's mesmerising like Dracula, but is strictly "Twilight" franchise. Karla DeVito is the friend who secretly has a crush on our protagonist (Ants in My Pants). Rory Dodd, who sings lead on three songs, is the returning college boy, looking back on this high school horniness with wistful but fond nostalgia. Or choose your own adventure. That's just my head movie.

Here's the real scandal, though: For the most part, I like it better than the legendary Bat Out Of Hell, which indubitably has some corkers, but, as an album experience, I always found it weighed down with too many ballads. The spoken word bits on Bad For Good are obnoxious and the overture (we're at the opera, remember), The Storm is dismissible. But when it's good, Bad for Good is quite good.

The title track is a classic (classical?) Steinman epic and Out Of The Frying Pan and Stark Raving Love follow that same mold. I recognise the choir in the coda of Stark Raving Love from Bonnie Tyler's 1983 hit Holding Out For A Hero, also written and produced by Steinman. 

Lost Boys and Golden Girls and Surf's Up (both sung by Dodd) are more about rock'n'roll than actually rock'n'roll, but they evoke the same emotions in me. Even the ballad Left In The Dark works for me, with Steinman's pained voice angrily quavering over the choir of angels that shines throughout the album and I am always destined to enjoy. Our protagonist has found he's alone on "Team Edward," and the pain is real. In conclusion: Some bad, more good.

Chris Ottewell: Have always loved this album and prefer most of Steinman's versions to those covered by Meat Loaf on his subsequent albums. Would have preferred Meat Loaf to have sang on this when it originally came out but as his voice was wrecked at the time, grateful for the release.

Darren Burris: This sounds like Bat out of Hell II. And without Meat Loaf it just doesn’t work for me. Not even sure he would have been able to rescue this.

Cameron Gillespie: I don't dislike it, but I'm not left wanting more. I didn't know what else I expected. To me it sounds like the tracks that didn't make the cut for Bat Out Of Hell. I personally loved Bat Out Of Hell and liked the sound and wackiness of it. I just don't feel the same about this.

Maybe it needs time and maybe it could grow on me.

John Davidson: Without the bombastic voice of Meat Loaf to complement the equally over the top lyrics and arrangements this was always going to be a lesser work.

I'll confess that I didn't manage to listen to it all because, to dip into cliche (which is fitting in this context), it may have a few moments in it but it also has its half hours.

Bad for Good (the song) sounds like a retread of Bat Out Of Hell but without the overlay of Todd Rundgren's amazing guitar work and without Meat Loaf's chest-beating bellow it just doesn't fly.

In fact you could describe the whole album in those terms.

Stark Raving Love has a decent guitar solo and Out Of The Frying Pan is probably the best of the rest.

I'm not sure that even with Meat Loaf on board that this would have been very good, but without him its distinctly second rate. Dead Ringer, also from 1981, gives us a hint of what could have been, as do the later versions of some of the songs.

The musicianship remains decent enough though the guitar work is less inspired than on the original , but the arrangements are pure Steinman. The overall impression is that these are the kind of songs that should have appeared on a 1970s rock opera stage show (as Steinman intended but never fully realised). To be fair that was Steinman's style and when it worked it worked.

Where Bat Out Of Hell was so daft it was genius (though maybe you had to be there) Bad For Good lives up to its title.

Over the week I have tried to listen to this through a few times and not managed. I've also listened to other Steinman/Meat Loaf collaborations, and even though they never quite recaptured the explosive expression of teenage hormones and drama of the original, it reinforces that Steinman's voice cant carry his creations. It's not that he can't carry a tune at all, its just not big enough for the music.

I can't imagine ever choosing to listen to this album again, but perhaps my initial 3/10 was harsh and I may bump that in the final scoring. (the songwriting , the E-street band and a few licks from Rundgren probably deserve more ).

Bill Griffin: If it wasn't for Emerson, Lake & Palmer giving me an appreciation of classical music, I wouldn't have made it past The Storm and I'm unclear as to why it was even included. The rest of it isn't bad but sounds way too much like Bat Out Of Hell, the highlight of which, for me, was Rundgren's blistering solo that opens up the album. There was none of that here and I was surprised to see Todd even played on this. 

Jim sure did get some incredible talent to appear but the sum is not greater than the parts. I suppose I wouldn't clamour to change the station if a track appeared on the radio on the extremely rare occasions that I listen to it but neither will I buy this album. In all honesty, Bat Out Of Hell is the only Meat Loaf album I own and will probably always be the only one I own. He was great on Ted Nugent's Free For All album though. Just knocked that one out of the park.

Alex Hayes: Writing this review has been hard work for me this week. One of the reasons for that is that I'm finding it difficult not to get too negative about Bad For Good, an album that I wish I enjoyed much more than I actually do.

I was genuinely saddened to hear of Jim Steinman's passing last week. He was a true visionary and I admired his ability to bring those grandiose musical ideas of his so thunderously to life, naysayers and critics be damned. To do that requires true talent and guts, qualities Steinman obviously possessed in spades. Respect.

Saying all that though, I have to confess that I've always had a difficult relationship with Bat Out Of Hell. That doesn't mean that I outright hate the album. I don't. It's just that I've tried and failed to cultivate a personal relationship with it more than once in my life, if only to try and understand what all the fuss is about. The album must have something special about it right? It's sold enough copies after all.

So, Bat Out Of Hell and I do have history together. I've owned it a couple of times on different formats. I went to see Meat Loaf live at Manchester's G-Mex sometime in the mid 90s. I've also been acquainted with many huge fans of the album down the years. I'm glad the album was such a colossal success, because much of the so-called literati hated and slated it, only for the general music-buying public to flat-out ignore them and buy the album in their millions. Arbiters of musical taste my arse!

In spite of all that, I find myself agreeing with them in this case. Bat Out Of Hell is just too overblown and melodramatic for my liking, even by rock music standards. I'm a Bruce Springsteen fan, and can't help but see Bat Out Of Hell as a kind of garish parody of Born To Run. It undoubtedly shines musically in places, but I've just never been able to 'get' the album. I fear I may have endured too many bad karaoke renditions of Paradise By The Dashboard Light over the years. That might be affecting my objectivity somewhat here.

Now rinse and repeat, but take away Meat Loaf's distinctive, powerful timbre and stretch the runtime of the album out to over an hour long. You end up with Bad For Good, Steinman's personal sequel to Bat Out Of Hell. Again, a part of me wants to like it. It's all so preposterously OTT and I kind of admire that. However, I just can't get past how 'corny' it all is. It was the monologues that crop up during some of the songs that I found to be particularly toe-curling. Love And Death And An American Guitar was so cringe-worthy in that regard that I actually found it hard to sit through.

I honestly wish that I could be more positive here, but I doubt I'll make an effort to revisit this album in the future. I've tried that enough times with Bat Out Of Hell already. Next!

Final Score: 6.25⁄10 (131 votes cast, with a total score of 819)

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