Drama and passion are usually associated with Italian opera, but in rock they can be a strong tools. As a kid, I’d always associated those weird apocalyptic album covers from Meatloaf with his brand of over the top rock opera. There was even a term created to describe it: Wagnerian rock, named for Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell trilogy of albums.
So when long time Meatloaf collaborator Jim Steinman teamed up with Bonnie Tyler in 1983 for Faster Than the Speed of Night, it seemed like a natural fit made in heaven or apocalyptic hell depending on your operatic perspective.
Tyler had scored a country hit with “Heartache” a few years before, but was never really able to cash in on that success as a country-pop performer. Unhappy with her management and at the end of her contract, she made a label and style switch.
On Faster Than the Speed of Night, only a few tracks would be originals (written by Steinman). One of those songs, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” became a big hit. Bolstered by a video featuring weird glowing eyed angels and school boys, it captured the imaginations of audiences in much the way the very best new romantic music videos did.
The other video for the title track is much weirder in a conventional Meatloaf way. It features motorcycle jousting and a bikini clad man with a guitar being seduced in a video arcade…it was like watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Despite the combination of camp and creepy imagery from videos from Faster Than the Speed of Night, the sold well in part due to the rest of the album consisting of covers of rock songs from established artists like John Fogerty, Bryan Adams and others.
The thing that separated Tyler’s versions of these songs from the originals was the big sense of drama the Steinman production added. The Steinman pined songs could have been written for Meatloaf, but the other songs had his signature style attached to the extent of sounding vastly different in some cases.
Tyler’s raspy voice was the perfect element for carrying exaggerated intensity into songs like Bryan Adam’s Straight from the Heart”. Big guitar power cords abound throughout with enough drama to make Queen or Liberace proud.
The Baroque style of rock that Faster Than the Speed of Night represents was already on its way out when this album appeared. Styles from of the ’70s were on their way out by the 1983 in mainstream rock, but Tyler and Steinman managed to hold on to it in an era increasingly dominated by electronic instruments and production styles.
Today Bonnie Tyler’s most successful pop music of which Faster Than the Speed of Night was the beginning of is regarded with a certain amount of camp. Despite that it has aged better than other rock music of the period and continues to he Tyler’s most successful album.