Bat Out of Hell
While sitting in a halfway empty Chicago bar last Saturday afternoon, my friends and I were being treated to one of the most entertaining playlists I’d ever had the pleasure of listening too. It was simple, but brilliant. Spanning from Miley Cyrus to the Who, to Afroman and Whitney Houston, it seemed to be one long stretch of nostalgic sounds and a constant conversation piece. It even erupted into a “Gangnam Style” dance off which fortunately did not end in a brutal blood bath of a shooting … although we did learn later from the waitress that shootings were in fact not a completely irregular occurrence for The Keg of Evanston. Perhaps the most life changing moment, other than the mind-melting discovery of a mash up of Michael Jacksons “Bad” and Ray Parker Jr’s most incredible “Ghostbusters” (which was incredibly confusing by the way), came when Meat Loaf’s “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” came on. The track is one that is familiar to most everyone. After singing through a few verses, Meat Loaf found his way into being the sole topic of conversation for my friend Daniel K. Leeper and I (notice the striking name similarities to Daniel Day Lewis). It was then I admitted that I had never heard the album Bat Out of Hell, and it was then I agreed to purchase it so that we could listen to it in its entirety on our drive the next day. It was a life changing moment, and one that I will now forever be thankful for.
Growing up, I always remember Meat Loaf as being the butt of a joke. This is not all entirely unwarranted. Even after listening to his masterpiece that is Bat Out Of Hell, the album as well as himself are still very comical in respects. Certainly his performance as “Bitch Tits” Bob in the movie Fight Club didn’t help me to think otherwise. The thing I never realized though, or even entertained the possibility of, is that there is actually brilliance behind his work. After the almost two minute intro to “Bat Out of Hell”, the instant comparison emerges. The song breakdown into a beautiful piano ballad with a hearty booming voice overtop, telling the tale of his horror-struck town and how he needs to get out of it fast. This is Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” retold in a dark and violent manner. In fact, as the album unfolds, all of these ballads stacked on top of each other, telling the story of breaking out of some hell-hole town, finding love, exploiting it, and living wildly, seemed to just fall into place almost identically to Born to Run. Really, this isn’t even an original thought. Anyone who has spent time with either album would make the comparison. I was not surprised at all to find after a quick search that in Todd Rundgren eyes (yes THE Todd Rundgren, who produced the album) this was exactly the goal of the album. The similarities don’t stop there. They even managed to wrangle Max Weinberg and Roy Bittan from the E Street band to play on the album. When we break everyone of these components down, we essentially have the greatest parody album of all time at its core. However, after adding many different layers, we find how Bat Out Of Hell takes on its own form to simply become one of the greatest rock operas of all time.
The album was largely written and composed by Jim Steinman. Give that name a quick search and you will quickly realize that you are much more familiar with this man’s work than you’d think. Essentially any insanely cheesy and over-the-top rock and/or love ballad that has been released in the past 35 years was probably written by this man. Aside from the brilliant works of Meat Loaf, he is responsible for Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All”, and Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” (which was originally recorded by Meat Loaf). He is one of the more dramatic human beings on the planet. The way he is able to reach such great heights with his music is disgustingly sappy, yet borderline genius.
Bat Out Of Hell is absolutely no exception. Instrumentally speaking and in terms of overall composition, it is not as tight or well performed as Born to Run, that is for sure. It lacks the ability to be truly taken over by pure raw talent. It is more mathematically composed in that sense. This gives it a little bit more a cheesy feel to it, which is actually ok. You don’t want an album with thematic elements and lyrics such as this being too perfect, it would just be almost impossible to ever stop listening to it. It already has quite a jaw-dropping effect to it. Especially with the track “All Revved Up with No Place to Go” in which Meat Loaf introduces the idea of wanting to take a young girl’s virginity. Two songs later you are hit hard with “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” in which a baseball announcer calls the sexually enlightening experience by way of a play-by-play analysis. Then it appears the girl gets clingy, demands a relationship, and Meat Loaf asks to sleep on it.
The album is as grandiose as a rock opera comes. It is shattering how overwhelming it is at times. Despite the troubles of initially getting it produced and picked up by a label (Thank God for Todd Rundgren), it is still one of the most successful selling albums of all time. Thirty-five years after its release, it still sells an average of 200,000 copies a years. It also has two follow ups (Bat Out Of Hell II and III) that I will be purchasing very soon. I can’t believe how surprisingly amazing this album is, even if it does at sometimes feel like a parody album. At least if it were to be a parody album, it would be so to one of the greatest albums of all time. The fact it takes on such a dark form really helps separate the two. It’s almost like combining Born to Run with the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which Meat Loaf himself starred in. If you are a fan of either, I highly recommend checking this album out. I can’t believe it took me so long to do so.
Can’t Miss: “Bat Out of Hell” , “All Revved Up with No Place to Go”, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”
Can’t Hit: None