of the week

Meatloaf - thumb

On 22 November 1963, 16-year-old Texan, Marvin Lee Aday witnessed the assassinated President Kennedy’s limousine’s arrival at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital. That teenager was to adopt his nickname of Meat Loaf (partly coined by his father because of his size, even at the age of two. His classmates added the ‘Loaf’ in his later school years) and became one of rock’s most successful artists.

In 1975 he played the roles of both Eddie and Dr Scott in a Broadway production of The Rocky Horror Show. Shortly after, he recreated the role of rocker Eddie in the film version. Meat also acted in many movies, including Roadie, Wayne’s World, Spiceworld and more recently, Fight Club.

After meeting and befriending virtuoso pianist, New York-born Jim Steinman, at an audition for a part in Jim’s off-Broadway play, More Than You Deserve, they created one of the biggest albums ever, the 30 million-selling Bat Out Of Hell, which has spent almost 500 weeks on the UK chart to date. Jim wrote and arranged the epic record with the multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter Todd Rundgren in the role of producer.

At almost 22 stone, Meat was an unlikely sex symbol, but Bat Out Of Hell turned him into a big star. The album took some time to set the chart alight, but received a much-needed boost when BBC2’s Old Grey Whistle Test showed a clip of Bat Out Of Hell in early 1978. It eventually produced three singles, You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth, Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad and the title track. These songs have become classics – more than the rather unimpressive chart positions of the first two suggest. Exhaustive world tours took their toll on Meat’s voice and he took many months to fully recover.

The Eighties wasn’t a particularly good decade for Meat. Being at a physical and mental low, and plagued with 22 separate lawsuits from his former manager and music publisher, Meat was advised to declare himself bankrupt. Although CBS Records claimed Bat Out Of Hell to be ‘the most profitable record in history of the industry – more so than Thriller’, astonishingly Meat only started receiving royalties in 1997.

Meat and Jim had fallen out in 1983, largely due to the album Bad For Good, a record meant as Meat’s follow-up, but because of the problems he was experiencing with his voice, Jim had decided to sing it himself and release it as his own.

Jim had been busy, writing and producing for artists such as Bonnie Tyler (Total Eclipse Of The Heart), Air Supply (Making Love Out Of Nothing At All), Celine Dion and a chart topper for Boyzone, (No Matter What) in 1998.

They were reunited in 1990 when Meat invited Jim over to his house for a meal. Jim brought a new song, I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) over for him to hear.  Meat Loaf loved it but recommended they make some changes to the arrangement. Letting bygones be bygones, they agreed to record a sequel album, Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell. Featuring a similar bombastic and over-blown production to its predecessor, it went on to sell over five million copies worldwide. The first single released I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) (doesn’t he just love those parentheses), which was edited down from the original 12-minute album version, went to number one in 25 countries and won him a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal. Meat Loaf has always enjoyed becoming the character in his songs. “I saw myself as a 14-year-old boy, looking at this girl trying to figure out how to get the nerve to go over and ask her out,” he revealed to Billboard’s Fred Bronson. As for the song’s seemingly ambiguous lyric, Meat explains: “It’s so simple. The answer is right before every chorus. ‘I’d do anything for love but I won’t do that. I’ll never stop dreaming of you every night of my life.'”

Meat Loaf began a new world tour in 2003, but had to cancel some dates after he collapsed in front of 11,000 fans at Wembley Arena. It was discovered he was suffering from Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a rare heart condition.

Jim Steinman and Meat collaborated again, this time on Bat Out Of Hell 3, which was released in 2006, the lead track, It’s All Coming Back To Me Now, peaked at number six, three places lower than the Celine Dion version from 10 years earlier, but higher than the original by Pandora’s Box from 1989.

In 2009 Meat released Hang Cool Teddy Bear which, although reached number four, only spent six weeks on the chart. Sadly he really only appeals now to the die-hards as proved by his latest album, Hell in a Handbasket which peaked at number five this year but was gone after just four weeks.