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Meat Loaf

+ {Stoney And Meatloaf}

The legacy of the mighty MEAT LOAF will go down in the annuls of history for unleashing bikers anthem, `Bat Out Of Hell’, the epic title track of 1977 from Jim Steinman’s bombastic rock opera, an album that shook up the punk/new wave dominated music scene through its heavyweight, anthemic choruses and vein-bursting vocal histrionics. With three other melodramatic dirges aboard (`Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad’, `Paradise By The Dashboard Lights’ and `You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth’), it indeed reclaimed the territory that “rock” had lost in the preceding years and sold millions in the process.
Born Marvin Lee Aday on September 27, 1948 in Dallas, Texas, his nickname “Meat Loaf” was said to be given to him after he trod on the toes of his school master; weighing in at over 300 pounds until his drastic latter-day diet, the gospel-singing chorister stuck with the tag long after graduating from these playground puns. In 1966/67, Marvin moved to Los Angeles and formed psychedelic-rock outfit The Popcorn Blizzard, who opened for The WHO, The AMBOY DUKES (featuring a young TED NUGENT) and The STOOGES, before disbanding in early 1969.
That year, MEAT LOAF successfully auditioned for the West Coast production of the musical, Hair, and this is where he met female soul singer Stoney. Towards the fall of 1970, the pair dropped off in Detroit to record a self-titled LP for Motown subsidiary Rare Earth, although almost immediately he re-joined the Hair tour in Cleveland. The album itself, STONEY & MEATLOAF (1971) {*5} – note there his moniker was rather annoying for the man, one word – was funky and soulful, most pieces (including the single, `What You See Is What You Get’) penned by producers Mike Valvano and Ralph Terrana with Ray Monette and Mike Campbell.
A sad piece of mock-rock, the behemoth that was MEAT LOAF subsequently took the role of Buddha in the musical, Rainbow (In New York). A year and a half later in ‘74, he starred in JIM STEINMAN’s Broadway musical, More Than You Deserve, a partnership that was to flower, both creatively and commercially, as the decade wore on. The following year, the big man acted/sang in Richard O’Brien’s Broadway musical, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which was duly made into a cult film starring Tim Curry and Susan Sarandon; MEAT LOAF taking the part of Eddie.
With STEINMAN again as composer, he went on to tour with the comedy show, National Lampoon, Meat playing the part of a priest in the “Rockabye Hamlet” sketch. Keeping his finger in the rock’n’roll pie so to speak, he contributed vocals to TED NUGENT’s 1976 set, `Free For All’, while early the following year, the rising star got together again with STEINMAN in the Big Apple, as they starting work on the “Neverland” project, a musical update of the Peter Pan story. Both signed to R.C.A. Records, although the partnership switched stables (to Epic-affiliated label Cleveland International) after it was clear the label didn’t want to work with renowned producer TODD RUNDGREN – “A Wizard, A True Star” indeed.
Later in ‘77, MEAT LOAF finally unleashed the finished article as BAT OUT OF HELL {*10}, and with heavy tours, the record eventually made the US Top 20 (also hitting the UK Top 10). It crossed over to such an extent that it became part of nearly everyone’s record collection, selling millions in the process and residing in the charts for over eight years. Songs such as the aforementioned singles and the near-10-minute title track, plus `Heaven Can Wait’, `All Revved Up And No Place To Go’ and `For Crying Out Loud’ took rock’n’roll to melodramatic new heights, its crescendos gripping and lulling the listener into submission. Twee and sentimental at times, its grandiose pastiche and cliches worked as a sub-“Grease”, 50s-styled rock. Sweating like a builder’s arse crack, er… MEAT LOAF strained and contorted his way through each song with a theatrical passion as yet unwitnessed in rock. However, it wasn’t without a price as the hairy one subsequently suffering throat and alcohol problems over the course of the next few years as the pressures of fame took their toll.
Nevertheless, he starred in the film, Roadie (1980), alongside DEBBIE HARRY and her group BLONDIE, but the albatross that was the “Bat” was beginning to pull at his neck. Impatient with MEAT LOAF’s ongoing problems, STEINMAN released the `Bad For Good’ album in May ’81 under his own name, although this was intended for Meat.
The long-awaited MEAT LOAF (and STEINMAN) follow-up, DEAD RINGER (1981) {*6} was finally delivered four months later, and although it hit the top of the charts, it only managed to scrape into US Top 50. Having used Ellen Foley as a vocal foil on his preceding meisterwork, Aday employed the powerful tonsils of CHER on the hit title track (aka `Dead Ringer For Love’). Without the clout of Todd (and his backers UTOPIA) behind him/them, instead SPRINGSTEEN’s E Street Band alumni Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg were chosen, the “Bat Mk.II” had moments of epic grandeur in `I’m Gonna Love Her For Both Of Us’, `Read ‘Em And Weep’ and a re-tread of `More Than You Deserve’.
With STEINMAN out of the picture, MEAT LOAF concentrated his activities in Britain, where he soon became a widely known celebrity, losing a few stone in the process. While mid 80s albums such as MIDNIGHT AT THE LOST AND FOUND (1983) {*4} – featuring a rendition of CHUCK BERRY’s `The Promised Land’, BAD ATTITUDE (1984) {*6} and the Frank Farian-produced BLIND BEFORE I STOP (1986) {*4} did little to improve his critical standing, fans still came out in their droves for live appearances; the “Bad Attitude” set (featuring a duet with ROGER DALTREY on the opening salvo title track) at least tried to re-create a contemporary hard-rock edge, as producers/co-writers Paul Jacobs and Sarah Durkee (STEINMAN was also afforded two shots: `Nowhere Fast’ and `Surf’s Up’) came up above average. The obligatory LIVE AT WEMBLEY (1987) {*5} was a useful double-album that juxtaposed his “Bat Out Of Hell” with fresher UK hits such as `Rock’n’Roll Mercenaries’, `Modern Girl’ and `Blind Before I Stop’, curtained by a 50s R&R medley led by `Johnny B. Goode’.
Inevitably perhaps, MEAT LOAF and STEINMAN eventually got back together, Virgin Records – having just lost MIKE OLDFIELD’s massive selling “Tubular Bells II” to Warner Brothers –
being the lucky backer of a million-selling 1993 sequel, entitled funnily enough, BAT OUT OF HELL II: BACK INTO HELL {*7}. This provided the once 20-stone rocker with a return to transatlantic chart domination, the accompanying single `I’d Do Anything For You (But I Won’t Do That)’ (a full 12 minutes on the album) No.1 in Britain and America. Edited for commercial purposes, `Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through’ and `Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are’ proved the man was back at his bombastic best.
The record rejuvenated the singer’s flagging career; a British beef ban unable to prevent MEAT LOAF (with seasoned writers including Diane Warren and SAMMY HAGAR) once again hitting the UK Top 3 with WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD (1995) {*6}. Slick and almost manufactured (think MICHAEL BOLTON in his rock heyday), the Meat machine music churned out two old STEINMAN songs (`Original Sin’ and `Left In The Dark’), a TOM WAITS cover (`Martha’) and three big “Phantom-esque” UK hits `I’d Die For You (And That’s The Truth)’, `Not A Dry Eye In The House’ and `Runnin’ For The Red Light (I Gotta Life)’. But for Top 20 single, `Is Nothing Sacred’ and a live VH1 STORYTELLERS (1999) {*6} set, Meat was again riding pillion on the back of his bat to hell.
If one had thought Marvin Aday was posted missing on the musical front, he was rather a busy man in the world of celluloid, acting in a raft of movies, his most prominent roles in Crazy In Alabama and as genius Robert Paulsen in 1999’s Fight Club; for a more detailed filmography of the man, look up my Lights Camera Soundtracks tome published by Canongate in 2008.
MEAT LOAF the singer was back in 2003 with COULDN’T HAVE SAID IT BETTER {*6}; MOTLEY CRUE’s Nikki Sixx (together with writing partner, James Michael) surprisingly claiming the lion’s share of the writing credits, including the title track and `Man Of Steel’ hits. The Sixx/Michael material most closely followed the hell-for-leather grandiloquence of Meat (and a certain J. STEINMAN) in full flight, while the inclusion of BOB DYLAN’s `Forever Young’ certainly made for interesting listening.
With today’s past veterans looking to older recordings/albums to get them back in the spotlight, it was no surprise then, that BAT OUT OF HELL {*4} was re-vamped – complete with live backing from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra – and released on CD/DVD (into the UK charts) in 2004. Fast forward only two years and with DESMOND CHILD and several older STEINMAN songs (plus RUNDGREN re-instated as producer!), someone came up with the ill-advised cash-in project, BAT OUT OF HELL III: THE MONSTER IS LOOSE (2006) {*4}. Still, it helped Meat to a slice of the Top 10 chart cake on both sides of the Atlantic; singers Marion Raven, Patti Russo and Jennifer Hudson garnering a little of the action, the former dueting on the big hit, `It’s All Coming Back To Me Now’. 2008’s CD/DVD combination, 3 BATS LIVE (2008) {*5} pushed the hell-for-leather button for yet another reprise, although it’s worth checking out for his curtain call encore of LEADBELLY’s `Black Betty – Mercury Blues’.
With all the bats booted into the belfry – one hopes! – 2010 saw MEAT LOAF and his entourage of songwriters, singers, guests musicians (including actors Jack Black and pianist Hugh “House” Laurie, plus guitarists STEVE VAI, BRIAN MAY, etc.), played out the SPRINGSTEEN-esque/50s pastiche rock card again on HANG COOL TEDDY BEAR {*5}. Featuring X-Factor judge Kara DioGuardi on co-vocals on her own `If I Can’t Have You’ and Patti Russo on `Let’s Be In Love’, the ballad element probably outweighed the rock parts via `Peace On Earth’ and `Living On The Outside’.
HELL IN A HANDBASKET (2012) {*6} completed a prolific period for the singer. Stripping away the rock operatics and enlisting a beefy band plus producer Paul Crooks to bolster each power ballad, one is astonished to find how good the cover of The MAMAS & THE PAPAS’ `California Dreamin’’ is next to the likes of `Live Or Die’ or the Tom Cochrane meets CHUCK D rap-rocker medley of `Mad Mad World’ and `The Good God Is A Woman And She Don’t Like Ugly’. Impressive stuff from a man not willing to let pigeonholes get in the way of bats in the attic.
Reuniting with the Thor of the symphonic songwriting universe, JIM STEINMAN, the mighty MEAT LOAF stoked up – or indeed croaked up – another, nay his final, full-length opus a la BRAVER THAN WE ARE (2016) {*5}. A theatrical, dated and contrived piece of modern-day “Phantom… Opera” without the pious, pop- pomposity of a Lloyd-Webber affirmation, the Top 5 set might’ve won over his fanbase (at least in Old Blighty), but this was no “Bat Out Of Hell” (or indeed Heaven). As a character-driven Marvin Aday approached his 69th year on Planet Earth, not even the theatrical-rock production of guitarist Paul Crook, or the backing of singers ELLEN FOLEY and Karla DeVito on an over-stretched `Going All The Way (A Song In 6 Movements)’ could save it from its critical meltdown. If by re-activated the retro-radar on Steinman & Andrew Eldritch’s `More’ (a hit for The SISTERS OF MERCY in 1990) was “brave”, then the back-to-back duets (`Speaking In Tongues’ and the cliched `Loving You Is A Dirty Job (But Somebody’s Gotta Do It)’ … phew!) featuring Stacy Michelle, was cosmetically foolhardy. One wishes his swansong was so much better.
© MC Strong 1994-2008/GRD-LCS // rev-up MCS Jun2012-Sep2016

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