A Rock Legend Passes – Meat Loaf Dies Aged 74

One of the big stories today, which isn’t about the military build-up around Ukraine and Boris Johnson and his wretched parties, has been the death of Meat Loaf. One of the things that surprised me in the news items about him was that he was in 65 or so films. I was aware that he played Eddie, a zombie in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I’d also seen him as a man suffering from testicular cancer who joins the underground boxers in the 1990s film Fight Club, based on the book by Chuck Palahniuk. But I wasn’t aware of any others, and certainly not that he’d been in so many.

He’s best known, however, for Bat Out Of Hell, which is now a Rock classic. I can remember the exciting amongst the rockers and metal freaks I was at school with when it came out. It even got played at a school assembly by one of the teachers. He wasn’t disapproving, just using it to illustrate some point about different moods in music. Bat Out Of Hell, in contrast to other, more soothing pieces, was pure, raw aggression. It was, but not violence. It was loud, fast, melodic rock. His co-writer, Jim Steinman, appeared on a Beeb rockumentary a few years ago. The interviewer commented on the operatic quality of the piece. Steinman agreed, and said that it was because he was listening to a lot of opera at the time.

Bat Out Of Hell came out just as the Satanism scare was beginning, and the real-life modern witch-hunters went to absurd lengths to claim that there was a terrible Satanic conspiracy to corrupt American youth. Dungeons and Dragons was supposed to include real spells and was turning young people to crime, sex, and suicide. I’ve friends who were into it, and that very definitely wasn’t the case. D&D was an imaginary Tolkienesque world of goblins, orcs, giants and wizards, but these were the staple characters of children’s fantasy. For the vast majority of youngsters, it was just a great way to spend a couple of evening with your friends. Rock music was particularly singled out for condemnation. Now there are metal bands, which I think genuinely are aggressively anti-Christian. But for many, it’s just theatre, as Satanic as a Hammer Horror flick. Bat Out Of Hell got some of this, because the album cover showed a motorcycle erupting out of a grave watched by a demon. This was occult imagery. It is, but again, it’s fantasy occult imagery. You could and can see pretty much the same kind of imagery on any genre horror, fantasy or sword and sorcery paperback. And there’s absolutely no mention of the occult or the Devil in the track itself. I bought the sheet music awhile ago and I’ve played it. What it tells me is that Meat Loaf liked the dark imagery of rock, and had a taste for awesome motorbikes. As for groups labelled Satanic, back in the ’90s the accusation was levelled at the American band Ossuary. Or it was until they issued a statement explaining that they were all good children of the Roman Catholic church, and their songs attacked the preachers who were bringing the church into disrepute. Then someone had the idea of checking with their parish priest, who confirmed what they said.

But to me, one of the most memorable of Meat Loaf’s appearances on British TV was when he outwitted Clive Anderson. Anderson had his own chat show, Clive Anderson Talks Back, in which he made light banter poking fun at his guests. Sometimes he went too far, and offended them. He did that to the Bee Gees. There’s a clip of them walking off, one by one, after he told them their music was rubbish. Anderson was left with his mouth hanging open, looking pleadingly at them. Finally only one was left, and as he turned to go, Anderson said to him, ‘You’re not going as well, are you?’ ‘Sorry,’ the pop musician replied, ‘but I don’t do lone interviews.’ That never happened to Meat Loaf, but he did think of a getting a few chuckles from his name. ‘What should I call you – Meat? Mr Loaf? What do your children call you?’ Meat Loaf had answer to that: ‘Mostly they call me ‘Dad’.’ as Jazz Club would say on the Fast Show ‘Grrreat.’

Farewell, Big Guy. You will be missed, and rock is poorer without you.

The sheet music for the album Bat Out Of Hell, which was written and composed by Steinman, arranged for piano with guitar tablature and lyrics, has been published by International Music Publications Ltd. Apart from the title track, it has ‘You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night), Heaven Can Wait, All Revved Up With No place to Go, Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, Paradise by Dashboard Light and For Crying Out Loud’.

The cover image was dreamed up by Steinman, and painted by fantasy artist and comics legend Richard Corben.

Way back in the ’90s there was a slew of tribute bands – the Bootleg Beatles, Elton Jack and so on. Meat Loaf did not escape. His was called ‘Fat Out Of Hell’.

May he, like Elvis, keep ’em rocking.

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One Response to “A Rock Legend Passes – Meat Loaf Dies Aged 74”

  1. trev Says:

    Sad news indeed, and gave me pause for thought at how quickly the years roll by, I remember the album very well and in fact back in the day (in the late 70s/early 80s) I had a early 60s BSA A50 500cc fitted with the obligatory high bars (not quite ape hangers) and a petrol tank complete with a rather badly airbrushed version of the Bat Out of Hell cover illustration!

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