Born Marvin Lee Aday in Dallas, Texas in 1951, Meat Loaf has provided various explanations for his unusual stage name – most commonly that it originated with his school football coach and referred to his enormous size and ungainly manner.
His mother died of cancer when he was fifteen and, after fighting with his alcoholic father, he moved to Los Angeles in 1967, and formed psychedelic rock band Popcorn Blizzard. In 1969, he successfully auditioned for a role in Hair, and recorded a self-titled album in 1971. He also played the role of Eddie in the film version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).
In 1976, he joined up with New Yorker Jim Steinman in the famous US satirical comedy outfit, the National Lampoon Roadshow. Meat Loaf and Steinman struck up a working musical relationship and started composing a grandiose rock opera.
The pair auditioned the songs for numerous record companies and were turned down by everyone. The question was always the same; “who’s going to listen to all this long crap?”.
Finally they met up with Todd Rundgren – the only producer brave enough to take them on. He agreed to produce AND provide initial funding, and recording began at Rundgren’s own Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York, in 1976, with members of Rundgren’s band Utopia along with Max Weinberg on drums and Roy Bittan on piano (both from Bruce Springsteen‘s E Street Band).
Halfway through recording they finally landed a deal with Epic. The album was going to be released.
Jim Steinman wrote epic, funny, lengthy songs where teenagers tried to lose their virginity, where girls were slim and devious and boys tubby and stupid, where the motorcycle was an analogy for everything and, to quote a future Steinman moment of genius, “where everything was louder than everything else”. Meat Loaf sang the whole lot without a trace of irony while Steinman and Rundgren fashioned a wide-screen Wagnerian backdrop.
The album was ignored for the first six months after release, but eventually the breakthrough came, and the album hit the top of the charts in country after country.
It stayed in the UK and US album charts for 395 and 88 weeks respectively, and sold in excess of 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the biggest-selling album releases of all time.
Several extraordinary video clips promoted the album, and Paradise By The Dashboard Light – a story of lust in a car – included a commentary by Phil Rizzuto (New York Yankees baseball broadcaster) on events, which he likened to a baseball game.
Somehow, the whole was even mightier than its already heaving parts, hence the ten-minute title track where a man watches himself die; For Crying Out Loud, perhaps the most full-on, gut-wrenching ballad ever recorded, and the sheer onanistic frustration of All Revved Up With No Place To Go.
There was nothing like it in 1977. There has been nothing like it since – Bat Out Of Hell II notwithstanding.
However, Meat Loaf soon split with both his manager and his songwriter. He was also drinking heavily, and lost his voice. After a three-year gap, during which Meat Loaf suffered a breakdown and voluntarily declared himself bankrupt, Dead Ringer was released.
Again, it used Steinman’s compositions – this time in his absence. Dead Ringer For Love (a duet with Cher), made the Top Five in the UK and the album hit number one, but it only dented the lower end of the US Top 50Billboard album chart.
Relentless touring helped both Midnight At The Lost And Found and Bad Attitude, his first album for Arista Records, to creep into the UK Top Ten album chart. Blind Before I Stop was his strongest post-Steinman release. Meat Loaf also featured in over 40 movies, including Roadie, Americathon and – most memorably – as the cancer survivor in Fight Club.
Jim Steinman, meanwhile, began writing and producing for MOR artists including Bonnie Tyler and Air Supply.
After maintaining a recording silence well into the 1990’s, rumours grew that he was once again working with Steinman. Released in 1993, Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell, displayed a calculated, stylistic cloning of its predecessor.
The public greeted the familiarity with open arms, propelling the first single, I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That), to number one in both the US and the UK.