To Hell and back, then back to Hell and back again – that pretty much describes the circuitous journey of this bombastic singer / performing artist; his working relationship with a very talented, prolific songwriter also figures heavily into this long roller coaster ride to recognition.
Meat Loaf is cited as one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with worldwide sales of more than 80 million records. He struck gold and later platinum with his 1977 album Bat Out of Hell, which featured hit songs “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” and “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”
More than just a great pair of lungs, Meat Loaf is also an established actor and there is a lot going on with that aspect of his career. He has appeared in over 70 movies and television shows, sometimes as himself or as characters resembling his stage persona. As a character actor you may remember him from for the characters he portrayed in films such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Wayne’s World and Fight Club.
But since our blog is mainly about MUSIC, we will touch only lightly on some of his theatrical achievements while focusing mainly on Meat Loaf, the singer with a very theatrical and soulful approach.
We have here a survivor; a resilient man who made more than one comeback; he lost a lot of weight and, unfortunately, some of his voice but the passion and fervor remain intact.
I give you some career highlights of this double threat they call Meat Loaf.
Meat Loaf (Marvin Lee Aday)
Meat Loaf / from his 1st album: Bat Out Of Hell / Paradise By The Dashboard Light
Meat Loaf / from Bat Out Of Hell / Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad
Meat Loaf / from Bat Out Of Hell / You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth
June 1978 / This concert from the Stadthalle Offenbach in Germany perfectly captures the raw excitement of the original Bat Out Of Hell tour with Meat Loaf dominating the stage and with the albums songwriter Jim Steinman on piano contributing heavily / Bat Out Of Hell
Meat Loaf / Wario Loaf album / I’ll Kill You If You Don’t Come Back
Meat Loaf (with songwriter Jim Steinman on piano) / I’m Gonna Love Her For Both Of Us
Meat Loaf and Cher / Dead Ringer For Love
1995 / album: Welcome To The Neighborhood / I’d Lie For You And That’s The Truth
2006 / album: Bat Out Of Hell III / It’s All Coming Back To Me Now /
Marvin Lee Aday was born on September 27, 1947, in Dallas, Texas. His father was a police officer and a well-known drinker who would go on alcoholic binges. It wasn’t uncommon for Marvin’s mother to leave Marvin with his maternal grandmother and needless to say, Marvin had a difficult childhood.
Marvin suffered with obesity, weighing around 200 pounds as a youngster. He would be taunted and bullied regularly by school kids. These tribulations, however, did little to dampen his ambition.
After high school he enrolled at North Texas State University (now called the University of North Texas). It is believed that his football coach and even his own father called him “Meat Loaf” because of his size.
In 1966, Marvin received notice to be drafted into military service. In an effort to avoid the draft, he intentionally gained 60 pounds so he would fail his physical. He then quit school, changed his name to “Meat Loaf” by deed poll, and left Texas in 1967 for a new life in Los Angeles.
In LA, Aday, aka “Meat Loaf” found work as a bouncer and then started his first band, Meat Loaf Soul.
After several lineup changes and name alterations, the group became known as “Popcorn Blizzard” ; they wrote and recorded “Once Upon A Time“.
Getting nowhere, the band split up and Meat Loaf sought work in the theater.
Meat Loaf auditioned for and got a part in a West Coast production of Hair and traveled with the show to the East Coast and then to Detroit, where he hooked up with a fellow Hair cast singer named Shawn “Stoney” Murfey.
This collaboration resulted in recording of the 1971 album Stoney and Meatloaf
Stoney and Meatloaf / #71 American single / What You See Is What You Get
Stoney would later became Eric Clapton and Bob Seger’s back-up singer.
Enter Songwriter: Jim Steinman
Jim Steinman, a New Yorker who’d spent his early teen years in California, had studied classical piano. Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman would have a long history of shattering expectations, as Loaf’s journey will reveal.
In 1973 Meat Loaf went to New York to appear in the off-Broadway gospel musical Rainbow in New York and successfully auditioned for More Than You Deserve, written by Jim Steinman.
Meat Loaf successfully auditioned for the roles of Eddie and Dr. Scott in the stage production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show“.
In 1975 he followed the show to the big screen and co-starred with Susan Sarandon, Tim Curry and Barry Bostwick. Surprising everyone, the film would go on to become a giant success, grossing more than $112 million in ticket sales over the next 30 years.
1977 – First Album: Bat Out Of Hell
Around the time Meat Loaf was filming The Rocky Horror Picture Show, he also returned to the studio and began recording what would become his landmark album, Bat Out of Hell.
Meat Loaf / Heaven Can Wait / live /
Produced by famed rocker Todd Rundgren, and collaborating with songwriter Jim Steinman, who authored all of the album’s songs, Meat Loaf churned out a record that mixed heartache (“Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad“) and teenage sexuality (“Paradise by the Dashboard Light“).
“One of the most mind-blowing moments in my life,” Meat Loaf, said, “was watching Todd Rundgren play the guitar and do it in one take, and one take only. In 15 minutes he played the lead solo and then went back and did the harmony guitars at the beginning. The whole thing didn’t take him more than 45 minutes! Then Todd mixed the record in one night. He started at six o’clock and finished about four o’clock in the morning.”
Meat Loaf and Steinman rehearsed for a full year before Todd Rundgren would agree to produce them. The work and commitment proved to be were well worth it. Bat Out Of Hell is one of the most iconic albums of the 1970s.
After 4 years in the making the album was released in October 1977. It would sell in excess of 40 million copies worldwide. In the UK it was certified 10 x Platinum for more than 3 million sales.
At first, Bat, with its highly theatrical, bombastically orchestrated teen drama, sold well only in New York and Cleveland. Then Meat Loaf hit the road with a seven-piece band that included singer Karla DeVito in the role Ellen Foley had played on the LP’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” (which also included a cameo by New York Yankees former shortstop and announcer Phil Rizzuto).
The LP was platinum by the end of the year, with the hit singles “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” (#39), “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad” (#11), and “You Took the Words Right out of My Mouth” (#39).
Eventually every track on the album became a hit single and the album became a phenomenon, raking in over $125 million for Epic and Sony. It was also the most profitable release in history, beating even Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which had cost ten times as much to make.
1981 – Dead Ringer
In 1981 stories circulated that Meat Loaf had been coaxed to sing on Steinman’s new album, Bad for Good , but couldn’t or wouldn’t because of a variety of physical and emotional problems.
Finally, toward the end of 1981, Meat Loaf released the second of his four albums written entirely by Jim Steinman, Dead Ringer (#45, 1981) – it received meager response.
Meat Loaf / I’ll Kill You If You Don’t Come Back
1983 – Meat Loaf Album: Midnight at the Lost and found
Following a dispute with his former songwriter Jim Steinman, Meat Loaf was contractually obliged by the Epic Records label to release a new album. According to Meat Loaf, Steinman GAVE him two songs for the album, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Making Love Out of Nothing at All“, but Epic refused to pay for Steinman.
The songs Steinman had given to Meat Loaf were then given to Bonnie Tyler and Air Supply respectively, which both became hits in their respective countries and worldwide.
Struggling for time and with no resolution to his arguments with Steinman seemingly on the horizon (eventually, Steinman and Meat Loaf would sue one another), he was forced to find songwriters wherever he could, including writing the songs himself.
Meat Loaf is credited with being involved in the writing of numerous tracks on the album, including the title track. However, as Meat would later admit, he was not much of a songwriter and did not like the songs he had written for the album.
Meat Loaf / Midnight At The Lost And Found
Meat Loaf / Razor’s Edge
Meat Loaf / Fallen Angel
Meat Loaf / The Promised Land
Steinman initiated lawsuits against Epic and Meat Loaf. Midnight at the Lost and Found had no Steinman material and included a few songs co-written by “M. Lee Aday.”
Meat Loaf eventually declared bankruptcy and underwent physical and psychological therapy to get his voice back. He somehow managed to keep making records, which went virtually unnoticed in the U.S., though he remained a concert draw in England.
1993 – Bat out of Hell II: Back Into Hell
In 1993, back with Steinman — Meat Loaf reemerged with Bat out of Hell II: Back Into Hell, unabashedly picking up, in sound and story, right where “Mr. Loaf” (as the New York Times called him) had left off with Bat out of Hell.
The comeback album sold even faster than the original, entering the chart at #25 and soon hitting #1, selling 10 million copies within three months worldwide, and yielding a hit single in “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That“).
In January 1994 that song won Meat Loaf his first Grammy, in the category of Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.
Meat Loaf also mounted a Broadway/arena-rock tour reminiscent of days of yore, with his entrance heralded by bombastic power chords interrupting a string quartet, which opened the shows playing a medley of his early hits. This renewed popularity led to prestigious engagements, such as a duet with Luciano Pavarotti at a benefit concert for the children of Bosnia in 1995.
Bat II represented one of the most shocking comebacks in music history, but the past repeated itself when Meat Loaf continued to record without Steinman in the aftermath of the album and record buyers were largely disinterested in the results.
Fast forward to 2006, Meat Loaf recorded Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose.
It was billed as a big reunion with Jim Steinman and he was credited on most of the tracks, but the two men were in the midst of a $50 million lawsuit over the Bat Out of Hell trademark and didn’t truly collaborate.
The songs on Bat III were limited to older Steinman compositions like “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” (which would become a hit for Celine Dion in 1996).
The Comeback of Meat Loaf
At age 68, and after enduring vocal-cord hemorrhages that literally had blood shooting out of his mouth during a 2011 Australian tour, Meat Loaf no longer had the same vocal range he did when he cut the Bat Out of Hell albums. But he has turned that vocal change into an asset on Braver Than We Are, which is a gentler, more reflective album than the Bat Out of Hell albums, referring time again to the aging process. “Meat Loaf is heroic in his ravaged voice,” Steinman wrote in an online letter about the LP, “tragically heroic.”
Meat Loaf / Heaven Can Wait
Meat Loaf / Rock n’ Roll Dreams Come Through
Meat Loaf / I Would Do Anything For Love
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