« portraits of amusement | Main | random camera phone picture »

overrated albums III: Bat out of Hell [updated and all revved up]

Ok, I'll be honest with you here. I bought the album. I bought the hype that went with the album. I thought it was brilliant, amazing and a work of art. It was 1977. Elvis had just died. I was momentarily blinded by heartache. No, I was trying to revolt against the constant crush of Eddie Money songs being played on 99X. I was trying to drown out the disco craze. I was looking for an alternative to my friends' constant playing of Billy Joel's The Stranger. My local department store where I bought my records didn't have Elvis Costello's My Aim is True. I was suckered in by Meatloaf's amazing turn as Eddie in Rocky Horror.

I could come up with a million more excuse, you know. But the fact is, I liked Bat out of Hell when it first came out. Don't look at me like that. Like you didn't lay in the dark with the headphones on and just wait for the part...

Then Iím dying at the bottom of a pit in the blazing sun
Torn and twisted at the foot of a burning bike
And I think somebody somewhere must be tolling a bell
And the last thing I see is my heart
Still beating
Still beating

That was beautiful, man. Genius. See..he was telling a story. But set to music. It works on two levels! And you had to sing it just like Meatloaf, as if you were on a high school stage in the midst of some overwrought musical about love and loss and umm...motorcycle accidents.

Ok, that one hasn't really stood up to the test of time. What about...

On a hot summer night.
Would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?
Will he offer me his mouth?
Yes

I'm sitting here wondering how I ever thought that was good. Maybe when you're drunk on Boones Farm wine at a party in someone's basement that's decorated to look like some kind of art deco cave and that Canadian kid you have a crush on is mouthing the words to you...well, that's hot when you're 15 and stoned on fermented strawberries. Now, in 2005 - even with a glass of Chardonnay down the hatch - it's cringe worthy.

But it's not even those two songs that relegate this album into the annals of Insipid Moments in Rock History. No. It's the song I hate more than any other song that has ever been written, performed or copyrighted since time began and will always, forever continue to be the one song that can make me run screaming from a wedding, bat mitzvah or block party. The song that can reduce grown men and women to pantomiming actors in a surreal line dance of lust.

It was at my sister's wedding ten years ago when I realized that Paradise By the Dashboard Light was my kryptonite. As soon as the first note emitted from the speakers, the dance floor was flooded with revelers. All the people who sat on their asses for the great dance songs of the night (oh, like you don't want to dance every time you hear Funkytown) were suddenly lined up on the floor, males forming a line down one side, females doing the same on the other side. It was reminiscent of a movie musical, where somehow everyone knows the words to the song and all the lines to sing. Maybe I hadn't been to enough weddings or bars lately, but I had no idea that Paradise had become a line dance/interactive favorite. It was the new Hokey Pokey!

Let me tell you, even with a couple of shots of tequila under my belt, and even with the giddiness that comes with complete exhaustion, there was no way I was loopy enough to join that crowd on the dance floor. No, I just stood back and watched as grown men and women - including town councilmen and judges and the president of the local Kiwanis - took turns singing the boy/girl parts and totally acting the part of lust filled teenagers in a steamy car. One couple actually stood in the center of the two lines during the whole baseball announcer verse and acted the whole thing out. I kid you not. When my jaw dropped and a cousin realized I was stunned, she told me that this went on at every wedding, in every bar, every night of the week and I needed to get out more. No, no, I told her. I need to never leave the sanctity of my house again.

When my kid's religious ed teacher did a sliding split into the middle of the dance floor, holding up her hand and singing "STOP RIGHT THERE!" and my uncle twirled his way beside her and responded with the "let me sleep on it" verse and then all of them did the whole back and forth thing and this went on until the very end, where they all did some bizarre dance as they whispered glowing like a metal on the edge of a knife, I thought I had been transported to the ninth level of hell and Satan himself was going to rise out of the dance floor.

Yes, that was ten years ago and I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday (sorry, couldn't resist). It was such a horrid experience that not only is it etched in my memory forever, but it has made me loathe the whole Bat Out of Hell album and even Meatloaf himself (his man tittie turn in Fight Club notwithstanding), as they are all part and parcel of one of the most nightmarish experiences of my entire life.

So I got off on a tangent there and probably failed to convey why Bat Out of Hell is overrated, but that doesn't even matter anymore. I have Paradise stuck in my head and I have to go find a way to get it out of there.

[cross posted at Blogcritics]

Update
: So maybe the whole album is worth it just to sing the last minute of All Revved up With No Place To Go (download)

TrackBack

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference overrated albums III: Bat out of Hell [updated and all revved up]:

» No. Freaking. Lie!!!! from Dean's World

THE TRUTH HURTS, DON'T IT????

[Read More]

» Lunch: 4/29/2005 from basil's blog
Try one of these specials with your lunch [Read More]

» Best and Worst Albums of All Time from Catscape
I wasn't even close to being a teenager when that album came out, and I hate to admit it but I was sucked in by (what I thought was) the clever lyrics and infectious hooks. It was nothing more than ear candy, and thanks to the benefit of time, I can ... [Read More]

Comments

I was 11 years old and a big Yankee fan, so when Phil Rizzuto wound up in the middle of a Top 10 hit and Number 1 album, I bought it hook, line and sinker.

A few years later, I liked it all over again when I became a "Night Court" fan and realized Ellen Foley was on it too. (FWIW, Ellen Foley was much better than Markie Post on that show.)

Oh - the album. Eh.

What do you expect, a Cadillac at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box?

[snicker]

Dear Michele - If you really want to get that out of your head, the aforementioned tequila works wonders. Best, Terry

Duh.

That should be Coupe De,Ville...and if I wasn't playing catch-up on my reading I would know that joke had already been used.

I heard he lost a bunch of weight.

I actually instructed the DJ at our wedding NOT to play Paradise under any circumstances... I still love the song "Bat Out Of Hell" though.

I have Paradise stuck in my head and I have to go find a way to get it out of there.

May I recommend a melon baller.

What? Uh, when you say they acted the whole thing out, you mean first base, second base, third base, and umm, consummation...right there on the dance floor?

I like Meatloaf, and I even enjoy listening to Paradise. But it is not by any conceivable stretch of the imagination dance music.

This is one of those stories that contributes to the stereotypes about us white people, you know.

Michele - I like Sekimora's solution better than mine. Best, Terry

I like "story" songs like Paradise etc. Another good one is Scenes from an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel. Anyway, it was this album that lead to the breakout role of Robert 'Bob' Paulson in Fight Club. Some would say the Meat made that movie what it is.

You described that scene a little TOO well. I threw up a little in my mouth!

"HOLY COW I THINK HE'S GONNA MAKE IT!"

oh, c'mon...hearing Scooter do that baserunning riff gave ya a tingle, right?

(I'm biased when it comes to the Meatman, Kas Sultan was one of the boys on my block. But I drew a line when he brought Rundgren around.Hippie ne plus ultra!)

"It's the song I hate more than any other song that has ever been written, performed or copyrighted since time began..."

Wow, a song you hate more than Desperado!

Wow, a song you hate more than Desperado!

My sister will show up here some time today and tell an old story about me and Desperado and I will delete the comment.

I had the 8-track, and I always cranked it up to 11 for that guitar riff in Bat Outta Hell right after he says "I'm gonna hit the highway like a battering ram on a silver black phantom bike". Just awesome.

P.S. - Hey Michele's sister, my e-mail is skillzy@gmail.com, and I will PAY YOU for the Desperado story. Anxiously awaiting your reply...

What are you talking about? That's FRIGGIN' AWESOME!

I guess a lot of people took BOOH a lot more seriously than I did. I never saw it as much more than a glorious piece of Rock and Roll kitch. I mean, come on, you left out the best part of the whole "Would you offer your throat to the wolf" thing...

"I bet you say that to all the boys."

That's funny stuff.

You took the words right out of my mouth.

I'm still waiting for the Jim Steinman tribute album - I mean, the same guy who gave us Paradise and Anything for Love also gave us Total Eclipse of the Heart , All Coming Back to me Now, and even (Making Love) Out of Nothing at All. 30 years later, he's still writing the same over-the-top melodrama.

That's why it appealed to you at 15. What 15-year-old isn't all about melodrama?

I have to be in the right mood (manic), but Steinman's music has its place. But nothing he writes shold EVER be considered among the greats of all time. Overrated is correct.

And I haven't even mentioned Meat's annoyingly nasal voice...

The first time you heard it you thought it was both truthful and hilarious.

The next five times, it was still funny.

The next twenty times, it was like, "hahah, cute and funny ain't it?"

Round about exposure #5,006...

Last I read, it sold 13 million copies. That was a few years ago. Thirteen... fucking... million... and still going strong.

Please God. Make it stop.

So michelle, I guess...It was long ago and it was far away, and it was so much better than it is today.

I have always hated that song and I always will.
As I do almost every other Jim Steinman song ever written.

Must have some biological basis.

Note to self - see if I can exchange the Meatloaf tix I got for Michele for a melon baller...

Unk

Oh yes, I was at that wedding.

Meat Loaf's Bat out Of Hell drove me to punk. For which I'm forever grateful.

People were still drinking Boone's Farm in '77?

Ed - Ellen Foley is both a superior actress to Markie Post AND a vastly superior musician to Mr. Loaf.

Life just ain't fair...

Mike and Ed -

You're telling me you'd pick Ellen Foley over Markie Post... How many tequila shots does that take?

There are three albums that got me through high school alive. Born to Run, Night Moves and Bat out of Hell...I mean before I heard The Clash and The Ramones...

It's not on my "at least once a week" list, but I still listen to it sometimes...and it still makes me grin like an idiot...yeah-yeah, I know, "How can ya tell?" funny..haha

For what amounted to a first effort, it was a great album. Consider the times involved. In a musical world where everything was either musical syrup, or even with what existed of Rock and Pop, was coyly hiding behind one facade or another and never really pouring themselves into any performance as a result, Meatloaf was a bit refreshing.

Your complaints here seem to be centered on the idea that the thing... and indeed, all of Meatloaf's work, specifically where Jim Steinman's writing, is/was over the top, in every dimension...Audibly, playing, lyrically.... story line..."Everything louder than everything else", to swipe a phrase.

I'll be honest with you; I didn't like BOOH at first. And I particularly got damned tired of playing "Paradise" every time I played a wedding... which meant for a few years there, I was playing it on the order of 100 times a year for a few years. It may have been just a seven minute record to you, but to me it was a coffee break...

Then we didn't hear from the guy for a freakin decade, except for 'dead ringer' in which we saw the drug problems coming out. The producers tried to mix him down to cover the flaws, but it didn't work.

And when Stienman released "Bad for Good" (1981?) as a solo act...(Which sucked performance- wise) I began to understand where some of the Bombast in Meatloaf's act was coming from.... Bombast Steinmen himself didn't have the pipes to pull off.
According to what I was hearing at the time, Mealoaf didn't either, between the drugs and the touring.

I DID see a really great song in "Rock and Roll Comes through", and imagined how Meatloaf would have done the tune.. and took Steinman's release of the song as meaning we'd never hear Meatloaf do it. (Steinman's version actually made the top 40... a disappointing 31 or 32, I think)

I kinda went dark on the whole thing, at that point.

A few years went by.. what, 13 years or so? And finally BOOHII was released, with "Anything" and... thank God... "Rock and Roll comes through"
and I started paying attention again. My wife actually talked me into going to see his roadshow out here to Darien Lake, where he's supposedly playing again this summer. THe stage show was the best I'd seen in years... as Spock once said.. repeatedly.. on an Information Society record... the guy was Pure Energy and was literally pouring himself into it.

Well, I was hooked; I've always respected someone willing to go the distance night after night.

I'm considering going to see him again when he comes to town this summer.

Now, keep in mind some perspective, here... I listen to about everything going from clasical to Rap, so I'm not as influnced, I suppose, by style as some might be, as much as performance within the chosen musical medium.... Rock, blues, jazz, whatever. On sheer stage gravitas, he's got my respect.

All the people who sat on their asses for the great dance songs of the night (oh, like you don't want to dance every time you hear Funkytown) were suddenly lined up on the floor,

It should be noted that I don't dance, have never danced, and won't ever dance anywhere, especially at a wedding. Ever.

For my own nuptial's reception, I did some weird stepping with my newly-wedded-much-better-half wherein someone laughing shouted 'You call that dancing?'. I didn't, nor did she (do you have any idea what it costs to get white wedding shoes that have the OSHA approved steel toes?). In order to spoof my own inability at dance, I did recreate Bluto and company during SHOUT, whereas I fell to the floor and bounced around, but no one thought that was dancing, either. (One may wonder how I managed to stay attached these 15 years, but that's another of life's mysteries I suppose.)

That much said...

I think Bithead's review is on the money (sorry Michele). With the talent that backed Meat on BOOH-I, I can't see how it could be called over-rated.

I even liked DeadRinger, and count myself among the 5 or 6 fans who actually paid for 'Midnight at the Lost and Found' (it did suck, especially from production point of view). I thoroughly enjoyed BOOH-II, as well, for what its worth.

I dunno, perhaps it's a guy thing?

Isn't Steinman the one criminally liable for the recent Broadway execrence "Dance of the Vampires"?

I mean, how can a guy fail to improve AT ALL at his life's work in 30 years? Couldn't he get better by accident? "Watch out! The vampires are dancing!" Jimmy boy, if I'm lost in the middle of a forest, pursued by the undead hosts of Hell, choreography is the least of my worries. But if they sing one of your songs, it's all over.

Word on the street is that 'Hey Ya' is replacing 'The Bird' as The dance song at weddings and such. I like the song..but its just not right to see one's elderly aunt try to 'shake it like a polaroid picture'.

BOOH was the rock and roll equivalent of Wagnerian Opera with Full Sturm und Drang.

So it's not musically sophisticated, high-toned, full of wit and whimsy, and doesn't tickle the palate. So what? It's big, bold, there are women doing a lot of loud singing, and over it all the ever-present and superlative pipes of Mr. Loaf. How could you not like that?

Toss in a few Vikings with Spears and you basically have the Ring Cycle in a rock and roll album.

I'm torn among multiple responses.

First, I have NEVER seen people do this at a wedding. If I didn't trust you, I would swear you were making it up. As it is, I'm counting my blessings.

Second, it's hardly fair to judge the musical value of a song based on what the song's fans do. I understand that it's natural to be revulsed by such a spectacle; but the song is no worse (and no better) just because people went insane at weddings.

Third, I have to say that I'm actually a late-life Meat Loaf fan. In high school and college, the music never really did anything for me. But then I gained a new appreciation for his work, in a way that will probably ruin my reputation in the blogosphere forever (like that's a big loss): in a visit to the Philippines, I once was left with nothing to watch but a made for TV biography film about Meat Loaf (I'm guessing it originated on VH1). And sad as this will sound, I thought that was one of the best films I saw that year. I'm sure it was sanitized, with lots of schmaltz added; but it made me appreciate how he suffered ups and downs through his hard-nosed insistence on doing his music his way. (Love him or hate him, he's never been successfully imitated.) So when I hear his music now, I tie it back to that film.

Go ahead, pity me...

no, seriously, I heard he dropped a bunch of weight.

Mr. Loaf also does a credible job of playing the insane villian in the wondrously cheesy movie Black Dog.

I guess I'm just so old and out of touch that there is no way on earth I can know what is cool or not - or is that even the word anymore?

I confess - back when I was dating John long distance, and driving for 7-8 hours every third weekend to see him, I would listen to BOOH with the volume as high as it would go, and I'd sing all the girl parts of the songs.

I still like to do that in the car, by myself, on a road trip!

Look, after a certain period of time you manage to get by the eternal question of "What is hip?" and get into the far greater question of "Do I really like this?"

Apparently, I reached that juncture far erlier than most; I never really did understand, or like, Rocky Horror Picture Show, either.... including Meatloaf's performance in it.

(Shrug)

As for people acting Dashboard out at weddings and whatnot... Oh, yes... it became a matter of routine, around here. Ove rthe years, I played perhaps 1000-1100 weddings... and I'd say about in half of them at one point or another I had to drag out BOOH. Remember, for a lot of those shows I was actually playing records, since I actually played my first wedding in the early 70's. People tended to get so into the idea of actig this stuff out, I was convinced by my pragmatism to put the song on tape... so the drowd, who would invariably go nutzoid on me, wouldn't upset the record.

At one point I actually had the one playing the bride... (Who had decided to take up the female half of the song's storyline) come sliding errr... SCREAMING across the dance floor, which had apparently been waxed just that day screaming "Stop Right There...."... well, she obviously couldn't, and went headlong into a speaker stack weighing perhaps 500lbs, toppling it.

No damage to her, and I was able to reset the stack and continue the show, but she did manage to make a total mess of her $2000 wedding dress.

By that time I had long given in to the reality that I was going to be playing that tune and having such events as long as I did weddings.

Of course, then there was "Shout", for which a ot of acting out also went on... and only the Animal House Soundtrack version would do. Not a bad accomplishment for a little bar band from Jersey, to have their tunes played .. and acted out....at weddings, for the next 30 years.... but I digress.

One thing I have noticed, about people who like Meatloaf.... and perhaps it's a taste marker... they also tend to like the early "Epic" stuff from Southside Johnny. I'm unlcear what the connection is, save the label, given I discovered Southside years before I did Meatloaf.

(Shrug)

I actually saw Meatloaf live in college, about a year or two before his comeback - the show might as well have been the "Meatloaf hits rock bottom" segment of Behind the Music.

I've never seen Meatloaf played at a wedding (or served at a wedding either, but that's another story). I loved Bat out of Hell in high school, but by the time I was in high school (1985-89) we all recognized it for the cheesiness it was. I actually like it a lot better today than some of the really cheesy stuff I listened to then, like Bon Jovi. We'll just agree not to discuss Poison, won't we?

One thing that made Bat Out of Hell work was the high quality of Meatloaf's backup band, including about half of the E Street Band, which was out of work at the time due to Springsteen's litigation with his manager.

[quote]Isn't Steinman the one criminally liable for the recent Broadway execrence "Dance of the Vampires"?[/quote]

http://realmofdreams.com/steinman/dotv.html