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
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?
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.