Anyone who, as a growing fan, wanted to orient themselves in the world of hard rock in the early 80s could not avoid the record cover: Were there skulls on it? Was it drawn well enough? You’ve inevitably stumbled upon ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ at some point: a motorbike adorned with a skull leaps from an exploding grave in front of a sinister giant bat – and that in sky-high graphic quality. But then came the bitter disappointment of a teenager – the supposed super black metal record (we had just heard whispers about Venom) already “watered down” the first guitar riff with epic piano and: brass!
Many rockers, all dedicated to the cultural underground at the time, took Meat Loaf as little seriously as the classics – and were later to acknowledge how brilliant the singer, along with his songwriter friend Jim Steinman, was here between two worlds which, although on different levels, tend to have great moving feelings.
Meat Loaf, born Marvin Lee Aday in Dallas, Texas in 1947, has played in bands since his school days, sometimes even opening for big names like The Who, Bob Seger, Iggy Pop or Joe Cocker – but he became successful as a musical singer. Harassed by his father (“Meat Loaf”, which means “roast meat” and probably corresponds in German to the insult “Fettsack”, he called him a child), he seeks salvation at the age of 20 in a singing and acting training: After the death of his mother, he moved to Los Angeles. Optically very far from the ideal of the nervous rock leader, he impresses with his powerful four-octave voice, which quickly earned him engagements in musicals such as “Hair” or the “Rocky Horror Picture Show”. During the rehearsals of “More Than You Deserve”, he met Steinman in 1974, with whom he developed a concept between two worlds: they wanted to cross the raw frontier of hard rock, more refined at the time, with the striking power of Richard Wagner.
The text concept roughly takes the knitting pattern of “West Side Story” and transplants a kind of Peter Pan story into the world of motorcycle rockers, which gave Aday, who now also very consciously appeared under the name “Meat Loaf”, the opportunity to process the difficult relationship with his parents. When the planned musical found no sponsor, the duo focused on a concept album – which was released in 1977 as “Bat Out Of Hell”. The success was initially solid, but gradually the record became a perennial global favorite; The refined mix of rock and classic pathos, implemented with all the tricks of pop culture, sold like hotcakes: the album was on the US charts for almost 400 (!) weeks, and approximately 43 million copies have been purchased worldwide, which is history Only three albums have been able to surpass them: “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, “Back in Black” by AC/DC and “Dark Side Of The Moon” by Pink Floyd. The grandiloquence of the disc, which spreads great emotions as epic as it is serious, magical and which is therefore always one step ahead of the kitsch, should serve as a model for a later wave of crossover programs such as the ambitious rock pathos. Ultimately, the megahit of this creepy record also explains why the musical is both an underrated genre and one that’s still popular with mainstream audiences: as recently as the mid-2010s, around 200,000 copies of “Bat Out Of Hell” have been sold each year. Record genes can be found in bands like Savatage as well as projects like Metallica’s “S&M.”
That didn’t help Meat Loaf at first: he ruined his voice on the world tour for the record in the early 80s; fell out with Steinman and his manager. The singer sank into depression and alcohol, DIY albums like “Midnight At The Lost And Found” (1983) were flops. It was not until 1993, after the reconciliation with Steinman, that a comeback was successful: With “Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell” (1993, including the single “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”) and “Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose” (2006), Meat Loaf returned to the charts. As US media report, citing the Adays family, he died on the evening of January 20. (with dpa)