From bonkers theatrical rock to operatic power ballads, Meat Loaf had one of the most distinctive and biggest voices in rock. Following the singer's death aged 74, Alan Corr gather together some of his greatest moments
Paradise By The Dashboard Light
In the high summer of 1977 when we were all meant to be either appalled or delighted by punk, Meatloaf exploded as if from nowhere with Bat Out of Hell, a mix of pomp rock and stage musical overindulgence. This hammy duet with Karla DeVito caught the imagination of a new generation but also set older hearts aflutter with its stolen memories of a drive-in movie knee-trembler. Song writer Jim Steinman said that he wanted to write, "the ultimate car/sex song in which everything goes horribly wrong in the end."
Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad
A lighters aloft anthem if there ever was one, this tearjerker was inspired by an old Elvis song. As Jim Steinman later recalled, "An oldies station was on the radio and it was playing that old Elvis song, 'I Want You, I Need,' whatever it was. I just started singing my own song but it was 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.' I remember going home and I tried so hard but the best I could do was: 'I want you, I need you but there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you, don't be sad, 'cause two out of three ain't bad'. So, it was still a twist but it was my closest to a simple song, and one Elvis could have done."
I’d Lie For You (And That’s the Truth)
Another cleverly titled power ballad with grinding guitars and trademark piano, Meat’s duet with regular collaborator Patti Russo near combusts with battered sincerity and passion. The video was equally over the top, with helicopters, explosions and Meat Loaf driving a car from which an Indiana Jones-style hero leaps onto a passing aeroplane. As you do.
I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)
We never did get to find out what the "that" was, but Meatloaf’s 1993 single I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) became one of the most successful and talked about songs of his career. It hit No 1 in Ireland for weeks and topped the charts in 28 countries. The song was lifted from his comeback album, Bat Out of Hell II: Bat into Hell, which reunited him with estranged producer Jim Steinman, won him a Grammy, sold over 14 million copies, and lifted him of career doldrums - including an eventful tour in the late eighties of Ireland’s community halls and ballrooms.
You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)
It starts with one of the greatest (and indeed funniest) spoken word intros in rock history before breaking into a Springsteenesque everything-and-the-kitchen sink approach to wall of sound bombast. With Spectoresque drums and spiralling harmonies, this was one of Meat's finest moments.
Dead Ringer For Love
A storming duet with the equally big-lunged Cher, this 1981 cracker was Meat Loaf in excelsis. Lifted from his second album Dead Ringer, Steinman originally penned the song with Tony Hendra and Sean Kelly for a TV show called Delta House. It was a No 7 hit on release and also charted again in 1991 at No 28.
More Than You Deserve
Back in 1974 when he was an unknown songwriter, Meat released this Elton John inspired single. Singing in a country music style, he essays a tale of encountering a girl "shining like an angel in the night" at a truck stop (natch) amid a growing torrent of strings, guitars, and harmonies. Truly epic stuff and a hint of what was to come.
Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are
The third single from Meat Loaf’s comeback album, 1993’s Bat out of Hell II: Back into Hell, this quirkily titled hit was overflowing with all that Meat and Steinman’s partnership so very great. "I’m really proud of it because that’s really one that goes over-the-top in the sense that it’s got images - it has religious imagery of resurrection, it’s got images of fertility and rebirth," Steinman later said. "And if life is just a highway, then the soul is just a car". Preach, Meat, Preach!
Bat Out of Hell
Clocking in at almost ten minutes, rarely has a rock song sounded so very dramatic. The "most extreme crash song of all time", it has it all - from racing pianos, Wagneresque pomp, revving motorcycles, an overheated vocal from Mr. Loaf and squealing guitars - and painted an urgent portrait of heroic teen dreams. Steinman had intended for the song to appear on "a rock 'n roll sci-fi version of Peter Pan", but it draws most of its inspiration from the 1960s teenage tragedy songs like Leader of the Pack and Tell Laura I Love Her. It also had more false endings than Boris Johnson’s premiership.
It’s All Coming Back to Me Now
Originally a hit for Celine Dion and inspired by Wuthering Heights, Meat recorded this in 2006 for Bat out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose. The singer had always had a fraught relationship with Steinman (who passed away last year aged 73) and Meat later remarked that his vocal is so passionate because he felt the song was about his and Steinman’s partnership. "To me it wasn’t a song about romance, it was about me and Jim Steinman. We’d had a load of problems with managers in the early 1980s and all of a sudden after five years we started to communicate."
Alan Corr @CorrAlan2