Meat Loaf, excess rock made art
Calling Meat Loaf "great" is an understatement. His music was pure bombast; his success, enormous; his physical presence obviously enormous; and his life, full of drama and as such, collected in biographies and biopics. A vocalist who made the epic one of his hallmarks, with a brilliant voice and a presence impossible to ignore.
Composer Jim Steinman must have thought something like that when he met him back in 1972. This young pianist was writing a musical about a nymphomaniac in the middle of the Vietnam War, and he left everyone surprised with his songs, a cross between Broadway, hard rock and Richard Wagner After their failure, the duo began to move these songs with the idea of releasing an LP, bat out of hell. One rejected by practically all the record companies of the time. It would go on to become the fourth best-selling LP in rock music history, with an estimated 44 million copies. Few, very few, can look down on him.
Marvin Lee Aday, the real name of the artist, was born in Texas on September 27, 1947, and spent a childhood marked by alcoholism and abuse from his father. The young man found refuge in American football, where his teammates gave him the nickname, precisely, of Meat Loaf. But, in the purest style High School Musical, the singer alternated training with the works that were performed at the institute, and in which he quickly stood out thanks to his range and powerful voice. He had found his true calling.
After dropping out of college, he decided to settle in Los Angeles to try his luck. A city where he quickly fitted in with the bohemian profile, full of actors and musicians in search of fortune. Formative years, playing in bands and playing roles in musicals like the very Rocky Horror Show. It was precisely this work that led to his first appearance in a film, the film version directed by Jim Sharman in 1975, where he played the fantastic 'Hot Patootie' with conviction, making him known to the whole world.
It was at this time that he met Steinman, a theatrical composer without much success but with tremendous hits, who found the perfect vehicle in his voice. Steinman was anything but discreet, and Meat turned heads wherever he went…and to everyone who heard him sing. The duo decided to take advantage of those songs to try to sell an album: far from presenting demos, unacceptable due to the grandiose vision of the composer, the duo appeared together with the vocalist Ellen Folley to interpret the songs.
The sight of the lanky pianist and the obese singer performing those heroic 7-minute melodies left talent scouts stunned. Only Todd Rundgren saw the humor in the matter. The great guitarist and producer saw his Bat Out Of Hell (which could be translated as "as a soul that the devil carries") as a parody of the no less epic 'Born to Run' by Bruce Springsteen. The thing was going to run away.
Under his tutelage and with a contract with the unknown Cleveland Records, Rundgren arranged for them to record with part of the E-Street Band that accompanied Springsteen. Without a doubt, the ideal group for this conceptual work, an ode to adolescence in seven acts full of American iconography: towns in the middle of nowhere, baseball games and romps in the back seat. Paradise in the light of the dashboard.
Bat Out Of Hell it caught on quickly in the UK or Australia, but in the US it was much, much slower. But month after month, those songs that seemed like a joke began to sink in with listeners, who asked to hear them over and over again. The album began to rise in the charts and the band embarked on an extensive and strenuous tour, where the singer, who weighed almost 140 kilos, needed oxygen to reach the end of the concert. His total dedication in live performances, added to his love of doing somersaults to finish the shows, cost him some injury. His image drenched in sweat and screaming his lyrics became totally iconic.
With a single LP, Meat Loaf became a bona fide star in the late '70s. Fame, drugs, grueling gigs, and the pressure of having to create a second work to match took their toll. The singer lost his voice. Aday spent months without singing, the victim of a mental block to escape from such a maelstrom.
Given to alcohol and drugs, sometimes with his friend John Belushi, he took advantage of his fame to premiere his first film as a leading man, roadies, where he embodied the best "pipe" in the world, on a journey that made him coincide with other stars such as Alice Cooper, Roy Orbison or Alice Cooper. A small failure that indicated to him that his near future was, without a doubt, going back to recording, after rehabilitation, of course.
After months of therapy, he managed to recover his voice to record his next job, Dead Ringer For Love, it appeared already in 1981 and, logically, it did not reach such heights, although it did leave us with one of its most successful singles: the duet with Cher that gave the album its title, which has even been performed a couple of times in our Operación Triunfo (translated by a contestant like, attention, "the dead bell ringer of love"). And since we're talking about Hispanic TV, we can't forget how his first appearance here was on the program Aplauso, on the set of which he performed a couple of songs while kicking a soccer ball accompanied by Mariscal Romero, one of his strongholds in our country.
His partner Jim Steinman got off the boat, fed up with not having the expected recognition, overshadowed by the huge shadow of his partner. On his next album, Aday chose to compose some cuts himself and take a turn towards less epic and simpler music. The failure of Midnight At The Lost And Found It meant taking refuge in the European market, where he still had fans among fans of hard rock.
Meat Loaf visited Madrid in 1983, opening for David Coverdale's Whitesnake in one of the most celebrated concerts for Hispanic rock. It would take 11 years to return. His subsequent releases were more oriented towards the hard rock of the time, and he got decent results in England and Germany. So much so that Blind Before You Stop featured the production of Frank Farian, the brains behind Boney M. Those were years of modest sales, many concerts and thousands of kilometers in the group's van to play in modest clubs, which, however, the singer fondly remembered in To Hell And Back Again, his autobiography: a simple life doing hard and honest work.
Until in 1990, things with Jim Steinman finally cool down and they decide to get down to business. The composer, who had chained successes with Bonnie Tyler or Air Supply, recovers some old themes and writes other absolutely majestic ones for his friend. The result: Bat Out Of Hell II (1993), a cyclone that sells 14 million copies and returns him to the front line. To remember, that triplet of video clips directed by a very young Michael Bay, authentic rock mini-operas that were broadcast endlessly on MTV... and by our Top 40 on Canal +.
With a new generation of fans in his pocket, and more mature and wiser, Meat has been able to correctly manage his career, even far from Steinman: correct albums with good collaborators, spaced out over time and that always worked well, a third bat out of hell, now with super-songwriter Desmond Child, and moderate-length tours where fans flocked to hear his now-classic hits. Even Pepe Navarro presented him as "a legend" in his Mississippi, in another of his few appearances in our country.
And yet, for the most cinephile public, Meat Loaf will always be Robert Paulson of Fight club, a fragile fighter with boobs for a role totally removed from his usual image that earned him a lot of praise. It's the highlight of a fun acting career in which the same appears alongside the Spice Girls in Spice World who takes on Patrick Swayze as the evil trucker from black-dog. He was even under the command of Antonio Banderas in his directorial debut, Crazy in Alabama among many other appearances.
Married twice and with a couple of daughters, no doubt, with his genes (an actress and the other a singer and married to a member of Anthrax), Meat performed his last concerts in 2016, some with a heart attack on stage included. At about the same time in England, the musical began to be performed Bat Out of Hell, an epic story told through the songs of his two most famous albums, and which is still on the bill. Some themes that returned to where they had been conceived, ready to tell a new story larger than life.