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Overrated Albums IV: Bat Out of Hell

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Part I
Part II
Part III

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 I’m 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.

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About Michele Catalano

  • SFC SKI

    Maybe you should listen to some REO, nothing sticks in your skull like an REO S***wagon ballad.

    I hadn’t listened to BOoH for about 15 years, but got back into it for some reason. It has only one crap song, but the rest are pretty damn good, with some of the best musicianship and production ever. Todd Rundgren sows that he can really play guitar here, which was a surprise to me. Sure, it’s a somewhat kitschy album, like the soundtrack to a movie that was never made, but the songs work, and to me, it stand the test of time.

  • http://asmallvictory.net michele

    Thanks for putting “Keep on Loving You” in my head. Thanks a lot.

    After writing about this, I had to go listen to BooH again (the song, not the whole album). It sure is a lot of fun to sing. And All Revved up is really a good song.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    This is hilarious — the wedding story is too scary to be true. Say it ain’t so!

    I think you captured the faux teenager angst that made this album attractive when we were young. Aside from being an overrated album, it’s probably very high on the list of musically overblown albums. Bombastic and melodramatic!

  • Antfreeze

    Could not agree more. The name really says it all. He is to music as meat loaf is to fine cuisine. Good actor though, except for the bitch tits.

  • http://paskudnyak.blogspot.com The Proprietor

    It’s certainly an album that had tons of cringeworthy moments, but other than the idiotic spoken into, I still rather like “You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth” – it’s a great Phil Spector pastiche, somewhat of a lost art (although not the best example, IMO – that belongs to “Hold My Hand, Hold My Heart” from the “That Thing You Do” soundtrack). About the only thing other than that which holds me on this album still is Roy Bittan’s piano playing.

  • JR

    Given the impact this album had on your life and on others’, I think you’ve just demonstrated that it’s underrated.

    Re: “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” – got to hand it to Jim Steinman for knowing his Wagner.

  • Eric Olsen

    another issue is commercially overrated vs critically overrated. In the case of BOOH, I think it’s pretty clearly commercially overrated but perhaps even underrated critically.

  • http://asmallvictory.net michele

    If I rated albums by the negative impact they had on my life, then Van Halen III would be at the top of the list.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    Chalk me down as loving this album.

  • JR

    another issue is commercially overrated vs critically overrated. In the case of BOOH, I think it’s pretty clearly commercially overrated but perhaps even underrated critically.

    That’s true, and if this series is based on commercial rating, I might have to agree with most of the choices. I don’t know if Frampton Comes Alive, for instance, was all that highly rated by critics, but it did sell a disproportionate number of copies. Same with The Wall.

  • Eric Olsen

    I don’t much like anything else Meat Loaf has done, and BOOH 2 ws excremental, but I think this album holds up surprisingly well as a piece of rock theater

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    I loved BooH and still do in a sentimental sort of way. I don’t think it’s overrated at all, just dated – the same way Born To Run is dated, for example. It’s an album you just couldn’t make today, even if you were Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman.

  • MAO

    How can you denigrate a song (I assume the only one, unless someone tells me otherwise) that features the immortal Phil Rizzuto?!

    (By the way, that wedding story does sound too good to be true)

  • Eric Olsen

    Michele, I assure you, the acting out of “Paradise” at weddings is in no way unusual – I have witnessed it dozens of times

  • http://rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    You missed the boat completely on this one, Michele. Here’s a clue: no one ever said it was an enormous work of art to begin with. A production masterpiece is not neccessarily a work of art (although it can be).It’s deliberately over the top, melodramatic, theatrical. Bombast is part of the appeal, and always has been. Meat Loaf’s band, for the most part, was the E Street group, and the record is Springsteen times ten, Springsteen without any subtlety or poetry — it’s all high points. Bat Out of Hell is and always has been a hugely enjoyable Broadway musical on record; you, on the other hand, approach it as if you’re disappointed to learn it’s not Eugene O’Neill. But like I said, no one ever said it was.

    I still love cranking this thing up, and I always turn up “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” on the radio. Twenty-five years later, it hasn’t lost a thing.

  • http://asmallvictory.net michele

    I think you’re taking my posts way too seriously, Rodney.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    Bat out of hell is one of my favorite cds.

  • http://www.kalyr.com/weblog Tim Hall

    Who’s seen the live version of “Paradise” on BBC2’s “Old Grey Whistle Test” (I’m pretty sure this is available on DVD)

    A mate of my brother’s watches this whenever he feels depressed; it’s so damned funny it always lifts the gloom.

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    I’ve gone backwards from Michele’s reaction. This was my freshman year of high school, and I had just discovered THE BEATLES!!!!!! None of my classmates were interested in any Beatles crap. If it wasn’t Meatloaf or Saturday Night Fever, no one one to hear. Stupid Meatloaf.

    Only years later did I give the record a fair listen on its own merits. It’s actually pretty good. Paradise in particular was a beautiful piece of contrived teen angst. I particularly like the cute petulance of the closing sentiment, “I’m waiting for the end of time to hurry up and arrive.”

    It’s not going to make me forget the Beatles or Elvis, but it ain’t so bad. It surely holds up MUCH better than that stupid Frampton record.

  • Eric Olsen

    that it does although “Paradise” is my least favorite song on the album and always has been

  • http://www.bjkresearch.com/bugblog/ Bruce Kratofil

    “And then you took the words right out of my mouth
    Oh it must have been while you were kissing me”

    has always been one of my favorite lines.

  • Eric Olsen

    great song too, Bruce

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    Anyone who grew up a NY Yankee fan (like I did) when Phil Rizzuto did their play-by-play appreciates “Paradise By The Dashboard Light”

    I agree with Rodney on this one; it was specifically designed to be campy, a low-middlebrow concept from the blueprints to the execution.

    The detail that went into it is fairly remarkable; while it’s hardly essential listening, in some ways it is underrated (as Eric suggested)

    I always kinda liked “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” the best.

  • SFC SKI

    On of this albums best features is how good it sounds, I mean, you can hear every note, clean, unmuddied.

    When I first got to Germany in 1988, I was surprised to find Meatloaf still touring Europe, and drawing crowds.

  • godoggo

    Not from BOOH, but Mr. Loaf will always have a place in my black heart for this one:

    I raised my guitar high above my head and just as I was
    about to bring the guitar crashing down upon the center of the bed
    my father woke up screaming:
    “stop…wait a minute..stop it,boy”
    “what do you think you’re doing???
    That’s no way to treat an expensive musical instrument”
    And I said “god damn it, daddy!!!
    You know I love you…..”
    “BUT YOU GOT A HELL OF A LOT TO LEARN ABOUT ROCK AND ROLL!!!!!”

  • Eric Olsen

    and he has a great gospel/pop-rock voice – he just hasn’t done much with it other than this

  • mfj

    Forget Meatloaf. I knew he was wack even back in the 70’s. Back then I was listening to Earth, Wind & Fire, Santana, Elton John, the Eagles, Al Green (and still am, incidentally). Then again, I wasn’t sniffing glue so..

  • http://www.magicjunk.com Mark Sahm

    His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson. :o)

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    Holy Young Goodman Brown, Batman!* Rockin’ post, Michele. Guess I’m fortunate to spend almost zero time at bars or weddings these days. Not sure I could cope with such bizarre scenes as you describe.

    (*Note for those who don’t read as voraciously as I sometimes do: “Young Goodman Brown” is a classic short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Michele’s account of the wedding re-enactment of “Paradise…” is eerily reminiscent of Hawthorne’s frightening tale. And yes, I had to Google before I could remember the title.)

  • http://Yvonne1988@aol.com Yvonne Capel

    I think meatloaf is the greatest man alive he rocks my world. I would love to meet him one day as if that will ever happen I guess Im gonna have to keep dreaming on I guess. If anybody gets this message I want meatloaf to reply to my email address [edited]
    See ya around love Yvonne Capel(Angel)

  • http://Yvonne1988@aol.com Yvonne Capel

    Here I am again this a real bad habit Ive got on the the go now but anyway my friends call me “Angel” so u can call me that if u like but I am so imspired by meatloaf and Jim Steinman man they are like chalk and cheese. They blend well together not the chalk and cheese cos that would just be disgusting. Sometimes I wonder what the hell is he singin about. He is just the coolest guy in town!!!

  • m00

    The album sold 26 million copies

    [edited]

  • m00

    Don’t edit my post [Deleted. Er, welcome m00. I’m the Comments Editor around here, which means I get to decide what gets edited. You may care to check out the BlogCritics’ Official Comments Policy. Comments Editor.]

    Like I said the album sold 26 million copies and paradise by the dashboard light earned its place in the hall of fame for music

    [Deleted]

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    Hi, Meat.

  • ffffyf

    urrrgh, i hate meatloaf. His music sucks and hes fugly

  • m00

    Lol deleted
    You’re such a fucker.
    The fact still remains, the autor of this article has a big cock up his ass and really needs to remove it before trying to use the internet again and writing shit like this

  • http://www.cromely.blogspot.com Cromely

    I love this album. It’s over the top and proud of it.

    Every time I go on a road trip, this is the first album in the CD player. In a previous life, I manager to wear out two tapes of it.

    Paradise has shown up at a wedding I’ve been to, and I’m not afraid to admit I took center stage with the microphone before my voice finally disappeared from too much wacky dnacing and Jack&Coke.

    But the best song on the album is still 2 out of 3 Ain’t Bad

    “You’ve been cold to me so long
    I’m cryin’ icicles instead of tears”

    And…

    “You’re lookin’ for a ruby in a mountain of rocks
    But there ain’t no Coup De’ville
    hidin’ at the bottom
    of a Cracker Jack box”

    Classic.

  • m00

    Finally someone with some common sense

  • Frank

    Don’t be jealous Michele, it’s not Meat’s fault you failed at life

  • Colton Cerny

    Why does everyone compare Meatloaf to Springsteen? Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell is NOTHING like Bruce Springsteen other than the fact that much of it is piano and sax driven. Yes, the album uses the “wall of sound” approach just like Born To Run but come on guys.. this is the sound track to a musical. It’s absolutely packed full of cliches, in both the compositional and lyrical sense. I feel like the songs on Bat Out of Hell are not even meant to be taken seriously. They are just toe tappers glamorizing/satorizing the life of a typical “rebellious teenager”

  • Jos

    Your face isn’t meant to be taken seriously

  • Bob Dole

    Wow, you must like really shitty music. The Bat Out of Hell trilogy is one of the greatest series of hard rock albums ever.