R.I.P. Mr Loaf

The sad news has come through in the past hour of the passing of Marvin Lee Aday, who you may know better as Meat Loaf. I’ve been a fan of his ever since he unleashed Bat Out Of Hell onto the world, and he has always been my ‘go to’ guy when things were getting on top of me and I needed to blast a few cobwebs away. As I do on these occasions, I’m sharing my own personal tribute to him and his music. Make sure your volume control is set to max to play these!

He was born in Dallas, Texas on September 27, 1947, the only child of Wilma Artie (née Hukel), a school teacher and member of the Vo-di-o-do Girls gospel quartet, and Orvis Wesley Aday, a former police officer who went into business selling a homemade cough remedy with his wife and a friend under the name of the Griffin Grocery Company. His father was an alcoholic who would go on drinking binges for days at a time, which started when he was medically discharged from the U.S. Army during World War II after being hit with shrapnel from a mortar. Not the most auspicious of starts in life, and young Marvin often spent time with his grandmother during childhood. Before committing himself to a career in music he was an actor, appearing in Hair, The Rocky Horror Show and the movie version The Rocky Horror Picture Show, plus many others, including a part in the Spice Girls’ movie Spiceworld – I can’t comment on that last one as I’d have to be coerced or blackmailed into watching it! For me, though, it is his music for which I will remember him best.

His solo career comprises twelve albums, though he had said last November that he was planning to go into the studio this month to record tracks for a new album. I’m guessing that didn’t happen, though. All twelve of his albums reached the UK albums chart, and ten did so in the US – all of them achieved higher placings here than in the US, though of course sales volumes were much bigger over there. His debut album, Bat Out Of Hell, has enjoyed phenomenal success, and has sold well over 40m copies worldwide. Perhaps surprisingly, on its first release it didn’t chart as high as you might have expected: at #14 in the US and #9 in the UK, though it has reached #1 in several countries. But its staying power has been amazing: by the end of 2019 it had clocked up a total of 522 weeks in the UK albums chart. As befits such a blockbuster I’m going to share three of its tracks, and add in another two of his biggest hits as well. The first from BOOH (I’ve always loved that acronym) is this one:

Paradise By The Dashboard Light was the third single release from the album in the US, although it wasn’t a single here. It peaked at #39 in the US chart, and was also a hit in Canada, Belgium and The Netherlands. The amazing female vocalist who features on the track is Ellen Foley, who sang on four of the album’s seven tracks and has enjoyed a successful career of her own as a singer and an actor. But she isn’t in any of the videos for the album: her own contractual obligations got in the way, so the lady you see is Karla DeVito, lip synching to Ellen’s vocals. Karla also sang on live shows promoting the album.

The first single from Bat Out Of Hell also featured Ellen. I love the intro to the song on this official video, which doesn’t end in a way you might be expecting:

That one was released here as well, in October 1977 to tie in with the album’s release, and it peaked at #33 in the UK and #39 in the US, though it made the top ten in several other countries. A typical Meat Loaf performance, with masses of energy – not bad when you consider that his stage name was actually a nickname given to him by his college football coach, on account of his size!

The follow up to that album was Dead Ringer. This is its title track:

Another great performance, in this case duetting with Cher, back in the days when her body comprised far less plastic than it does now. The album was released in September 1981, and only got as far as #45 in the US. It was, however, a #1 album in the UK – see what I mean about him doing better over here? I’m not sure if this was a single in the US but it was here, and eventually reached #5 after a slow climb up the charts.

Meat Loaf’s sixth album was Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell, which was released in September 1993. This was the first single from it, released in August as a teaser for the album:

The album was a big success, reaching #1 in both the US and the UK, plus a further eight countries, and has sold over 15m copies worldwide. I Would Do Anything For Love was a massive hit: it reached #1 in twenty eight countries, including, of course, the US and the UK. It still bears his trademark style, but in a slightly less frenetic way (if that is possible for him!). The video is themed around Beauty And the Beast, and the uncredited duet voice belongs to an English singer, Lorraine Crosby. This album came out at a time of some big life changes for me, which included a career change involving a long car commute around north London: it kept me company on many of those journeys, and I have a particular fondness for it as a result.

There is only one place in which I could conclude this tribute to a man whose music has given me so much pleasure for more than forty years, isn’t there? This is where it all began:

On first release this peaked at #15 in the UK charts – it wasn’t a single in the US. The album was revamped in 1992, and this track was re-released as a UK single, doing better second time round in reaching #8. I was stunned by it the first time I played it, and still have that reaction whenever I hear it. That searing guitar of Todd Rundgren gets me every time! The song and the album defined Meat Loaf’s career right from the outset, and he has given us so much more to enjoy since then: this post barely scratches the surface, but I felt the need to listen to his music today and to share my sadness at his passing.

So R.I.P. Mr Loaf: I may not have agreed with your politics, but you sure made some great music. Thanks for those musical memories 🤘😢