The day that I ever become hip… Please shoot me and put me out of my misery!
– Meat Loaf
Greatness isn’t something that just falls out of the sky or appears out of nowhere, it lines up its chosen targets wisely and carefully, and as much as it gives them, it takes even more away.
Michael Lee “Meat Loaf” Aday who was originally christened Marvin Lee and later changed his name in the pursuit of fame, fortune, and a stable acting career, would be the first to admit that life has handed him his fair share of lemonade and lemons.
A creative whirlwind who sang his way to mainstream glory on one of the biggest selling albums of all time, Bat Out Of Hell, his strange path to becoming one of the most beloved, unhip artists in the history of rock and roll is littered with triumph, misfortune, success, and disappointment that seems to corroborates the old wives tale that the brightest dawn always follows the darkest night.
Young Marvin Aday was on first-name terms with adversity before he could even walk. Earning the nickname “Meat” mere hours after he was born after his father told the attending nurse to label his crib with a tag bearing that infamous title because his son looked like “nine pounds of ground up chuck”, it was a badge that, as he grew up in Dallas, he learned to wear with pride.
It wasn’t until he started playing football in high school that he was given the surname that he’d later adopt in his singing career.
Spending as much time searching for his alcoholic father in the bars of his home city with his mother as he did with his often absent parent at home, Marvin Aday was incredibly close to and worshipped his mother. He knew how much she gave up for him, and how devoted she was to her son, and he adored her as much as she cherished him.
When she passed away following his graduation from North Texas State University, a distraught and grief-stricken Meat rented a small apartment and locked himself in it for three and half months in an attempt to try and come to terms with his broken heart.
He only opened the door and agreed to rejoin the world when he was tracked down by a concerned friend, who helped him decide to try and fulfill his lifelong ambition to become a singer.
It’s A Long Way To The Top If You Want To Rock And Roll
After packing his bags and heading to the rock and roll capital of the world, Los Angeles, Meat Loaf was surprised by the initial interest in his career and turned down three separate recording contracts in the first year of his new life as an Angelino.
Why he rejected them is lost to the annals of time and shrouded in mystery, and who knows what might have happened had he signed on the dotted line and tried to take a different path to the top of the rock and roll mountain.
Despite a multitude of almost made-it moments, including a support slot with The Stooges, MC5, The Who, and Van Morrison, none of the bands that Meat fronted seemed to be able to push through the last boundary and take the next step based solely on their own merits.
Frustrated and disgruntled, and doubtless conscious of the effect that turning down the recording contracts might have played in his predicament, Meat Loaf grew weary of a business that he thought treated him “like a clown” and decided that it was time he tried something different.
“Long As I Can Grow It, My Hair..”
After successfully auditioning for, and becoming part of the West Coast production of Hair, Meat Loaf’s career seemed to finally be gaining some momentum, as he was offered a chance to record for Motown as half of the duo Stoney and Meat Loaf.
It wasn’t exactly a bed of roses though and even though he and his partner toured relentlessly to support their only album, 1971’s Stoney and Meatloaf, and despite the fact that the brothers in soul scored a top sixty hit with the single What You See Is What You Get, the tension between Meat Loaf and Motown soon reached boiling point and Meat Loaf returned to cast of Hair, albeit on the other side of the country.
While performing in the infamous hippie musical on Broadway, Meat Loaf auditioned for a new musical about the complexity of human relationships and the inexplicable way they sometimes play out, set against the backdrop of the war in Vietnam, More Than You Deserve.
It was an audition that would forever alter the course of his destiny and change his life in ways that he couldn’t have possibly dreamed about.
After being cast as Rabbit, a semi-psychotic soldier who was determined to help his friends get home, no matter what it cost, Meat Loaf met the man who would help to propel him to international fame, Jim Steinman.
More Than You Deserve was one of Jim’s first forays into the world of musicals, but it wouldn’t be his last, and in nineteen seventy-three, he started working on a new musical project with his friend and gifted vocal partner on what would become Bat Out Of Hell.
“When Eddie Said He Didn’t Like His Daddy…”
Around the same time that he was busy writing and working on Bat Out Of Hell with Steinman, Meat Loaf was cast in the role that would adhere him to a cult audience forevermore, when he joined the cast of the original Roxy production of The Rocky Horror Show.
Playing the parts of Eddie and Dr. Everett Scott, he was one of the only members of the West Coast production ensemble that made the cut when Twentieth Century Fox started rolling the cameras on The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Although he’s on record as stating that he thought that the producer’s decision to recast Dr. Scott for the film and have him only play Eddie weakened the film (he’s probably right, he usually is about these things), it ensured that his name carried a little more weight than it previously had outside of the musical and theatre set and helped to perfectly position him for the next stage of his journey to global infamy and the staggering highs and lows of rock and roll superstardom.
If he knew what was waiting for him would he have cowered in terror and hit the road as Eddie again, or would he have accepted everything, warts, sales, and all that fate was about to serve on a silver platter?
“Like A Bat Out Of Hell…”
Even though they started work on Bat Out Of Hell at the tail end of ninety seventy-two and the opening months of nineteen seventy-three, it wasn’t until Meat Loaf decided to take a break from his theatrical career to focus on music in nineteen seventy-four that he and Steinman became serious about writing the record.
Envisioned as a musical by both men, they knew that they needed an extra voice, to push the title track and Paradise By The Dashboard Light into the stratosphere. The help they needed came from an unexpected and incredibly welcome source.
Having become good friends with John Belushi, Meat Loaf became his understudy for the National Lampoon New York production of Lemmings. And while he was serving as Belushi’s understudy, Meat Loaf met Ellen Foley. When he asked her about the possibility of joining the then-fledgling project, she immediately agreed.
There was still one vital ingredient missing, and Steinman and Meat Loaf wouldn’t discover it until they started to unsuccessfully pursue a recording contract for their project.
A Little Rundgren On The Side
While they were desperately trying to find a home for Bat Out Of Hell Steinman and Meat Loaf met Todd Rundgren who, impressed by what he heard, not only agreed to produce the record for them, he also ended up playing guitar on it. But even with the power of Utopia’s guitarist behind them, it took the musical partners almost another year to finally find a record label that was willing to take a chance on their album.
And in October nineteen seventy-seven, Cleveland International Records released Bat Out Of Hell. It was the greatest business decision that they had ever made as the record has, to date, sold nearly forty-three million copies worldwide.
The Neverland Express
Every musician knows that in order to sell more records and firmly establish yourself as a force to be reckoned with on the frontlines of rock and roll, you need to tour, tour and tour some more.
Steinman and Meat Loaf knew that they had to take Bat Out Of Hell out on the road, and formed The Neverland Express (which included the Kulick brothers Bob and Bruce, who would later both play in KISS in its ranks) in order to play their songs on the road.
Their very first show was as the opening act for Cheap Trick in the band’s hometown of Chicago. They blew the roof off the venue, and within weeks became an all-powerful live act that built on the rapid-fire success of the record they were supporting and promoting. And as the sales of Bat increased, so did the band, and Meat Loaf’s popularity as a marquee name.
The increasing presence of the album and band meant that it was only a matter of time until they were invited to appear on one of the country’s most popular television shows, Saturday Night Live.
On March 25th, nineteen seventy-eight, mainstream America met Meat Loaf and The Neverland Express and received their first taste of Bat Out Of Hell when they were introduced (wrongly after he misread the auto-cue) by Christopher Lee. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Or at least it would be if fate hadn’t stepped in to intervene
Eager to capitalize on the success of Bat Out Of Hell Steinman started to write the follow-up record for Meat Loaf, Bad For Good, but after nearly two years on the road, the effects of a relentless touring schedule had taken their toll on the singer.
Exhausted and having subjected himself and his body to the excesses that walk hand in hand with rock and roll, Meat Loaf’s voice was shot, and he was in no condition to return to the studio to begin work on another record. Steinman shelved his plans and went back to the drawing board.
By the end of nineteen eighty, Meat Loaf had returned to full fitness and was ready to start recording his next Steinman penned record, Dead Ringer. While it wouldn’t achieve the same level of worldwide acclaim and sales as its predecessor, it did reach the number one spot in both the UK and the US, thanks in no small part to the title track, which featured a duet with Cher that captured the hearts of fans, both new and old alike, everywhere.
It seemed as though Meat Loaf was unstoppable, and anything that he, and Steinman, touched would inevitably turn to gold. And that was true. Right up until the minute that the wheels came off, and the wild, untamed ride came to a crashing halt.
Nothing Lasts Forever
Following the release of Dead Ringer, Steinman and Meat Loaf parted ways under less than amicable circumstances and both men attempted to sue each other on numerous occasions throughout the next decade.
However, his former writing partner wasn’t the only legal obstacle that Meat Loaf faced, as his management team also threw their hat into the ring and sued their client for breach of contract.
It was a miserable time for the singer who, despite selling millions of records, found himself broke and almost destitute thanks to the cost of the court cases he was battling and the implications of his legal issues. By his own admission, Meat Loaf was forced to tour to keep the lights on at home and pay his ever-increasing mountain of bills.
Ground down by his ever-increasing work-load, Meat Loaf released another three albums Midnight At The Lost Found, Bad Attitude, and Blind Before I Stop, and toured unceasingly throughout the decade, but couldn’t match the runaway success of his previous collaborations with Steinman, and seemed to be doomed to posterity, hoisted by the chains that Bat Out Of Hell had wrapped him in.
While he was still a more than considerable live draw, Meat Loaf still yearned to once again sample the same level of success that his Steinman written records had granted him. And, in an effort to put the past behind them, and at the dawn of a new decade he reached out to his former partner, and they once again entered the studio and began work on what would become Bat Out Of Hell II.
Lightning it seems can strike twice and the album went on to sell nearly sixteen million copies and its lead single I Would Do Anything For Love reached the number one spot in twenty-three different countries.
But despite all of that, or maybe because of it, in the intervening years, even though they would once again find the success that they desperately wanted and needed, both together and separately, Steinman and Metal Loaf once again fell out, and tried to sue each other over their back catalog.
It was a pattern of behavior that would take up too much time in their lives until Steinman succumbed to kidney failure and died on April 19th, two thousand and twenty-one.