MEAT LOAF FEATURE
All revved up with no place to go? Chart- topper MEAT LOAF offers succour to the musically confused, and the resulting record sales make for astonishing statistics, if nothing else. Tom Lappin attempts to elicit the secret Meat Loaf recipe.
it of a deep one. this
Meat Loaf character. An enigma. Myster-
ious. That's the subtext of ‘l‘tl Do Anything For Love (But I Wont Do 'l‘hat)‘. the interminable (eleven minutes and counting) chart-topper.
where the ‘that‘ of the title is never actually specified. In a million and one suburban living- rooms across the UK. the high- J Gothic video plays on 7bp ()f The Pops, Barry finishes his tea. turns to [Elaine and asks ‘what’s the fat bloke on about‘."
But Barry and [Elaine and Theresa and Steve and Andy and Cath and 750.000 like them all rushed out to buy the single. keeping it at number one for the seventh succes- sive week and giving the bookies. who offered it at long odds for the Christmas chart-topper. more than a few tremors. The album Bat ()m Of Hell ll: Back Into Hell also heads the lists, having shifted one-and-a-quarter-million copies in a mere couple of months. Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic a similar tale is being told, with Meat acolytes from every trailer park and city-sprawl condo in the Mid— West voting with their wallets to make their man top of both Billboard charts. Sixteen years after Bat Out Of Hell (26 million copies sold and still riding high in the album charts) Meatmania is truly with us again. and old- fashioned rock fantasies are being dusted off and worn with pride once more.
Satisfactory explanations of the first Bat ()ur OfHell‘s success are elusive. A camp melange of metal, opera. Spectoresque 60s pop and overblown balladry. the album managed to be less and much more than the sum of its parts. Jim Steinman. the composer and Wagnerian producer of both Bat albums writes for the lumpen dreamers of the provincial wastelands. his metaphors too crude for urban sophisticates. his arrangements too overblown for the musically literate. Steinman and his genial. bellowing cohort Meat Loaf stumbled on a ‘big music’ that had its own internal logic. enduring through every fad and fever of the fashion- conscious music industry and selling to people who didn't really like music.
1 /- : a j r 6, r. I, if
Who are you accusing ot “metaphors too crude for urban sophisticates and arrangements too overblown tor the musically literate’. sonny?
Accept that. and you realise that But ()m (2/ Hell II is actually a purer realisation of Steinman's ‘vision‘ than its commercial phenomenon of a predecessor. lts ambition is nothing short of vaunting. Witness But ()uI ()fHe/l's playful ‘Paradise By The Dashboard Light‘ a tragi- comic American nightmare short story of a teenager having to tell his date he‘ll love her till the end of time before he can get his leg over in the back of the convertible. ‘So now l‘m praying for the end of time.‘ screamed the chorus and a million harassed husbands nodded along and perfected their mother- in-law jokes. The sequel eschews easy-going laddish intimacy for something infinitely more porten- tous. taking the automobile imagery a whole lot further in ‘Objects in The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are’ (Steinman and succinct titles have never been more than nodding acquaintances). Sex is disposed of in a single. sickly verse (‘She used her body just like a bandage. she used my body just like a wound.’ par/ease). for this song is a metaphor for the whole shebang; life. existence. loss. regret. yearning. child abuse. premature death. and every damn thing short of losing yourjacket at the dry-cleaners. For: ‘Life is just a highway and the soul is a car. and objects in the rear-view
‘When it comes down to it, Meat loat’s muscley melodrama, masquerading as music can be
anything you want it to be, can paper any crack in your mundane existence.’
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
mirror etc. . .’ Life's hard knocks along the hard shoulder arejust a case of getting ‘your upholstery torn'. Heady stuff indeed.
The essential comedy of this (and there are countless other
preposterous examples) is undeniable. but Steinman and Meat Loaf don‘t make the
mistake of playing it for laughs. Drums. pianos. guitar orchestras and choirs of hormonally—hyped backing vocalists go for emotional overload. the non-PC platitudes (‘you gotta serve your country. you gotta service your girl‘) are swamped in oceans of everything-but—the—kitchen-sink noise. On a soundscape this broad. piddling little details like irony would be engulfed. chewed—up and spat out.
If Meat Loaf didn’t exist it would probably be necessary to invent him. Like Queen. Meat Loaf provides a bastardisation of accepted popular music forms. with an irresponsibly large injection of pomp and excess. Like Queen he reaches the untouched margins of musical consumption. the musically disenfranchised: they won‘t buy metal. they won‘t buy opera. they won‘t buy l\"lanilow. they won't buy Springsteen. but offer them all four for the price ofone. and a rockin‘ horror-pastiche video as part of the deal. and the rest is in the Guinness Book ()j’Recorrls. Unlike Queen. Meat Loaf is still doing the business. and he isn‘t selling any of the faithful short. As he assures us on the new record. hejust won't quit.
When it comes down to it. Meat Loaf‘s muscley melodrama. masquerading as music can be anything you want it to be. can paper any crack in your mundane existence. its appeal is that it caters shamelessly to its audience‘s straitened imagina- tions. The surface Gothic mystery is a necessary disguise for small- town banality. the off-the-peg rebel fantasies a user-friendly escape from sad suburbia. Next time Elaine asks Barry to do the washing-up. weed the garden. take the kids to school or let her go on top for once. he can turn to her and say ‘l'd do anything for love. but I won't do r/iat.‘ She'll understand. After all. if she doesn’t like it. like a bat out of hell he‘ll be gone when the morning comes (if he can get the Cortina started). A Meatloaf fan is never alone with his rock 'n’ roll dreams. Keep on believin’. D
Meat Loaf plays Glasgow Sl:‘(‘(.' (in Monday 6 December; and lj'you haven 'I go! a ticket. fret not, lie '11 be back on 19 March.
The List 3 lb December I‘M} 13