Can someone over 50 explain to me the Meatloaf "Bat Out of Hell" phenomenon?

Still a coupe years short of 50 but I own it. The length of the songs making airplay difficult addressees some of why you don’t hear more. It was unique but not way off the reservation. He wasn’t the good looking, over produced pop star of the moment making something derivative. He had some problems following up both musically and personally (suicidal ideations) so if you were going to buy something by Meatloaf you bought that one album. Many in that situation fade away.

Meatloaf had something most of those one album wonders didn’t. He had a role in a cult classic movie though. It was an audience participation musical - Rocky Horror Picture Show. Theaters showed it regularly for years. I grew up knowing about the movie and saw it the first time 12 years after it’s first run. Even those that never saw it tended to know of it and that he’d been in it. You can’t buy that kind of enduring publicity as a musician. For a good chunk of that enduring run there really only was the one album with anything anyone recognized That album just kept selling and selling. A good chunk of it’s total sales weren’t because it was so big in it’s moment but were because it kept selling.

And “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” is an audience participation song. :wink: That’s a big part of the album’s legendariness - it’s singable even if you can’t sing, it’s quotable, it’s unapologetically and thoroughly raunchy and ebullient, and it has a Phil Rizzuto cameo too. “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” taps into that same spirit.

Agree with what others have said about the high musical quality of the album contents. But also, the two songs that charted were “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”, a fairly mainstream & typical ballad; and “Paradise By the Dashboard Light”, a quirky novelty song.

Albums in 1977 sold mostly because they contained one or more hit songs and to a lesser extent because the album as a whole got talked up. It was after the era of the popularity of 45 RPM singles but before the era of downloading individual tracks, so when kids heard a song on the radio and wanted to own it, they bought the album. In this case, there were two hit singles PLUS yes, the album as a whole did get talked up as people, having bought it for the two songs, listened to the rest of it. Or because some late-night DJ on a college station spun up some of the other tracks.

Todd was the producer, arranger (Steinman would just hum what he wanted to Todd according to Meatloaf’s autobiography), most of the backing vocals and guitarist. He famously did the “motorcycle guitar” on the title track in one take.

He also took on the job after every record company had rejected it, financing the project out of his own pocket, thus scoring the best payday of his career.

He did it mainly because he thought it was a hilarious parody of the over-wrought songs of Bruce Springsteen. The musicians were a mix of Todd’s band Utopia and members of the E Street Band.

Also, the Rocky Horror theater I saw it in used to play the Paradise By The Dashboard Light film before every Rocky screening.

It didn’t really seem all that huge at the time. It was certainly popular, and got a lot of radio play, yet neither the album nor the singles from it even cracked the Top 10 of their respective charts. But it was one of those slow-burning “catalog albums” that continue to sell well year after year, which is much better for the bottom line than the kind of album that makes a huge splash and then disappears from the public consciousness a year later.

I once heard a song for the first time on the radio and said, “Damn, that sounds like a Jim Steinman song without Meat Loaf.” Turned out it came from a Steinman solo album that had been just released, so I was able to identify him as an artist even though I had never heard him before.

I’m 53. Like others have stated, it’s very theatrical and bombastic, Wearing everything on it’s sleeve, and executed to perfection. Meatloaf was a big sweaty wild man in concert as opposed to Plant, Jagger, Daltrey, Fleetwood Mac and Eagles types, and reputed to give it all to the point of collapse. Back then, where I grew up in the suburbs, the drinking age was 18 and the weed was cheap and giggly and we spent a lot of time hanging out in cars on dark roads and I think it had a certain amount of resonance in that culture. I was more into Prog but still got a kick out of some of the songs on that album.

Very interesting to see the opinions of you young whippersnappers. All I can say is that Karaoke Night is bad enough, and it gets even worse listening to Dashboard Lights, especially when they seem to get what the end of the song is about.

Anyway, generally I think the message of rock changed from the great social issues of the earlier time, war, rebellion, and getting stoned, and turned to the more pressing issue of getting laid left and right.

This - they are GREAT to sing along with. Which is also a Steinman trademark. His songs on the “Streets of Fire” soundtrack are also great to sing along to.
“Bat out of Hell” had a different sound to most of the pop/rock of the time. And they were great sing-a-longs (like at the top of your lungs, with the volume cranked all the way up).

(I’m 56 years old)

The two hits I remember (back in the 70s) were Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad, and You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth.

Paradise By The Dashboard Light didn’t even chart (it may not have been released as a single outside the US), and I’d never heard of it until a few years ago, at places like here on the SDMB.

53 here. I hated the album when it was new (and especially Paradise. I hate that song more than anything in the world, even more than I hate hyperbole), but over the years I have come to like the album, for many of the reasons given here. But paradise is still a “gofer” tune to this day.

In my school, at the time, it was not a “cool” album. It was “wuss rock”, like Journey or REO Speedwagon. Girls liked it, and therefore guys tolerated it. If you, a guy, liked it, you didn’t admit it.

I’m 48. At the time I would never have thought to buy an album from any of those groups. But don’t look at my records you may find Styx in there. But I have realized I appreciate their music much more now. And somehow I know all the words. I never bought Bat Out of Hell but now I can recognize that it is a well written and well produced album and Meatloaf sings the hell out of those songs.

FWIW, my 33-year old son came across this album at the public library when he was in junior high school. Back then you could check out cassettes from our library just as you could books. He LOVED it. I’m not sure he comprehended the scenario completely, at least not at first, but the sheer theatricality appealed to him and it was fun to sing along with at the top of your voice.

He checked it out repeatedly and eventually we bought it for him. He went on to other music in high school, but for a while that album was number one with a bullet at our house.

I would have bought a copy just for the “hot summer night” dialog that precedes “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth”. I’ve always liked “Heaven Can Wait”, too. I don’t care for “Paradise” myself. Title track is quite good.

I’m 56 and I love Bat Out of Hell. I didn’t buy it until 1982, because I never heard it on the radio, except for Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, and that only in the shortened top-40 version, which omitted the best line, There ain’t no Coupe de Ville hidin’ at the bottom of a Crackerjack box. I assumed that the album was a one-song wonder.

Then, one night, my college radio station played the title song, Bat Out of Hell, all ten minutes of it. It was transcendent. It was operatic. It was overblown and ridiculous, but in a good way. Good God, I thought, why haven’t I known about this album? I picked it up the next day and have been playing it ever since. Well, not continuously, but frequently.

In the UK Meatloaf was a complete unknown until a spectacular, energetic performance on the late evening tv music programme everyone watched, The Old Grey Whistle Test. Top of the Pops was for the teenybop singles chart, but TOGWT was for good music! Or at least that’s what all we prog and rock fans thought at the time.
Meatloaf’s performance was the hot topic the next day, and iirc, the response was so strong that they showed the footage again the next week (unheard of at the time).
It was also the one performance that everyone stopped and watched on that year’s Best of TOGWT show on New Year’s Eve. By that time it had sold massively, of course…

If you are of the iTunes / Autotune / texting / factory music generation of today, you may have difficulty appreciating intelligent, quality lyrics (that actually tell a story), music that is more than computer-generated metronome, expressing a lifestyle where people “hooked up” initially flesh to flesh and not text finger to text finger.

For me, it was a transition time, leaving the music of the 60s and early 70s, smack dab in the middle of disco but before the 80s drone music began. I wouldn’t consider BOOH as a failure or bridge between music eras. I think it was new, different, innovative, and the industry was reinventing itself and actually missed the boat. Music went a different direction. If there was any other group being that innovative at the time I would put Queen there, too. Queen exploded while Meatloaf didn’t.


If I recall Todd’s reaction was, “You’re kidding? You’re not?? Sign me up!!”

I’m more in this age range (early 30s), and I definitely had a couple of years in my early teens where I was listening to the first two Bat Out Of Hell CDs (my dad’s, of course!) all the time. I also saw Meat Loaf in concert shortly after the third one came out, and while that CD obviously had… shortcomings… it was still entertaining as hell, and the (fairly mixed-age) crowd still went nuts for the old stuff.