Q - Do you remember any of the negative reviews?
JS - Oh I remember the negative reviews really well, yeah.
Q - What was your favorite negative review?
JS - Oh Dave Marsh was always the biggest asshole (laugh). Dave Marsh's first review for Rolling Stone was classic. Rolling Stone has always hated us (laugh). They always have this thing, it never bothered me really a lot. It always sounds contrived and it's true. I'm not really bothered by bad reviews unless it really kills the project but I don't think it can if the thing's good. Meat was more bothered I think than I was.
JS - I remember the first Rolling Stone review was Dave Marsh and it was very short. That pissed both of us off. It was like two paragraphs and he basically said it was junk and that it didn't have a prayer. He said, luckily you won't have to care about this because it'll be forgotten in two months or something. He just slagged it off totally, you know, I can't even remember the specifics but everything, vocals, the writing, production and what I remember about that was when we did Madison Square Garden he, I went to see Springsteen in Madison Square Garden.
JS - I'm sorry. He was there. He was part of Bruce's entourage. Springsteen's entourage. He's probably a perfectly fine person, no he isn't, he's probably a dumb schmuck actually. He was there and Meat and I went up to him, and I actually was going up to him because Elvis had died in '77. I mean, the summer we finished working on this record was a great summer to work. It was the summer that Elvis died. The summer of the Son of Sam. It was the perfect stuff going on for this record.
JS - People won't remember it outside of New York but it was the summer of the biggest blackout of the century in New York City in August '77, was this amazing blackout which, by the way, I'm convinced was (WORD?) by Todd Rundgren. Even though this is off topic, I'm still gonna tell you it 'cause it's worth it. 'Cause I'm not making this up. I believe this totally. We were up in Woodstock the night of, I don't know if you knew about this but in 1977 in August was the biggest blackout in American history.
JS - A power transformer that blacked out, I think, most of the east coast but all of New York City. All of New York City and New York state for something like 15 hours. I think most of, if I'm not wrong, a lot of east coast but I just only knew about New York. We were up in Bearsville and it started, well that's part of the story. We were up in Todd's studio and we were talking to him about the record.
JS - We were very, I don't even know what stage we were at with the record but it was summer so we were probably pretty much almost done. Probably we were working on mixes to tell you the truth. Todd had just had a new baby at the time and one thing I'll always remember that was great about Todd, he had these loudest speakers I ever heard. Great speakers. He would play the mixes in his home and the little baby was about, I don't know, five weeks old and it was right in front of the speaker in it's crib.
JS - And this music was so loud it was actually almost painful for me to hear and I'm thinking, this little baby who's just there, you know, sucking his thumb happily and I remember saying to Todd, Todd. He goes, what? I said, the little baby. What about it? Is it breathing? He said, yeah. He said, it's all right. I said, well what about the sound? It's incredibly loud. It's my house. That's the best. Good way to stake out the territory and make it clear at the beginning that this baby better be careful.
JS - But then I remember he said, ooh I want to show you my Star Trek machine. I've done amazing things to it. He had this Star Trek, I guess it's a pinball but it was beyond pinball. It was some sort of video machine, video game at the time. I don't know what to call it 'cause I don't remember the terminology at the time. But it was like an upright machine. I guess, you know, sort of revved up pinball thing, you know, I'm not finding the term but you know what I mean.
Q - It was a video game.
JS - What?
Q - It was a video arcade game …
JS - (OVERLAPPING) Yeah, video arcade game. Arcade game. That's what I was just trying for. He revved it up unbelievably. There was like 50 wires coming out of it into his speakers. He had wires going into it. He had added sound effects, all kinds of lights. It was, he's an electronic genius. This guy was making videos before people knew there were videos. So he was pretty astonishing at that kind of stuff and he started showing us this game. It was amazing. It was exploding.
JS - There were things coming out of the speakers that were so loud the place was rumbling like Dolby Surround, before there was Dolby Surround. It was this 20 minute display of pyrotechnics that was astonishing from his Star Trek arcade game. Then he's doing it and all of a sudden the lights flicker really badly. Oh, someone told me I should be careful of that. I hope I didn't go too far. They flickered and they went out and they came back on again. He said, oh I guess it's all right, I better not play anymore tonight though.
JS - I think I might have gone a little bit too far. Then they moved off to another subject. It was forgotten. That was around 10:14 I think, 10:13 or 14. It was like between 10:12 and 10:15. I remember it was 10:14, something like that. So we went back to the city, Meat and I, and it was a great example (of) how you become obsessed with something. We were so obsessively talking about the mixes and the album, we're driving, Meat's driving and we're talking, well I think it should do this.
JS - I don't know if the guitar's gonna be up, and we were talking. Before we realise it we know that we're halfway in New York City and Meat goes, Jimmy do you notice something weird? And I said, no what do you mean? He said, look around you. Look outside. Hey, it's all dark. And it's hard to explain to someone who hasn't seen it but to imagine all of New York City completely dark and we've been driving in it for like five minutes from the west side highway to midtown, we're in midtown Manhattan (in) complete darkness.
JS - We didn't notice it for five minutes. He goes, what's going on? Do you think there was a bomb of some kind? What could've happened? I said, I don't know. This is great though, it's all dark. Then we see people running through the streets and we ended up driving for two hours in total darkness. You turn on the radio and hear the immediate thing, the first thing, we turn on the radio and they're describing the blackout and I remember it so well.
JS - The news station would say, it's not totally clear what's causing this blackout. The police are saying, do not panic. They're gonna have this under control. Then, you know, 20 minutes later they say, okay there was a bulletin. We seem to get it somewhere. The power authority has notified us that the blackout started in Newburgh, New York. Newburgh, New York is one of the two major transmitters and conduits for New York City.
Q - So what did the guy on the radio say?
JS - Oh, so we hear a bulletin and he comes on with an update. He says, here's the latest information on this blackout. It seems to have started at one of the two major electrical transmitter conduits, whatever the word is, for all of the east coast which is located in Newburg, New York. For those of you who don't know that's right around Woodstock, New York, and it's exactly Woodstock, it's the same place.
JS - They said that it seems to be a transmitter went down at 10:14pm and caused a chain reaction all through the north east, and this is the blackout. I'm convinced to this day it's just no accident. I mean, it could be an accident that it started flickering but it was right when Todd had one of these huge blasts on his Star Trek arcade game. I like to think anyway that our record and Todd caused the blackout of '77, and it was also, you know, it was the summer Elvis died, it was the summer Son Of Sam.
Q - Is there something of Elvis in Meat Loaf?
JS - Oh yeah, Meat has Elvis in him. I mean, I've never seen him with a peanut butter and banana sandwich but he's the closest thing to an Elvis. And I loved Elvis. I'm a true Elvis lover, I loved Elvis when he made horrible movies and was fat. I think the fat Elvis was just as great. I mean, Elvis's brilliance was he transcended everything. Bad songs, being fat, bad movies, horrible co-stars. You know, like Shelly Fabares or whatever it was. It didn't matter, it was Elvis. He could do anything.
JS - I think, you know, Meat has a little bit of that. He, it's a lot of Elvis soul in him. You know, it's funny 'cause I took him in a totally different direction with the kind of writing I did except the one song that's interesting about that is Two Out of Three Ain't Bad. That came very specifically, I do remember that one was, a friend and I named Mimi Kennedy, who's a TV actress, now wonderful actress.
JS - She was my best friend's girlfriend at the time, now wife. I remember her telling me, she said, you know, when I was probably complaining why no one liked my stuff and couldn't get a deal, she says, well Steiny, your stuff is so complicated. Can't you write something simple, and while she was saying that the oldies station was on the radio and it was playing that old Elvis song, I Want You I Need, whatever it was.
JS - I Want You I Need You I Love You, you know. I just started singing my own song but it was I Want You I Need You I Love You. She said, why don't you write something simple like that, I want you, I need you, I love you? I said, well I'll try. I don't try to make them complicated. I remember going home and I tried so hard but the best I could do was: I want you, I need you but there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you, don't be sad, 'cause two out of three ain't bad.
JS - So it was still a twist but it was my closest to a simple song, and one Elvis could have done. But I always thought Meat had a lot of Elvis in him. He was a showman in the same way. You know, it's great 'cause it is connected. This goes back to Jim Morrison and The Doors, my favorite group from the '60s. They always used the word Shaman a lot, Shaman being the tribal leader who would conduct the rituals. The sorcerer or the tribal leader and the guy who would hand out the magic mushrooms.
JS - Or the guy who would say the right prayers. Basically it's if the Pope was cool, he'd be a Shaman, the biggest Shaman. It was always interesting to me that Meat was kind of like a Shaman, which is so close to showman. I don't know if there's any connection linguistically but a great showman to me is also a Shaman, in that tears open doorways and lets you see things behind doors that you would never see.
JS - And creates altars so you could worship things that you're not aware of. It shows you the underbelly and that's always interested me more than anything else. What, the secret underbelly of things.
Q - Tell me what these people brought to the whole experience of Bat Out Of Hell: Ellen Foley.
JS - Well Ellen was a brilliant actress and a stunning singer. One of the best voices I've ever heard in my life, one of the best presences. She was great with Meat 'cause she, I once called her a stand-up tragedian as opposed to a stand-up comedian. She stood there and she emanated this sense of tragedy but she was so funny. The whole Beauty And The Beast thing was really built around him and Ellen. They were an amazing duo and she was an inspiring person to write for and she was a key. It was very much important that that girl always be with Meat Loaf, as a contrast. She was the first and she was stunning.
Q - How about Karla DeVito?
JS - Karla replaced Ellen. Ellen wasn't able to go touring and Karla replaced her as a live performer, and Karla was dazzling. They were very different. Ellen was a great live performer and Karla was a great live performer. Karla was a little more orientated toward the comic and the bubbly. Ellen was a little more powerful and a tragic element to it. But Karla just, she was a star. I mean, they both should have been major stars, no doubt about it. I'd trade in 50 per cent of every diva out there, I mean, now for every thousand notes that Mariah Carey will ever sing, Ellen could sing one that would blow it away.
JS - Nothing against Mariah Carey, I'm sure she's fine (laugh). It's just they were both astonishing performers more than anything. They both had theater training so they both had that amazing presence of knowing what they were on stage as being different than life.
Q - What about the manager?
JS - David Sonenberg just loved this, he was a lawyer, he was a theater lawyer so he also had a theater background. Then he became a lawyer for clients, and he was Meat Loaf's lawyer and then he became a manager. What he had is fanatic devotion, and belief, and he's very firey and determined. He just would stop at nothing and that was critical. He wasn't my manager when we did Bat Out Of Hell but he was a key force in that he believed.
JS - Again, you can't underestimate the power of belief. It sound sentimental but in the record business and in entertainment generally, it's translated from something sentimental into something actually practical and physical. If you have an aura of belief in something it becomes physicalized and you can force people to do things, 'cause people are all weak and they don't want it on their shoulders. No one wants to be fired or blamed.
JS - And they're happy to see someone who believes 'cause then they know deep down they can say, well I can blame it on David. I could blame it on Popovich, there's someone else to blame it on. In a way, that's what a believer is, someone who's not afraid to have it blamed on him, you know.
Q - Are there any other true believers we should mention who've been left out of this story?
JS - Oh yeah, I'm sure there are. I mean, that's the biggest scale but there are a lot of people who worked with Steve Popovich and they're just unknown people now. Marty Mooney and Stan Schneider I remember. Sam Letterman. There were people at CBS, Lenny Peavey, you know, there were people here and there who believed. There were definitely people in radio that, you know, I mentioned Scott Muni at NEW FM. A guy named Kid Leo who works for Sony now, in Cleveland.
JS - He was the top of rock and roll there. There was scattered all over the world, there were people who definitely believed and mostly there was the audience. There was the kid from Wisconsin, so to speak. There were just kids, and I don't wanna even marginalize it like that. The kids went up to age 40 or 50, they always did, who just believed in the music and they responded to that and they were invaluable.
Q - In your mind what were they connecting with?
JS - Well I think they were responding to two things. They were responding to the writing itself and the performing. Both things shared one thing: they were heightened, is the word I always think of. They weren't just ordinary, they weren't real, they weren't domestic, they weren't acoustic. I'm not doing that in the literal sense but the metaphorical sense. They were, you know, the Spinal Tap tradition, they were amplified to 11 as a starting point.
JS - They were amplified beyond amplification. Also, in terms of content, they were amplified beyond amplification. I mean, this was rock and roll that didn't just think you made the music go to 11 in amplification. You made the images go to 11 and you made the emotion. It was all extreme. It was about extremity. It was, in the musical sense, the same thing extreme sports would be to a kid watching ESPN2. It was about testing boundaries and not being, I don't wanna make it sound too heroic.
JS - It's more about not being afraid to find doors closed, and just open them up and go to another place. Not afraid to make something excessive and too much. Especially not afraid to go over the top, like I said, 'cause if you don't go over the top you don't see what's on the other side. So, not having any leashes, to feel free to be unleashed. They were responding to something mythic and to me rock and roll was always mythic.
JS - There can be good rock and roll that isn't, but I wasn't interested in domestic rock and roll. I didn't care what Joni Mitchell felt yesterday when she had asparagus and it reminded her as a child when her father hit her. You know, that's great if you can do it, but that wasn't interesting to me. I was interested in gods and goddesses and people who thought they were gods and goddesses, or tried to be. I was interested in the massive scale, in nightmares, in dreams as opposed to reality.
JS - And things that went
on in the subconscious rather than the ordinary daily life. Everything
heightened or hidden away or secreted or amplified or mythic. That's what
I think they were responding to 'cause I think we were doing that. I think
it's worth doing, it's something I respond to.