Q - How hard or impossible an act was it to follow?
JS - Meat Loaf?
Q - Bat Out Of Hell.
JS - Oh, Bat Out Of Hell. Looking back, it was probably impossible but again, at the time, I didn't think that way. I just thought, well I gotta do something. Gotta write more. As a full album I don't know if I'd ever top it. You know, it's just like I said, the best thing I'll ever create in my life I did it in my school senior year. The best album I'll probably ever make is Bat Out Of Hell. I can't imagine making a better one. I guess I could but I can't imagine it.
JS - 'Cause it was like, you know, any birth, it just poured out. I didn't really expect to do an album, I didn't know what that meant. So whatever I was doing was so intuitive that I didn't know how to censor myself, or know that I didn't know what I was doing. I was too smart to know. I was really stupid, and I just did it.
Q - What makes you most proud about Bat Out Of Hell?
JS - Well I think I'm most proud, first of all, that people find it worth mentioning and writing about, particularly it's what they've written. This woman set up a fan web-site for me that she's run for like 15 years or something. She sends me all this mail. It's impossible in a way; it's like a hundred pages a day maybe, but I read it, pretty much all of it. Of those hundred pages there's always, like every day, 15 that I just wanna save forever.
JS - You know, people who basically say their lives have changed, and they tend to be all ages too. It's always amazing how important music can be to people. How it can, in fact, save a life or be a major part of saving a life, or transforming a life. I'm just really proud that it can affect them so much and it's like, I don't know, you feel like a key being stuck into the ignition outlet. Basically, what you feel like you're doing is you're igniting something.
JS - That's what religion's supposed to do, philosophy, art, sex, food (laugh) and everything I can think of that's good is supposed to ignite something. Set something on fire and start it going. I think that album did that for a lot of people and for a lot of people I think it was an introduction to things operatic and mythic and heightened. They didn't know it from pop music, so I'm most proud that it did that, you know, 45 million people out there actually bought it.
JS - Multiple copies, still buy it, still listen to it, and to me it doesn't sound one hour out of date. It was never in any date anyway. It was completely out of its time then, so it won't really get dated 'cause it didn't fit whenever it was made. It might in another hundred years be just right, I don't know (laugh). I'm just proud of what it represents because what it represents is what I love and what I always responded to, and it's good to get it down so other people can respond.
Q - How did the album help change your life?
JS - I don't know, I just don't know. In the most practical sense it set me on a path I never expected to do, of being a record producer and songwriter for the next 25 years. I never expected to do that. I expected to be doing films and theater, so there's that factor, just realistically. Also, on a deeper level, it showed that I wasn't insane thinking I could create something that could reach people, and it's sort of like, in the end, that's worth, that three dollars is worth a cab ride.
JS - You know, it's still just a thought. It doesn't get me through every day 'cause most, basically, every day I'm thinking I gotta write something else. But when I take the time, if I do, it's something that at least I can say I did something I'm really proud of that affected a lot of people. That was a real challenge and was done in a way courageously, if you can do anything courageously artistically, and certainly changed what I would do for the next 30 years of my life, and that's a lot.
Q - How long were Ellen and Meat a couple?
JS - I don't know how long they were a couple. I was mostly aware of it when we were up at Woodstock recording. I don't think it was a long time. Meat had a lot of interesting dalliances (laugh). He was a bit of a Don Juan, which is another thing I was proud of. I remember when we wanted to sign him. I was the only person who really was confident Meat would be really popular with girls, and everyone gave me real trash about that.
JS - They'd say, what, are you crazy? I mean, teenage girls aren't gonna like this. I said, I think you're wrong. It's like, just like the music 'cause they wanna see people like, you know, people like Peter Frampton at the time. They wanna see real thin great-looking guys. I'm saying, I don't agree. I just felt that for one thing, he was really good-looking.
JS - I mean, it's funny to say that but you look at him, especially then, he's inflated, so to speak, but he's good-looking, he's cool. He's got that Elvis thing. Plus I always felt, and this is just intuition, that women would have a thing like a mothering feeling, like it's a big baby and they'd want to mother him. I always thought that was underestimated. I mean, I've always felt that when men decide what appeals to women, they're really idiots.
JS - Which they are anyway, but especially when they decide what women are attracted to. I thought women would definitely be attracted to Meat Loaf 'cause he had a humor, a wild kind of almost pagan sensual abandon, in spite of his size, which showed a great kind of gutsiness and courage. Because of his size I thought it would bring out a certain, I don't wanna sound cliché, but a certain mothering instinct that women would respond to.
JS - 'Cause he was like both a big baby and the knight in shining armor who was gonna rescue them. I thought he'd be both of those things, and he was very popular with the women, thank God, 'cause they were half the population (laugh). I also thought men would respond to him because, you know, a similar thing, everyone was acting like the guys only wanted to see these great-looking guys, you know, 'cause they wouldn't (MUMBLES) with that. I thought the opposite. I thought guys are gonna really identify with Meat Loaf.
JS - 'Cause everyone I knew, every guy, even a great-looking guy, basically considered themselves looking terrible, you know, like an outcast. Certainly most rock and roll teenage males considered themselves outcasts and they wanted to gather with other outcasts. And here was, finally, a lead singer who was an outcast, physically embodied what an outcast was. He's the big fat guy you made fun of in school.
JS - Yet he broke the chains and said, I'm not the big fat guy you made fun of at school, I'm the big fat guy you better lick my boots, buddy. I thought that was a good transformation too. I saw no way that boys or girls, so to speak, wouldn't respond to him on a visceral level. I hadn't taken into consideration 50-year-old record executives who had a whole different opinion, but that's always the least valid, so I'll always trust the hormonal, instinctive, emotional instincts of teenagers above anything.
Q - So is Bat Out Of Hell the story of 40 million outcasts?
JS - Oh, absolutely. I think it's definitely the story of 40 million outcasts transformed into heroes. I think Bat Out Of Hell is about outcasts as heroes. In that sense it's no different than Batman, really, the superheroes of comic books. Really Batman's the only great one in my opinion, the only great superhero. I say that only incidentally 'cause I'm doing a musical of (laugh) Batman. But I've always loved Batman because of that, 'cause he's really human.
JS - And he's the way he is because he saw his parents being slaughtered. He's a total psychotic, neurotic, non-functioning human being who, you know, a playboy who has a totally superficial, silly life by day, and by night gets dressed up in codpieces, fetishistic (SP?) vinyl with enormous nipples and (laugh), and goes out with Robin on these adventures. I don't think you could find anything kinkier (laugh) and yet he's a hero.
JS - And it's that combination that's really cool. The complexity of the human element, the vulnerability and the power and just sheer visceral fun and excitement combined of the Gothic, transfigured image.
Q - Do you think this was the dream record if you were a kid?
JS - (OVERLAPPING) Oh yeah, I would have, I would have loved it. I still love it. I'm still amazed when someone puts it on and I go, this is great, just great. I wouldn't change a note. I mean it's, you know, when you say what I'm proudest of, I'm probably proudest of the fact I wouldn't change a thing. I just love the fact there's something that exists there that's exactly right. There's just nothing, I can't think of anything wrong. I would have loved it as a kid.
JS - I wish I had heard it. It's definitely what I would have responded to. It's, you know, it's basically bee-bop-a-lula carried to the ultimate extreme (laugh). You know, that's all it is. But that ultimate extreme is pretty thrilling when you get there.