Jim Steinman doesn’t keep live bats. In fact, he has never actually seen one, in the flesh. But he does have a mechanical bat, which he keeps in a cage. And he has a lot of bat paraphernalia, which he keeps in what he refers to as the Great Room at his Connecticut home — but which others call the Bat Cave.
Whatever you want to call it, it’s an amazing space: high ceilinged, with sofas scattered with spider-web patterned cushions. There is a lot of vampire stuff; crystal sculptures; imaginatively designed glittery skulls; an immense papier mache throne; Wagner collectibles from Bayreuth — and the Yamaha piano at which he composed some of his rock phenomenon, Bat Out Of Hell.
Steinman created the music and lyrics for the album, which made a star out of Meat Loaf, and which celebrates its 40th anniversary next year with a stage musical version: telling the story of rebellious lovers Strat (named for the Fender Stratocaster guitar) and Raven. (The world premiere will be at the Manchester Opera House, with previews starting on February 17.) He had been studying audition footage when I visited him — and later officially approved director Jay Scheib’s choice of leads. Pennsylvania native Andrew Polec will play the angry youth Strat (Polec describes him as a teenager who ‘just chases what he wants: girls, motorbikes, and lots of rock ‘n’ roll’).
And Belfast-born Christina Bennington will play Raven, the teen willing to risk everything to be with Strat — the boy from the wrong side of the tracks. ‘This is raw teenage love and lust and the struggle between parents and expectations,’ said Bennington, who was in the Sheffield Theatre production of Showboat which closed recently at the New London Theatre.
The album Bat Out Of Hell turned Meat Loaf (pictured on stage) into a worldwide star
After its run in Manchester, Bat Out of Hell will wing its way down to the Coliseum in London for a limited run from June 5 through July 22.
Steinman always meant Bat Out Of Hell to wind up in theatres. ‘No one believed in it for the stage, then, ’ he told me, wistfully.
When the album came out it was an instant hit; and since then has sold in excess of forty million discs — and a few million downloads. It still moves a staggering 200,000 units a year.
There are few adults who haven’t heard Meat Loaf’s heroic tenor belting out Paradise By The Dashboard Light, You Took the Words Right Out Of My Mouth and Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad.
Steinman, who was sporting a spiked dog collar and a spooky designer T-shirt emblazoned with a shadowy skull when I dropped by, described the title track as ‘the most dangerous song to drive by’.
He added, proudly: ‘It’s also the most karaoked number; the most sung in the shower — and the most sung at funerals.’
Bat Out of Hell started as a sci-fi version of Peter Pan. ‘It’s a story about kids who never grow up; and who fight authority,’ Steinman said. With its young lovers and warring gangs, it also channels Romeo And Juliet. ‘The songs are anthems to the essence of rock and roll, in a world that loves passion and rebellion.’
All the forces that influenced Steinman’s early years can be found in the Bat Out Of Hell numbers. ‘Little Richard, Jerry Lewis, Elvis — obviously! — and that led to the Beatles, the Stones and the Kinks.’
Theatre was a vital component. When Jim was nine years old his parents — rather daringly — took him to Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot, starring John Lahr, the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard Of Oz film. He was enthralled.
Not long afterwards he saw the US premiere of Long Day’s Journey Into Night (‘I cried my eyes out’); watched Glenda Jackson and Ian Richardson in Peter Brook’s production of Marat/Sade; and caught some of Edward Albee’s early works. The dramas infused him with a sensibility about broken families, and troubled offspring.
He loved classical music, too; particularly Wagner.
But when he mixed them all together, and came up with Bat, not everyone was impressed.
Super producer Clive Davis dismissed the work, saying Steinman didn’t know the basic rules of songwriting. ‘He told me the songs didn’t have a hell’s chance of being published,’ he recalled, in his slightly halting speech — the result of a stroke.
Despite Davis’s criticism, the first album made millions, although Steinman insisted very little came to him (he told me he wound up out of pocket to the tune of $23 million).
Andrew Polec and Christina Bennington pose for portraits as the lead cast for the musical
When he noticed me eyeing up the art in the Bat Cave he shook his head and said: ‘This is the house that Bat Out of Hell TWO built!’
He and Meat Loaf didn’t speak for years, because they were arguing over royalties and credits. ‘He was just Marvin Lee Aday!’ he exclaimed. ‘I totally created the Meat Loaf persona.’
They did work together again in 1993, and collaborated on a Bat-related LP, which was released in September.
At one point, Harvey Weinstein wanted to produce an animated screen version; but he turned him down. ‘I love dance — and you can’t really dance in animation,’ he said. ‘And you can’t do sex in animation, either.’
Steinman’s manager David Sonenberg and rock producer and promoter Michael Cohl have joined forces to help Steinman finally realise his stage dreams for Bat Out Of Hell which, as this column first told you several months ago, will be officially launched in London next week.
Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton will play Raven’s parents Falco and Sloane; and the cast will also include Aran MacRae, Danielle Steers, Dom Hartley-Harris and Giovanni Spano.
Roles will also be played by Patrick Sullivan, Jemma Alexander, Emily Benjamin, Stuart Boother, Georgia Carling, Natalie Chua, Jonathan Cordin, Amy Di Bartolomeo, Jordan Lee Davies, Olly Dobson, Hannah Ducharme, Phoebe Hart, Rosalind James, Michael Naylor, Eve Norris, Tim Oxbrow, Andrew Patrick-Walker, Benjamin Purkiss, Anthony Selwyn, Courtney Stapleton and Ruben Van Keer.
Visit www.batoutofhellmusical.com for ticket details in Manchester and London.
This article appeared in the Daily Mail on 10/27/16 and was written by Baz Bamigboye