Meat Loaf: A Tasmanian Devil On Speed
The Washington Times
in a while a musical act will make some noise and "the word" will
circulate through the crowd that cares about such things. "The word"
is nearly always: "You've got to see this act." Keep in mind that
"you've got to see this act" is a lot different from "you've
got to hear this act." The idea is that seeing is believing, and some
major performers have made "the word" somewhat valid: Bruce Springsteen,
Barry Manilow, Billy Joel. For a time, it was the Tubes; then Warren Zevon
was the act to see. Until now. Until Meat Loaf.
By Mark Kernis
Friday, April 14, 1978
He is the ultimate "must see," and this area's getting its first
chance to check him out Saturday night, when he plays the Warner. "Plays"
is not quite right: "Storms" is more appropriate.
You see, the full on Meat Loaf is not just "you must see this act"
its "you must see this act before he dies from exertion."
Meat Loaf is 6'2" and officially weighs 240 pounds, though most people
swear he tips the scales closer to 300. (Size 52 shirt, for you rock 'n'
roll haberdashers.) He looks a lot like a zeppelin with feet - until the
music starts. Then he looks like a Tasmanian devil on speed. A fat Tasmanian
devil on speed.
Meat Loaf sweats. He groans. He throws his matted hair out of his eyes by
snapping his neck back on a classic '60s move. His band shakes and contorts.
This rock 'n' roll is not pretty. Pretty or not, though, Meat Loaf's first
album, "Bat out of Hell," has sold nearly 300,000 copies nationally
and more than 3,500 locally - not bad for a record that very few radio stations
are playing in their regular rotation.
Not only that, but Meat (as he's known to intimates) has had a three-page
spread in People magazine and a part in a Samurai skit with John Belushi
on "Saturday Night Live." (He also had two musical spots on the
show, but was admittedly weak.) All this from a guy whose name is synonymous
with the special in a cheap diner.
Meat Loaf is actually 29-year-old Marvin Lee Aday. After seeing his stage
act, it's hard to believe that he'll make it to 30. "No holds barred"
is an understated way of putting it. In fact, "Bat out of Hell"
seems more an excuse to get the band on tour than a way to debut a new musical
The record has some Bruce Springsteenisms, but they are implied than copied.
The title cut and parts of "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" have
the same rough street sound that Springsteen made viable, but Meat Loaf's
composer, Jim Steinman, writes to a much younger audience.
"Bat" has some surprisingly calm tunes ("Two out of Three
Ain't Bad," "Heaven Can Wait"), but "calm" is not
where Meat Loaf is coming from. "All Revved Up With No Place To Go"
is more like it but proves that, on vinyl at least, Meat Loaf is not as
good a belter as Ted Nugent, Robert Plant or most other true rock thunderthroats.
Technically, the album benefits from the presence of some of Springsteen's
E Street Band (Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg, Utopia's Roger Power, Edgar
Winter and the production of Todd Rundgren.) Rundgren is no stranger to
strangeness, having once produced the New York Dolls, and handles Meat Loaf
with the right dashes strings and shrieks. The songs are not very strong,
but there are some clever moments "Paradise by the Dashboard Light"
features New York Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto unwittingly describing
a teenage sexual adventure in a car - "He's on first base, trying for
two . . ." - get the idea? You have to hear the way its done!
And a lot of people have apparently had to see the way it's done. Meat Loaf
sold out a three-night run at New York's Bottom Line in a matter of hours.
His following in Northeast is legion, but the best Meat Loaf performance
story is the one about the CBS Records convention in New Orleans. Apparently,
Meat whipped his audience of record promoters and industry elite into such
frenzy that they collectively destroyed the ballroom in admiration.
Meat Loaf is not going to be everyone's favorite dish. But when he starts
throwing weight around, you might want to be there. Every concert could
be his last.
The Washington Post
Monday, April 17, 1978
rock satire has leaned either to the slapstick or to the artsy - the Mahavishnu
Orchestra or the Tubes.
Now comes Meat Loaf, a parodist so accomplished that the result is taken
at face value by most of his audience. Rock superstars, heavy-metal volume,
pretentious lighting effects, choreography, and the themes of frustration
and revolt which obsess many rock acts receive a sound drubbing at the
hands of Meat Loaf and his accomplice/composer Jim Steinman.
No one in Meat Loaf's act just walks onto the stage. Each member of the
band makes an entrance, and once on, is continually snapping into the
hands-on-hips pose of a topless dancer. Steinman appears to the sinister
death march of a drum roll, caressing his black leather gauntlets and
pounding fist into palm. He removes these one finger at a time to reveal
the white gloves of a concert pianist, which he then pulls off with his
Meat Loaf himself, his 250-plus pounds squeezed into a tux and ruffled
shirt, stalks to the edge of the stage and eyes the audience predatorily
before swigging from a bottle and spitting on the floor. He clutches his
trademark prop, a reddish chiffon scarf. There is apparently an inexhaustible
supply of scarves, several of which are tied around his mike stand, and
of tuxedo pants. Saturday night at the Warner Theater, Meat managed to
destroy two pairs, ripping the inseam of the first from crotch to knee,
and splitting the seat out of the second.
The band opens with the title cut of their Epic album, "Bat Out of
Hell," which is probably the best takeoff yet on Bruce Springsteen.
Like the best parody, "Bat Out of Hell" is successful enough
to get by on the very ground it parodies and may well become a hit single.
But it is, in fact, a thorough rip-off of the "Born To Run"
album, and specifically of the "Night" track. Sprinkled throughout
are riffs, metaphors, even volume and tempo shifts lifted and transplanted
with admirable suavity.
Steinman's work is much smoother than the Neil Innes Beatles parodies
in "All You Need Is Cash," the Rutles special. "Bat Out
of Hell" proceeds logically and dramatically (as it did when Springsteen
wrote it the first time), while the Rutles numbers jam together familiar
phrases from three and four Beatles hits at a time!
Meat Loaf (Marvin Lee Aday) and Steinman didn't just stumble over the
concept of rock parody on their struggle toward Top 40 heaven. The two
met while working in the National Lampoon Show, and Meat Loaf played the
mentally defective singer Eddie in the film version of "The Rocky
Horror Picture Show." It's not surprising that they were invited
to appear on the lampoon of television, NBC's "Saturday Night Live."
In Washington, Meat Loaf's audience appears to be small - only about 500
showed up on Saturday night - but devoted. Those frantic few practically
shoved the opening act offstage, yelling for Meat Loaf, and emerged from
the Warner into the relative quiet of Pennsylvania Avenue wailing, "Me-e-e-at!"
Of course, there is the possibility that all this isn't meant to be funny.
But I don't believe it.