Meatloaf reminisces about Bat Out of Hell
40th anniversary marked by rock opus premièring in October
TORONTO — “Bat Out of Hell” is one of the biggest selling albums in music history, but Meatloaf says his rock opus was more of a slow burn with critics out of the gates.
“When ‘Bat’ came out there was 10 people maybe that liked it; and out of hundreds of reviews, we got one good review from the Cleveland Plain Dealer,” recalled the legendary entertainer in an interview on Monday.
After learning a DJ who came on at midnight planned to spin a song from the 1977 LP, composer Jim Steinman was among about 50 people crammed into Meat Loaf’s apartment to tune in.
“We invited everybody in the building and the stereo was cranked as loud as it could go,” he recalled.
“For them to play a 10-minute song, DJs back then loved ‘Paradise (By the Dashboard Light),’ loved ‘Bat Out of Hell,’ because they could go get a sandwich, they could go to the bathroom, they could take these breaks — they loved us. And then it became a point where everything started to have to be shorter.”
With 43 million albums sold, “Bat Out of Hell” ranks behind Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” on the alltime bestselling list.
As the album marks the 40th anniversary since its release, Steinman has brought fresh sizzle to “Bat Out of Hell” by encompassing the hits into a stage show making its North America première this fall.
Following a sold-out run in Manchester and a stint at London’s Coliseum Theatre opening in June, “Bat Out of Hell: The Musical” is set to begin shows in Toronto on Oct. 14 at Ed Mirvish Theatre.
Steinman created the books, music and lyrics for the musical centred on star-crossed love, rebellion and rock ’n’ roll. The musical features some of Steinman’s and Meatloaf ’s biggest hits, including “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That),” “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)” and “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”
For Meatloaf — a seasoned stage performer and an associate producer on the show — his collaborator’s creation is a natural for the theatre.
“If any musician has ever learned ‘Bat Out of Hell’ or any of Jim Steinman’s songs they’re more in the line of operas,” says Meatloaf. “I hate saying that because they’re rock records. But in chord structure-wise if you hear the first verse of ‘Bat Out of Hell,’ it’s nothing like the second verse — different chords. Even the choruses, the melodies are the same, but the chords vary.”
Meatloaf was in Toronto on Monday for a mini street concert featuring “Bat Out of Hell” stars Andrew Polec and Christina Bennington, who were both awed by the actormusician.
“He’s an inspiration. He’s a powerhouse,” says Polec, who portrays Strat, opposite Bennington’s Raven. “He’s like the guy who first landed on the moon and we’re just trying to follow. We’re trying to get to the moon as well.”
The flamboyant frontman says the intensity in the show very much echoes his own stage theatrics.
“They found the perfect people for the cast, and I think they showed them live footage of me onstage because the play is very highenergy,” says Meatloaf, who recently finished filming the pilot for new series “Ghost Wars” in Vancouver opposite Vincent D’Onofrio.
“All my shows were really high energy — even at 300 pounds I was doing cartwheels and flips and rolls. I played football in college so I was used to doing flips and rolls,” he says, laughing.
“So my shows were really energetic, and this show ... is major high energy non-stop.”
Meatloaf meets with lead performers Andrew Polec, right, and Christina Bennington from "Bat Out of Hell — The Musical," in Toronto on Monday.