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In Memory of Meat Loaf, Who Helped My Generation See Paradise By The Dashboard Lights

In Memory of Meat Loaf, Who Helped My Generation See Paradise By The Dashboard Lights

Meat Loaf played a big role in the coming of age of me and so many others who graduated high school in 1977, the year Meat Loaf released his massive hit album, Bat Out of Hell, which remains one of the top 10 best selling albums of all time.

I’m at the age when so many of my childhood and teenage years music heroes are succumbing to time. I don’t usually write about them, there are just too many. But I will write about Meat Loaf (born Marvin Lee Aday, from Dallas, Texas), who died last night at age 74.

Meat Loaf, who was born Marvin Lee Aday and took his stage name from a childhood nickname, had a career that few could match. He was a trained Broadway belter and a multiplatinum-selling megastar whose biggest hits, like “Bat Out of Hell” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” were radio staples — and barroom singalongs — for decades….

Meat Loaf also appeared in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Fight Club” and other films.

His death came just a year after that of Jim Steinman, the songwriter who wrote “Bat Out of Hell,” a record that brought Broadway-style, operatic rock to audiences at a time when, in the face of disco and punk, it couldn’t have been more unfashionable….

His first major film role came in 1975 in the cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” in which he played Eddie, a delivery boy murdered for his brain by the cross-dressing Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Meat Loaf also appeared in “Wayne’s World” (1992), “Spice World” (1997) and “Fight Club” (1999). More recently, he had a role in several episodes of the TV series “Ghost Wars” in 2017 and 2018….

In recent months, Meat Loaf had been in the news complaining about Covid-19 restrictions. In August, he told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “If I die, I die, but I’m not going to be controlled.”

Why “Meat Loaf”?

Meat Loaf played a big role in the coming of age of me and so many others who graduated high school in 1977, the year Meat Loaf released his massive hit album, Bat Out of Hell, which remains one of the top 10 best selling albums of all time.

The album, according to internet searches, was released in October 1977, at which point I was in college. Almost every song on the album was memorable, but I remember two in particular.

Paradise By The Dashboard Lights.

Well, what can I say. Freshman in college. It was a ballad of a guy who would say anything to get some action. I’m not saying that was me, but I’m also not saying it wasn’t. It’s a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

In the song, that guy was willing to promise love until the end of time, if that’s what it took:

[Boy:]
Well I remember every little thing
As if it happened only yesterday
Parking by the lake
And there was not another car in sight

And I never had a girl
Looking any better than you did
And all the kids at school
They were wishing they were me that night

And now our bodies are, oh, so close and tight
It never felt so good, it never felt so right
And we’re glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife
Glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife
C’mon, hold on tight
Well, c’mon, hold on tight

Though it’s cold and lonely in the deep dark night
I can see paradise by the dashboard light

* * *

[Boy:]
‘Cause we were barely seventeen
And we were barely dressed…

Just say it. Say ANYTHING. Whatever she wants to hear. Whatever it takes. Even though you know you’ll regret it.

[Girl:]
I gotta know right now
Do you love me
Will you love me forever
Do you need me
Will you never leave me
Will you make me so happy
For the rest of my life
Will you take me away
Will you make me your wife

I gotta know right now
Before we go any further
Do you love me
Will you love me forever

***

[Boy:]
I couldn’t take it any longer
Lord, I was crazed
And when the feeling came upon me
Like a tidal wave
I started swearing to my god
And on my mother’s grave
That I would love you to the end of time
I swore I’d love you to the end of time

[Both:]
So now I’m praying for the end of time
To hurry up and arrive
‘Cause if I gotta spend another minute with you
I don’t think that I can really survive
I’ll never break my promise or forget my vow
But God only knows what I can do right now
I’m praying for the end of time
It’s all that I can do (ooh, ooh)
Praying for the end of time
So I can end my time with you

Oh, to be seventeen again. The anthem of a generation of teenage males. My generation.

Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad

Another Meat Loaf song that seems to portray a callousness towards the opposite sex, someone who can give some things, but not love.

Baby we can talk all night
But that ain’t getting us nowhere
I told you everything I possibly can
There’s nothing left inside of here

And maybe you can cry all night
But that’ll never change the way that I feel…

* * *

And all I can do is keep on telling you
I want you
I need you
But there ain’t no way
I’m ever gonna love you
Now don’t be sad
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad
Now don’t be sad
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad

But that’s not what the song is about. It’s about someone who lacked an ability to love because of his own experience being on the wrong end of a ‘two out of three ain’t bad’ story:

There’s only one girl that I will ever love
And that was so many years ago
And though I know I’ll never get her out of my heart
She never loved me back, ooh I know
Well I remember how she left me on a stormy night
Oh she kissed me and got out of our bed
And though I pleaded and I begged her
Not to walk out that door
She packed her bags and turned right away

And she kept on telling me
She kept on telling me
She kept on telling me
I want you
I need you
But there ain’t no way
I’m ever gonna love you
Now don’t be sad
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad

Gulp. The flip side of the anthem of a generation.

There are other songs, of course, and appearances in other media.

But for me, when I think of Meat Loaf, I’ll always think of these two songs, and the lost innocence of those late teenage years.

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Comments

Such a talented and entertaining guy! The video of “Paradise” has to be one of the all time BEST!! Meatloaf’s acting chops really came into play and the girl was great too!

For crying out loud, you know we love you, Meat Loaf.

MoeHowardwasright | January 21, 2022 at 8:53 pm

Two of my three children moved in with my “new” wife and I in 2005. Number 3 was in college. We came home from dinner and Paradise was playing on the radio as we pulled into the garage. We stayed in the car singing at the top of our lungs. We looked up to see two teenagers staring from the door at two adults singing to the radio. That’s “Meatloaf”. RIP my friend. Gone but never forgotten😢👏😎

Teenagers should all hear that song all the way through. It is the main bit of advice young people need. Be sure you are with someone you will still like in 10 years.

    herm2416 in reply to Martin. | January 21, 2022 at 10:08 pm

    We can say this from our life experience. But, to a 17 year old, 27 is light years away, isn’t it? If we knew then what we know now……

High School class of ’77 myself… I cried this morning..
Back when I had a job.. I did a rendition of Paradise with a co worker… at a retirement party.. Every could laugh back then… Someone has that on video, somewhere.

Meatloaf actually lived (for a while) near where I grew up in CT. My mother bumped into him at a local pizza place..

When I left home for college, we watched the Rocky Horror Picture show, and smuggled cheap wine into the theater. At some point, you threw toast.. I just can’t remember that well.

Some people have said RIP… I say Heaven is Rockin,, for sure.

A great running song and a video when not: I Would Do Anything For Love…but I won’t do that.

MArvin, I RIP, I hope your Rock and Roll Dreams Come True.

The Gentle Grizzly | January 22, 2022 at 12:59 am

The only thing of his unaware of that I ever heard was some scream singing about going someplace like a bat out of hell. Never really got into it. I guess that makes me an awful person.

    He was in the original broadway run of Hair and the west coast regional versions, He was in Rocky Horror Picture Show as Eddie. He was in a ton of non singing roles in films and theater. His recordings with Jim Steinman are what you are remembering, though only one song from the album. He also had a habit of falling and concussing himself on stage. He had like 17 concussions over the years. His vocal range was huge, and he was a very powerful singer. He didn’t do a single genre of anything, but he threw himself, often literally, into anything he did.

      I was never much of a concert goer, but I wish I had seen Meatloaf in concert. The ‘Bat of Hell’ tour was a good bit before my time, and by the time I was old enough to go to concerts, his album was not very good (Blind Before I Stop). But then came BOH2, and I would have loved to have gone to see him in concert then. Somehow didn’t, though. I wish I had. He was an amazing performer and singer (underrated, I think, on the latter). And actually a pretty good actor, too.

      I’m listening to BOH now, and “Heaven Can Wait” is just amazing.

        I saw him in concert in the early 90’s in North Carolina. It was a great show, but that wasn’t what made it spectacular. When they finally finished playing all of the band members leave the stage, and the audience starts heading for the exit. But about 20 minutes later Meatloaf came back out onstage and just sat down at the front of the stage, dangling his feet off the edge. No security, no one else, just him. A group of us went up to talk to him, and he just hung out and talked with us about anything we asked him – his music, his life, performing. He was the most down to earth guy imaginable- no airs, no attitude, just a humble guy who was grateful to be doing what he loved. Just a regular guy. He sat there and talked with everyone until no one had anything left to ask or talk about- I think it was over an hour. He was genuinely interested in eveyone – no sense of ‘when have I sat here long enough that I can leave.’ The world lost more than a good entertainer and musician – we lost a good human being.

    You are definitely not an awful person, Grizz. It’s weird, Meatloaf seems to be one of those “love him or ignore him” types. I think there are also love him/hate him types, but not Meatloaf. Hard to “hate” him since he was never really easy to categorize in terms of musical styles (he did hard rock, ballads, a little bit of head banging, but he did it all with heart).

    I’m on the “love” side with Meatloaf, but I get where you are coming from because I am on the “ignore him” side when it comes to Bruce Springsteen. I don’t hate his music, I can sit through it, but I’d rather not. 😛

    You’d have to confess to boiling babies for fun and profit before I would think you an awful person. 🙂

      The Gentle Grizzly in reply to Fuzzy Slippers. | January 22, 2022 at 8:02 am

      Springsteen is another I don’t “get”.

      As for boiling babies, Mark Twain write an essay in which the parboiling of children was considered.

        I’m with your on the not getting Springsteen (obviously, since I brought it up, heh).

        I’m not sure Twain suggested boiling babies, but I think Swift did. Shhhh! Don’t you know the pompous, humorless left are too intellectually-challenged and unsophisticated in their current black vs. white zombie commie mode to understand satire, intended to warn against coming horrors, and instead uses it as a guide (Orwell comes into play here, too).

          The Gentle Grizzly in reply to Fuzzy Slippers. | January 22, 2022 at 12:56 pm

          Twain wrote of parboiling children in an essay he wrote while in a hotel in San Francisco. He was being annoyed by some children in the corridior being noisy, and kicking on his door and running away.

          “Regarding Cramps. Take your offspring – let the same be warm and dry at the time – and immerse it in a commodious soup-tureen filled with the best quality of camphene. Place it over a slow fire, and add reasonable quantities of pepper, mustard, horse-radish, saltpetre, strychnine, blue vitriol, aqua fortis, a quart of flour, and eight or ten fresh eggs, stirring it from time to time, to keep up a healthy reaction. Let it simmer fifteen minutes. When your child is done, set the tureen off, and allow the infallible remedy to cool. If this does not confer an entire insensibility to cramps, you must lose no time, for the case is desperate. Take your offspring, and parboil it. The most vindictive cramps cannot survive this treatment; neither can the subject, unless it is endowed with an iron constitution. It is an extreme measure, and I always dislike to resort to it. I never parboil a child until everything else has failed to bring about the desired end.”

          http://www.twainquotes.com/mercury/BlastedChildren.html

I always loved the imagery in his lyrics. The two songs mentioned in the post were my favorites until “Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are”.

There was quite the all star team behind the recording of that album. It was produced by Todd Rundgren who added guitar and keyboards, his band mate in Utopia, Kasim Sulton added the base. Rundgren brought in two members of the E Street Band to play, Max Weinberg on drums and Roy Bitton on piano. Ellen Foley was the original female vocalist, Karla DeVito , who is in the video was the original singer when they went on tour. Edgar Winter even played sax on one track on the album.

Meatloaf…never cared for him myself. Too theatrical for me!

I absolutely loved these two songs back in the day. We’d ride around with the windows down blasting them and all singing along at the tops of our (very out of tune) voices. I think that was one of the things that made Meatloaf stand out, everyone sung those songs in the car . . . but didn’t do that so much with other music of the day. It was like we grabbed that narrative, the story, and made it our own by adding our own voices and emphasizing our own parts of the story.

As a related aside, I’m glad we didn’t sing many songs out loud while “cruising” because I honestly thought for the longest time that the Stones’ song “Beast of Burden” included the lyrics: “Don’t ever leave your pizza burnin’.” Sadly, I’m not kidding. *blush*

“I will do anything for love.
I will do anything for love.
I will do anything for love.
But I won’t do THAT!”

have a few years on you professor but remember “two out of three” very well–he was never my favourite but his intensity, his energy in delivery was amazing–we are very fortunate to have heard many from HIS generation in their prime–before the advent of autotune and heavily mixed/over-produced electronic massaging–when a performer actually had to be able to sing

don’t mind being old now to have been young then

Ditto, and thanks very much.

“Dood. You banged a chick in your car and now you gotta marry her?”

It’s an unitelligible time capsule from another galaxy to today’s gender fluid, polyamorous, stick it in any hole on OnlyFans generation, then take her to abort at PP.

Same for The Supremes ‘Love Child’ that bemoans the shame and pain of an out-of-wedlock child. “Dood. Wtf? We’ve got entire NFL teams who brag about this.”

An unitelligible time capsule from another galaxy…

    gonzotx in reply to LB1901. | January 22, 2022 at 3:25 pm

    Women evening shamed into giving up their children was a horrible cultural institution that very few young women could bare up to the pressure, many with families “shamed”. It ruined so many lives, and I know someone who get she had to give up her daughter, just terrible. We were co close but 16, I never offered to help, there never seemed to be a question after the 18 y/o boy wouldn’t marry her. He was on his way to the University of Madison and she was left alone. I’ll never forget it and really wished we had stayed intact amd that she and her beautiful daughter would one day find each other amd love each other.
    I’m getting sentimental and crazy about it, still after 50 years, And can only imagine how she felt.
    Now a days abortion has replaced so much in our culture, it certainly has replaced responsibility and family in the woke.
    I know women who had abortions and never could conceive after, so sad, so sad.

Many years ago my ex recounted to me that when she was in HS, Meat Loaf was on a Philly radio station (my ex grew up in south NJ) with a sob story of some kind and he needed money. The DJ asked listeners to send money, and my ex sent him $1! Early crowd-funding, I guess.

Bat out of Hell was the very first album I bought as a kid. Almost wore it out.

Thanks for all the good music and the good memories, Meat Loaf. We’re going to miss you!

I have to disagree with the comments about Springsteen regarding his earlier stuff that does not get radio play. I have no respect for him now. He lost the reality of the common man. “Badlands” and “She’s the One” are two of his excellent songs with great writing and Clarence Clemons’ superb sax solos. There are others as well. You should take a listen if you only know his later stuff. His words are sometimes hard to decipher so it’s worth looking at the lyrics. I saw him perform live in 1985 when I was in college, and he did at that time give you your money’s worth. I respected him back then. Now, he’s part of the problem.

Professor Jacobson

I’m a few years younger than you (HS 83) and I always loved the man’s music and the format, the rock opera. I remember hearing Jim Steinman’s “Rock in Roll Dreams” in 1980 (?), and thinking “This would be a great song for that dude Meat Loaf.” Didn’t know much back then.

But I saw him at House of Blue Houston in 2011 (?), and for a man in his early 60s, he was still hitting it. And more than the great voice, he, like Freddie Mercury, and Sir Elton John, is a showman. He knows how to keep a crown entertained. I recall some singers lip syncing, and one buy bank member saying, “What’s the big deal as long as you’re getting entertained.” I’m not paying 50-100 bucks to hear a CD dude. But Mr. Loaf was up there is the men and women who could keep you going on his own.

During that concert, he told the story of meeting a couple planning their wedding, and they were going to use one of his songs during their reception. “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad.”
That man had this most curios look on his face and we were all laughing. Meat says, “I wonder if they ever heard the song….” And then starts that awesome song. A bucket list item taken care of.
When I heard of his passing last week, I recalled multiple songs from him, but one not from him. And I think he would like it mentioned. Queen, “The Show Must Go On.”
RIP Meat Loaf, and thank you for everything. You and Jim are entertaining the Angles and the Almighty now.