Meat Loaf (originally, Aday, Marvin Lee)

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Meat Loaf (originally, Aday, Marvin Lee)

Meat Loaf (originally, Aday, Marvin Lee), one of the biggest-selling (and biggest) solo artists in popular music; b. Dallas, Sept. 27, 1948.

Aday was raised in Tex.; his father, an alcoholic, often beat the child. This treatment worsened after his mother died of cancer. By his high school years, Aday had grown to an unusual heft, and gained his colorful nickname, probably thanks to his weighty appearance. After completing high school, he attended college for two years in Lubbock. He began working as an accountant, but quickly tired of his day job. In 1968, he moved to Los Angeles, where he befriended Gary Spragnola, a local musician whose brother, “Weasel,’ was lead guitarist in the garage-rock band, the Electric Prunes. Meat Loaf made some demo recordings with them, and then formed his first group, which played locally. Loaf then settled in Saginaw, Mich., where he formed another group, known as Popcorn Blizzard, releasing a single on its own. The group took up residence in Detroit’s Hideout Club and then, with varying personnel and names (including Meat Loaf Soul), toured as a supporting act to such rock headliners as Iggy Pop, the Who, and Ted Nugent.

Loaf next settled in a commune outside of Los Angeles. There, he met an actor who encouraged him to try out for a touring company of the rock musical Hair. Loaf was hired to portray Ulysses S. Grant, and his acting career began. While in Detroit, Loaf and actress “Stoney,” from the show, cut an album for Motown’s Rare Earth rock label in 1971. The album produced a local hit version of “What You See Is What You Get” After touring as an opening act for other rock groups, the duo split up and Loaf returned to Hair, now playing in Cleveland.

Meat Loaf wound up in N.Y. during the early 1970s, working in the theater by evening and singing in clubs with various acts into the early morning hours. He appeared in Shakespeare in the Park productions of Othello and As You Like It. Off-Broadway he had roles in Sam Sheppard’s Billy The Kid and Jean Harlow, the gospel musical Rainbow in New York, The Vietnam Project, and More Than You Deserve, written by a classically trained pianist named Jim Steinman. Steinman and Loaf recorded the play’s title track for RSO Records, but neither the play nor the record made much of an impression. Next, Loaf joined the cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, playing Eddie in the cult favorite. Following this, he joined Steinman again, touring with the National Lampoon Show. During this tour, old friend Ted Nugent asked him to sing on his Free for All album. The project went double platinum.

Following this success, Meat Loaf signed with Cleveland International Records. He went into the studio with Steinman, members of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, actress Ellen Foley, future Baseball Hall of Famer (and voice of the N.Y. Yankees) Phil Rizzuto, and others, under the aegis of producer Todd Rundgren. The resulting album, Bat Out of Hell, was comprised largely of songs from Steinman’s proposed musical Neverland,based on the Peter Pan myth, that had never been produced. The theatricality of the songs fit Loaf’s big voice and over-the-top personality. While the record sold slowly at first, Meat Loaf and his band (including Steinman) toured incessantly behind it. More than a year after the record’s release, during the spring of 1978, its first single, the ballad “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad,”broke. It went gold, despite topping out at #11 on the charts. This was followed by the album-rock standard “Paradise By the Dashboard Light.” The song featured Foley as the object of Meat Loafs affection with Rizzuto calling the seduction as if it were a baseball game (”it’s a suicide squeeze, and he slides into home...”). While this hit only #39 pop, it is still played regularly wherever classic rock is heard, as is “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” which fared the same on the pop charts early in 1979. When the dust cleared, Bat Out of Hell had sold 12 times platinum.

To keep his hand in acting, Meat Loaf took a couple of film roles: a smaller one in the 1979 film Americathon and the lead in the 1980 movie Roadie. He was slated to sing on a new album written by Steinman, Bad for Good, but vocal, emotional, legal, and chemical problems kept him away from the project, so Steinman went on to cut the album solo. The 1981 Meat Loaf/Steinman collaboration Dead Ringer failed to generate any excitement, despite (or perhaps because of) a duet with Cher on the title track. Steinman initiated legal actions against both Epic and Meat Loaf. The singer released his first Steinman-less project in 1983, Midnight at the Lost and Found, which fared far better in Europe than it did at home, where it was roundly ignored, as was Bad Attitude. He fell into a morass of lawsuits, drinking, and drugs that left him bankrupt by 1984. Meat Loaf went through physical and psychological therapy for more than a year before working with producer Frank Farian on Blind Before I Stop. Again, the album met with fan indifference in the U.S., but did okay in Europe. Meanwhile, Meat Loaf kept bread on the table by touring endlessly.

By 1989, rumors started circulating that Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman were working together again. However, during the early 1990s, Meat Loaf was more evident on celluloid than CD, appearing in the films Wayne’s World and Leap of Faith. Finally, Loaf and Steinman released a sequel to Bat Out of Hell, Bat Out of Hell II, Back into Hell in 1993. The highly anticipated album picked up where they had left off 15 years previously. The first single, the histrionic ballad “I”d Do Anything for Love (But I Won“t Do That),” topped the charts for five weeks, going platinum, taking the album to the top of the charts with it. The bombastic rocker “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” rose to #13. The somewhat melancholy “Objects in The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are” topped out at #38, but the album went quadruple platinum nonetheless.

Loaf’s 1995 album, Welcome to the Neighborhood, featured a big hit “I’d Lie for You (And That’s the Truth).” The song was written by pop tunesmith Diane Warren very much in the style of Jim Steinman. Although the song rose to #13 and went gold, taking the album to platinum behind it, the record company dropped Meat Loaf. That year he also filed a suit against his old record company (now owned by Sony), claiming it had underpaid him some $15 million in royalties. Late in the 1990s, Loaf became an in-demand character actor, appearing in the films Black Dog, The Mighty (as X-Files’s star Gillian Anderson’s husband), Crazy in Alabama, and Fight Club. His appearance on VH-l’s Storytellers and the subsequent album and tour brought him back into the public eye, if not onto the charts.

Writings

With D. Dalton, To Hell and Back (N.Y., 1988).

Discography

Bat Out of Hell (1978); Meatloaf (Featuring Stoney) (1979); Dead Ringer (1981); Midnight at the Lost & Found (1983); Bad Attitude (1984); Blind Before I Stop (1986); Live at Wembley (1987); Live (1987); Bat Out of Hell/Deadringer (1993); Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell (1993); Rock ’n’ Roll Hero (1995); Welcome to the Neighborhood (1995); Live (1996); Live Around the World (1996); VH-1 Storytellers (1999).

—Hank Bordowitz

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Meat Loaf (originally, Aday, Marvin Lee)

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