MEAT LOAF — CBS Biography
The world has seen a lot of rock stars, but never one quite as Meat Loaf. With his operatic voice, his theatrical delivery, his impressive girth, and his unlikely moniker, he hardly seems a typical teen idol. And yet within a year of the release of his debut album, the powerful "Bat Out Of Hell", he was known as one of the most successful recording artists of the seventies. Inspired by his passionate, lusty, yet somehow tenderly romantic singing, fans have bought his records by the millions and filled huge sports arenas to see him. Now having sold more than seven million copies of the first album worldwide, Meat Loaf is back with a second LP on Cleveland International/Epic Records, "Dead Ringer".
Produced by Meat Loaf and Stephan Galfas with Jimmy Iovine and songwriter Jim Steinman, "Dead Ringer" offers a more hard-driving sound than the debut release. In every other respect, however, it is pure Meat Loaf. The partnership with Steinman, whose epic compositions about young love proved so compelling in "Bat Out Of Hell", has produced seven new songs that range from the explosive "Peel Out" ("I Wanna Run All The Tolls—I Wanna Run All The Signs") to the timely and provocative ballad, "Everything Is Permitted", which explores the dilemmas of growing up in a society with no limits. "I’m Gonna Love Her For Both Of Us", the album’s first single, follows in the grand Meat Loaf tradition, of the epic ballad, while the hard-rocking "Dead Ringer For Love" features Meat Loaf in a surprise duet with Cher.
"Dead Ringer", however did not happen easily. After the phenomenal success of "Bat Out Of Hell", it was doubtful whether Meat Loaf would ever sing again. When he went into the studio at the conclusion of the 11-month "Bat Out Of Hell"-tour in 1978, Meat Loaf found himself unable to sing. For months his voice, normally clear and strong enough to fill a 3,000 seat hall without amplification, was undependable—good one day, bad the next five. He consulted five different vocal coaches who had him doing everything from standing on his head to running in place yelling like Tarzan—all to do no avail, the he started going to doctors, who told him his right vocal chord was paralyzed.
Two days after receiving doctor’s orders not to sing for six months, Meat Loaf was offered the part of a roadie in United Artists’ "The Roadie". He took it and a part of Lorimars’ "Americanathon" as well. Meanwhile it was agreed that Jim Steinman would record the songs originally intended for Meat Loaf’s album on an LP of his own, and would later create another album’s-worth of material for Meat Loaf.
The turning point in Meat Loaf’s recovery was reached with the aid of Californian vocal guru Walter Berrigian, a bio matrix specialist who has treated a wide range of vocal problems. Berrigian had developed a reputation with such major stars as Jackson Browne, Bette Midler, and Cher. Meat Loaf saw him at the suggestion of Maria Muldaur, and worked with him for four months.
In December 1980, Meat Loaf returned to the finish "Dead Ringer" which he had barely begun before leaving to see Berrigian. He didn’t come out until July. This time delay was caused not by vocal paralysis but by a drive for perfection: he spent six weeks recording the backup vocals alone. He was still nervous about the studio, but he’d developed a technique of dealing with it. This time he was confident.
This is not the first time Meat Loaf has had to fight back against major mishap. In high school he suffered eleven concussions as a tackle on the football team, and when he was in eight-grade his skull was cracked by a shot-put that landed on his head with such force that the sound was heard at a baseball game a half-mile away. And six weeks after that, Meat Loaf got hit in the back with a discus. Then there was the time he was driving throughout the campus at Texas Tech and became distracted by an amazing well-endowed young lady on the sidewalk, ramming into the car in front of him, and ending up with the head stuck in the steering wheel.
Meat Loaf grew up in Dallas. His real name is Marvin Lee Aday, but he’s been called Meat Loaf ever since he was thirteen, when he had a run-in with his football coach’s foot. He attended Lubbock Christian College, Texas Tech and North Texas State, then left in his junior year and travelled to Los Angeles. In 19 he landed a part in the Los Angeles production of "Hair" and followed the Road Company to Washington, Detroit and Broadway. Settling in New York in 19 , Meat Loaf appeared in a variety of theatrical productions, including "La Mama" e.t.c. on off off Broadway, and many shows at Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre. It was during an audition that Meat Loaf first met Jim Steinman.
The two started working together when Meat Loaf won a part in the Steinman-authored, Joe Papp production of "More Than You Deserve". Meat Loaf went on to get his feet wet in Shakespeare when he appeared in a central part production of "As You Like It". (It was this performance that led New York Times drama critic Clive Barnes, who was not impressed, to dub him "Mr. Loaf").
At about the same time, Meat Loaf did vocals for Ted Nugent’s "Free For All"-album, and created the character of Eddie, the lobotomized rock star in the "Rocky Horror Picture Show", eventually, however, he and Steinman decided to team up professionally. They joined forces in the "National Lampoon Road Show", appeared as a duo at Carnegie Hall and then retired to New York’s Ansonia Hotel an ancient wedding-cake structure that has long been a heaven for musicians, to develop material tailored to attract record company interest.
It was then that they met Todd Rundgren, who was so impressed with their material that they asked him to produce their material. But when the three emerged from the studio with a complete "Bat Out Of Hell", the record industry was not impressed. Again and again they were told their songs were "too long to be commercial", that Meat Loaf was "too large to be sexy", and the LP cover art (by heavy metal artist Richard Corben) was "too scary to sell records". Then they went to Cleveland International, a production company affiliated with Epic Records, and created by former Eption man Steve Popovich.
Popovich and his partner, Stan Snyder, were "Bat Out Of Hell" believers from the beginning—which took foresight in those early days. The album was ignored by most commercial radio stations (college radio was an exception), and Meat Loaf was badly received when ventured on stage. At his first date, opening for Cheap Trick in Chicago, the audience started throwing things before he even opened his mouth. But Meat Loaf persevered, and as the tour progressed, word began to spread about this incredible, hulking performer who somersaulted across the stage and worked himself in such a sweaty frenzy that at the show end he had to rush to an oxygen tank.
With the help of three sweepingly operatic singles—"Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad" then "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" and finally "You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth"—and a stunning half-hour videotape that captured the wild theatricality of his performances, record and concert ticket sales began to soar. Airplay began to built too- slowly at first, in a few adventuresome stations like WMMS-FM in Cleveland and WNEW-FM in New York, but steadily. "Bat Out Of Hell" has now earned triple platinum status in the United States, staying on the charts for 32 weeks and selling 3.2 million copies—300,000 of them in the New York City alone.
Through it all—from "Hair" to the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" to the astounding success of "Bat Out Of Hell" and to this year’s "Dead Ringer"—the constant thread in Meat Loaf’s career has been compelling blend of music and theater.
Basically, I’m an actor he says.
If you ask me who I really am, I probably don’t know, because I’m always working on a character.
The real Marvin, offstage, is an easygoing person who gives little hint of the passion he can unleash when he steps behind a microphone. And yet the Wagnerian spectacle he creates speaks directly to a generation weaned on the epic fantasies of artists like Frank Frazetta, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. "I have to let them know that I understand they’re going through", he says of the audience. "If I’m reliving my own youth onstage, then they’re living theirs".